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The Book of Unknown Americans

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3.84 of 5 stars 3.84  ·  rating details  ·  10,424 ratings  ·  1,353 reviews
A dazzling, heartbreaking page-turner destined for breakout status: a novel that gives voice to millions of Americans as it tells the story of the love between a Panamanian boy and a Mexican girl: teenagers living in an apartment block of immigrant families like their own.
After their daughter Maribel suffers a near-fatal accident, the Riveras leave Mexico and come to Amer
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Published June 3rd 2014 by Books on Tape (first published January 1st 2014)
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Sue S I think it is appropriate for high school. It deals with love and some kissing. I am a children's librarian, and would be very comfortable with…moreI think it is appropriate for high school. It deals with love and some kissing. I am a children's librarian, and would be very comfortable with recommending it to teens.(less)
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Roxane
What struck me most about this novel is the structure whose purpose becomes clear with the last chapter. It is quite interesting and poignant. This novel is a reminder of how everyone who comes to the United States brings a complicated storyw ith them. In The Book of Unknown Americans, immigrants from México, Venezuela, Guatemala, Puerto Rico, etc. live in an apartment complex in Delaware. Though they come from all over the Spanish speaking world, they have more in common than they do not and th ...more
Daniel Simmons
Call me cold-hearted but I found this novel both overly simplistic and overly sentimental, with too few genuine characters and too many archetypes who say things to each other like, "Finding is for things that are lost. You don't need to find me, Mayor." Does anybody really talk like that? If the book's simplicity and sentimentality help its overall message -- hey, immigrants are people too! -- gain traction with large groups of readers in the States, great. But just because I sympathize with th ...more
Alena
I’ve waited to post a review of this novel as I try to wrap my mind (and words) around why I liked it so much. This book wants to be a lot of things – love story, issue-oriented novel, independent essays – which should make it a mess, but somehow all work together to make a book that really touched my heart.

The story is told in alternating voices as we meet the residents of an apartment building in Delaware. All the residents are immigrants and all are Spanish-speaking despite their origins in m
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Kkraemer
According to our government, every American who earns $50,000 a year contributes $43.78 to welfare and food stamps. Many Americans resent this deeply. Many are very very committed to being sure that no one "gets away" with this $43.78, especially anyone who is here from South of the Border.

"Those people….."

All Americans should read this book about "those people." It presents a series of interconnected stories about a family who came to the U.S. to get services for their injured child, a family
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Diane S.
3.5 The immigrant debate and the need for immigrant reform is an issue that has been the forefront of the news in The United States for a number of months. I am not going to give my own opinion on this debate, only mention it as it refers to the timeliness of this novel.

The book mostly centers on two families, one who come to the US from Panama and the devastation wrought by the invasion of the US in 1989 and the other family who come from Mexico in order to get the help and schooling their brai
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Jana
RE-READING:
1) I listened to it the first time; this time I'll read the book.
2) This is our Skype bookclub pick for this month
3) I'll meet the author in Vermont in May




FINISHED 1st time: 2/12/15:
I finished this book and wrote my review on my mobile device. Unfortunately, that device has gone the way of the dinosaur and my notes didn't make it to the cloud in time.

For now:
I loved this novel of various immigrants from all over Latin America living in an apartment complex in Delaware. Immigration is
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Trish
This story recounts the immigrant experience of a vast array of Latinos on the eastern central coast of America, in Delaware. It moves in for close-ups of two families in particular, one Panamanian and one Mexican. Both families are legal immigrants, one coming to the United States for medical care, the other for opportunity.

Christina Henriquez manages to make the experiences of these two families ring true and universal. Especially interesting was the voice of Mayor Toro, teenager and younger
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Louise
There is very little fiction covering the contemporary Latino immigrant experience so this book may have made the 2014 New York Times Notables List for its content. While the story is good, there is no subtly. The author's purpose may be to show the goodness of the "unknown Americans", but the characters are not well developed and the details of their lives are not realistic.

Can it really be that a successful couple in Mexico who has researched US schools for special needs students, found a job
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Diane Yannick
One of the things that initially drew me to this book is that it takes place in my hometown of Newark, Delaware. Throughout I enjoyed references to local landmarks such as Bings Bakery and Newark Newsstand. However, as Henriquez gently revealed the characters' struggles and hearts, I forgot about the setting and became absorbed with the narrative.

