Finding American: Stories of Immigration from All 50 States (Figure 1 Publishing, 2023)

Now Available!

Disturbed by the increasingly hostile views of immigrants that arose in the United States during the 2016 presidential election, photographer Colin Boyd Shafer set out on a road trip to meet hundreds of families and individuals with roots abroad who now live in America. The result, after a year of travel covering fifty thousand miles, is this collection of striking photos and moving stories that form a portrait of the nation’s complex and shifting relationship to immigration. Some of the participants chose to make America home; others were displaced by crises. Some were warmly welcomed and granted citizenship; others battled the immigration system for years and still live with fear and uncertainty. Their circumstances and origins vary, but all are united by a willingness to share their stories – of harrowing journeys, intense love, separated families, passionate activism – in hopes of adding nuance and depth to a vital issue that continues to polarize Americans.

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“Beautifully reveals the intricate tapestry of humanity with remarkable sensitivity, poise, and creativity. Colin has skillfully offered us a window into our own stories. A true masterpiece.”
– Deepak Ramola, Founder & Artistic Director of Project FUEL and author of 50 Toughest Questions of Life

“This is beautiful work that really forces us to think about what it means to be American – and, indeed, human. Rich, layered, and poignant, it is a reminder that there is more that connects us than divides us.”
– Heaven Crawley, Head of Equitable Development and Migration at United Nations University Centre for Policy Research

“Through Colin’s lens and the participants’ stories we see the realities of immigrant life in America: sometimes beautiful, sometimes harrowing, always human.”
– Barbara Davidson, Pulitzer Prize winning photojournalist and Guggenheim Fellow

“At a time where anti-immigrant sentiment is painfully high around the world, when we are aching for bridges, not borders, this book offers us necessary hope through storytelling and human connection. Timely, provocative, and compassionate, Finding American should be in every home, to be combed through carefully and thoroughly.”
– Ruchika Tulshyan, author of Inclusion on Purpose and The Diversity Advantage

“The beautiful photographs and moving stories provide a powerful antidote to anti-immigrant racism in the United States. Highly recommend!”
– Reece Jones, author of White Borders and Nobody is Protected

Finding American is an exploration into the complex, at times violent, history of the United States of America and the people who make and remake it with every generation. Rather than some essentialised list of characteristics, this generational process of mixing and renewal is what America and being American is. America is the only place where these particular stories of immigration, hope, despair and renewal so vividly and movingly captured in this collection can unfold. It is this process that produces something new and never fixed, uniquely American.”
– Nando Sigona, professor of International Migration and Forced Displacement, University of Birmingham, UK

Finding American is a book about the polyphonic narrative of the United States, but it is also a book about our whole glorious, hybrid, complicated, heartbreaking, heartlifting world. It is a loving documentation of humanity’s most precious resource: our stories. It is a timely reminder to stop, see each other, and listen, because there is no single story.”
– Preeta Samarasan, author of Evening Is the Whole Day

“It’s no simple feat to travel across the entire American map, but perhaps Colin’s most significant achievement is connecting deeply – through photography – with his truly global cast of subjects.”
– Rory Doyle, documentary photographer and winner of the Zeiss Photography Award and Smithsonian Photo Award

“Shafer allows our newest citizens to share their stories using their own words, and his camera. The book feels like a collaboration between everyone involved, not unlike the nation that we all call home.”
– Kenneth Jarecke, photojournalist, author, and founding member of Contact Press Images

“When I met with Colin and his wife in the Rio Grande Valley, I immediately saw the heart he was putting into this project. We talked for a while; his sincere interest, curiosity, and respect allowed me to open up about my life, what it is to be an immigrant in this country, about the many things I missed, including my grandfather, who had recently passed away. He was interested in the experience, the common thread that unites us all. I feel humbled to be part of this encompassing project, and I can’t wait to read the stories that will be forever kept in this piece of history.”
– Rossy Evelin Lima DePadilla, assistant professor of translation, Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi; founder, Jade Publishing; board president and executive director of Latino Book Review

“Individual stories are often lost in ever-sharpening political narratives around human movement. Colin Boyd Shafer’s critical, sensitive, and nuanced look at the various reasons why people make the journeys they do forces us to consider the people at the center of these complicated stories.”
– Petra Molnar, Associate Director, Refugee Law Lab, York University; author of Artificial Borders: AI, Surveillance, and Border Tech Experiments

Finding American is a powerful reminder of the struggle in pursuing the American ideal. Immigrants are respectfully photographed, their stories told with sensitivity and insight. Page after page will somehow strike a deep chord in all of us as fellow human beings – immigrants or otherwise.”
– Richard Beaven, photographer and author of All of Us: Portraits of an American Bicentennial

“In Finding American, Colin Boyd Shafer pays tribute to those who, from the beginning, have made America great: hard-working immigrants who chose this land as their home, and have devoted the fruit of their lives’ efforts to it. Beyond faceless numbers there are people who deserve to be seen, heard, and respected. In their dreams, there is hope; in their work, pride; in their smile, the future. And every page in this book gives us a taste of how bright that future can be if we open our arms to this spectacular diversity of colors and accents.”
– Martha Batiz, author of No Stars in the Sky