"Illuminate[s] the lives behind the current debates about Latino immigration." —The New York Times Book Review
When fifteen-year-old Maribel Rivera sustains a terrible injury, the Riveras leave behind a comfortable life in Mexico and risk everything to come to the United States so that Maribel can have the care she needs. Once they arrive, it’s not long before Maribel attracts the attention of Mayor Toro, the son of one of their new neighbors, who sees a kindred spirit in this beautiful, damaged outsider. Their love story sets in motion events that will have profound repercussions for everyone involved. Here Henríquez seamlessly interweaves the story of these star-crossed lovers, and of the Rivera and Toro families, with the testimonials of men and women who have come to the United States from all over Latin America. The Book of Unknown Americans is a stunning novel of hopes and dreams, guilt and love—a book that offers a resonant new definition of what it means to be American.
Named a New York Times and Washington Post Notable Book, an NPR Great Read, The Daily Beast's Novel of the Year, and a Mother Jones, Oprah.com, School Library Journal, and BookPage Best Book of the Year
In Henr quez's latest, Arturo and Alma Rivera move from P tzcuaro, Mexico, to Delaware in hopes of securing a good education for their beautiful teenage daughter, Maribel, who has suffered a traumatic brain injury. Alone, isolated by language and poverty, the Riveras struggle to get by: Arturo works 10 hours a day at a mushroom farm, while Alma worries about predatory men taking advantage of her daughter. In the same apartment building lives Mayor Toro, the misfit son of Panamanian immigrants, who soon falls in love with Maribel. The budding romance, however, threatens to tear their families apart. Meanwhile, Henr quez (The World in Half) gives space to the voices of other immigrants men and women who have fled their South American and Central American homes to make a better life in a country that, as often as not, refuses to acknowledge their existence. Evoking a profound sense of hope, Henr quez delivers a moving account of those who will do anything to build a future for their children even if it means confronting the fear and alienation lurking behind the American dream.
Customer ReviewsSee All
This was a nice story that touched on important topics and had nice characters. I’m a Latinx immigrant myself and I really wanted to love this book, but it just felt like something was missing. I didn’t feel like any of the characters were very well-developed. It was hard to feel connected with any one of them or truly sympathize for them because they seemed so sterile and perfectly pitiable. They fit too well into tropes and just weren’t very realistic. It was like the story was pandering the “sympathetic” American’s need to feel sorry for immigrants by giving them characters who were too easy to pity.
Though the characters’ situations were a little more realistic than the characters personalities and inner dialogues, they were still so heavily negative. This can sometimes be good in a story, but I feel like this one didn’t tie it up super well. Everything that could possibly go wrong goes wrong for every single character, and anything good gets glossed over and ignored. It’s true that some people live like that, and that can be a good point to highlight, but I feel like the majority of people try to hold onto the good in life.
Being an immigrant is not all bad. It’s not all torture. All immigrants struggle and have their stories of uphill battles and often suffering, but there can be a lot of beauty in the midst of that struggle and a lot of good things that happen on the most difficult paths. I feel like the book misses that completely and makes it sound like it’s the WORST THING EVER to be an immigrant in the US and that there’s no way to actually make a good life or be happy as an immigrant in that country. That was a little disappointing (and not in a symbolic way), but I guess that is some people’s view. It was a very fatalistic view of immigration that I feel could be realistic in one or two characters, but not as an overall theme? But I don’t know, I’m not an expert. Maybe I’m missing something. I’ve read and experienced plenty of sad and difficult immigration stories, but this one just felt like it lacked something. I can’t exactly put my finger on it.
I was disappointed that I didn’t totally love it, but it was still a nice story and I’m just a nobody writing a review on iBooks, so my opinion maybe shouldn’t count for much.
So good it needed to be talked about
This book ripped my heart out and left it on the ground. With characters that you feel like you have become a part of, all the details mix to make something utterly breathtaking. This book has left me in awe and feeling the need to read it over and over again until my heart is in minuscule pieces. I couldn’t put it down and now I can’t pick up anything else! I wish that it had a sequel, but that’s how good it is. Nothing needed in a second book everything wrapped up in one book. If you are considering this book, ask yourself this:
1. Do I like characters that I feel like have become part of me, someone I don’t want to lose?
2. Do I like books that have curves and ridges and beautiful details?
3. Am I willing to lose something almost as soon as it started?
If you answered yes to any of these this book for you, and frankly it should be for everyone, because it deserves the respect of MILLIONS
I love the book. I would love if Henriquez wrote a sequel to the book because I wanna know what happens with Maribel and Mayor. I don't really read but I actually did enjoy reading this book I recommend it.