There were a couple things that set this book apart from most I've read about the immigrant experience. Arturo, Alma and Maribel, one of the families
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Connie
Alma and Arturo Rivera traveled from Mexico to settle in a run-down apartment building in Delaware, and furnished it with items found on the side of the road. Although they were happy in Mexico, Arturo obtained a work visa so that their daughter Maribel could attend an American school for children with special needs. The beautiful fifteen-year-old girl had a fall that resulted in a traumatic brain injury.

Their neighbors, the Toro family, offer them friendship and encouragement. The Toros were le
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Beverly
This was a 4.5 read for me.
This book is definitely a contender for a top read for me.

Every now and then I read a book that just touches my heart. The Book of Unknown Americans is such a book. From the first pages I was captivated by the sustained voices of the characters written with such grace and dignity as I felt their humanity, hopefulness, and despair to do what they had to do ensure a better life for their children and often, times themselves. I so enjoyed how the author connects the reade
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Larry Hoffer
I'd rate this 3.5 stars.

Arturo and Alma Rivera lived a happy life in Mexico until their beautiful teenage daughter, Maribel, sustains a serious injury in an accident. Unsure if she'll ever be the same again, they migrate to the United States—Delaware, specifically—where Maribel will be able to attend a special school and hopefully begin to recover some semblance of normalcy. But America is difficult for the Riveras—the job Arturo secures to sponsor their journey to America is brutal, Maribel doe
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Adira
I read this book with the Writers of Color Book Club and I have to say, I am on the fence about this book. On one hand, the book was interesting due to it's cast of characters who all had a voice and the issues of immigration and how Latinos are seen in America were really intriguing to me since I very rarely see books written from this demographic of people in my TBR pile. Yet, I felt like the execution of the book was at odds with the story.

For me, the story it self put me in mind of more dive
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Dianne
Alma and Arturo come from Mexico to Delaware, of all places, in the hopes that their brain-damaged daughter, Maribel, can get better help at a special needs school in the U.S. Their story is interspersed with testimonials from men and women from Puerto Rico, Nicaragua, Paraguay, Panama and other places. All of the stories and vignettes combine into a whole that tells the tale of one immigrant community in America and the struggles they face trying to assimilate.

While enlightening and interesting
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Cathie
It’s amazing, isn’t it, what parents will do for their children?

This is a story about a boy and a girl – trying to fit in, yet finding solace and acceptance with each other.

This is also a story about the residents who live in a run-down apartment building in Small Town USA. We are slowly introduced to them sharing their stories of the why they left their native land to seek their chance in America.

I thought maybe if I came here, I can make a difference.

The author does a great job of introd
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Sarah
There aren't enough stars for this one. Such a beautiful story, it left me both heartbroken & hopeful. I'm guessing it won't be long before it's required reading.
Elyse
I met Christina in Austin, Texas, back on Oct. at the Book Festival....had a chance to hear her speak about writing this book --her passion for it.

Its since just won the large 'book award' in San Jose this year. "Silicon Valley Reads" picks 1 to 3 books each year as standout books which the city will be reading --'as -a city'.

Living in San Jose, Calif. --we've been called 'the melting pot' of America.

In Christina Henriquez's book "The Book of Unknown American's"....Latino immigrants come from
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Susanne Carter

The Hispanic immigrants who share a modest apartment complex in Delaware and various versions of the American dream speak in their own voices in this beautifully written, insightful novel. The plot focuses on two families brought together and torn apart again by tragedies. Woven among the chapters devoted to the main plot are unrelated chapters that narrate the experiences of other Latin American immigrants. The combination works.

Although the characters in this novel experience discrimination,
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Paige
4.5 stars

I started this book yesterday afternoon/evening and finished it a few hours later. So basically I tore through it.

I thought it was really good. The prose is simple and straightforward and thus an “easy” read, but it still manages to be evocative and capture events and sentiments with beauty. It’s also kind of deceptive in that even though it seems like it could be a “light” read based on the vocabulary and the flow, it actually delves into a lot of stuff--not just issues like immigratio
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Michelle Finkle
4.5 Stars. "People do what they have to in this life. We try to get from one end of it to the other with dignity and with honor. We do the best we can."
This book was very unique and a departure from the genres I've been reading lately. It's an eye opening portrayal of immigrants who've come to this country to find something better only to discover the American Dream wasn't necessarily what they thought it would be. The story is told primarily from two POVs with additional POVs included throughou
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David
This book could have been so much better than it was.

As it is, it's a trainwreck. The only reason I gave it two stars instead of one is simply because it's bizarrely readable even in spite of the very little substance there is at hand.

Where do I even begin with this books issues? The rhythm the book sets into -- Alma-narrated chapter, Mayor-narrated chapter, and brief bio of a tertiary character -- had potential. Yet the tertiary characters' chapters all read painfully alike, with seemingly the
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Darklittle
Newark, Delaware is the unspectacular setting of Cristina Henríquez’ novel The Book of Unknown Americans. A small, average, American city that could be just around the corner from where you live. A wonderful choice of setting for a novel full of immigrant tales that stand for so many real immigrant tales out there. Cristina Henríquez knows how to create setting. One of my favorite scenes happens right at the beginning, when the Riveras walk down the main road trying to find a supermarket and fin ...more
Noora
Hmm, I'm not sure how to articulate my thoughts on The Book of Unknown Americans. I really enjoyed reading it, and there isn't anything significant that put me off. I liked the ease in which the plot flowed, and the perspective the author chose to explore.

I found so many similarities between the situation Latin Americans go through and the one that expats in Kuwait have to face. Henriquez attempted to lift the veil and explore the struggle of many immigrants attempting to better their lives. Al
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Patty
My son suggested this book to me and I am so glad he did. I had read some good things about this story, but I wasn't sure that this was the time for this novel.

The first thing that captured my interest was that the characters were living not far from where I lived in Delaware. It was interesting to see familiar places through new eyes. Places that were just part of my normal landscape looked so different to these new immigrants. Next time I visit that area, I will pay more attention to who I see
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Beth Knight
4.5 stars. The Book of Unknown Americans is a heart wrenching book that, although I can't say from personal experience, seems to perfectly describe the immigrant experience. I feel like I really got to know the main characters, and I sympathized with all the hardships and heartbreaks they endured. Every time I put the book down I found myself thinking of them and wondering what was going to happen to them. By the end of the book I had treats streaming down my face. I highly recommend it and look ...more
Barbara
“We’re the unknown Americans, the ones no one even wants to know, because they’ve been told they’re supposed to be scared of us and because maybe if they did take the time to get to know us, they might realize that we’re not that bad, maybe even that we’re a lot like them. And who would they hate then?”

Cristina Henriquez writes a mesmerizing tale of Latina immigrants. Some are legal; some have no papers. They are from: Mexico, Panama, Nicaragua, Puerto Rico, Venezuela, and Paraguay. The focus of
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Debra
Good book about a family that moves to Delaware to seek better educational opportunities for their daughter who suffered a brain injury in Mexico. I did like that toward the end of the book, Maribel's parents finally talk about the accident that caused her brain damage. Both talked about guilt and how their daughter is "not like before."The book also contains testimonials of individuals from various countries who are looking for a better life. Although the testimonials are good, I felt they got ...more
Meg
It’s been a while since I sank into some good literary fiction. Honestly, with the chaos of the last year or so, I’ve favored neutral works or memoirs that may not demand as much from me as a reader. But it’s not fair to categorize The Book of Unknown Americans as a “tough read” — because in Henriquez’s hands, the tale digests so easily.

It’s impossible not to feel for Alma and Arturo, Maribel’s parents; as they flee their old life in Mexico, wanting to help and protect their injured daughter, th
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Ana
This book will live in my heart forever! As I began to read, I immediately became captivated with the voices of these characters. I felt their hopefulness, their despair, their struggles, their humanity. I was moved with every character I met. At times finding myself wanting to know more of certain characters. Cristina has written such a beautiful and heartfelt story. You'll experience what it is to be an immigrant in America through their eyes. I was able to relate to these characters and their ...more
Malissa


Wow. This book left me waiting for something to happen that would ruin the dream of those in the story. Every time I
A new story line started I would think- oh, here it comes. I imagine that's how some immigrants feel throughout their days- here it comes, here comes the event that will set me back, send me back, etc. All of the characters seemed to be weighted down with worries, guilt, a dream that they wanted to come true for themselves, their families and for those they left behind that they t
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Cristina Henríquez is the author of the novel The World in Half, and of a short story collection entitled Come Together, Fall Apart. Her stories have appeared in The New Yorker, The Atlantic, Ploughshares, and elsewhere, and she was featured in Virginia Quarterly Review as one of “Fiction's New Luminaries.” She is a graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop and the recipient of an Alfredo Cisneros De ...more
More about Cristina Henriquez...
The World in Half Come Together, Fall Apart

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“People do what they have to in this life. We try to get from one end of it to the other with dignity and with honor. We do the best we can.” 13 likes
“we're the unknown Americans, the ones no one even wants to know, because they've been told they're supposed to be scared of us and because maybe if they did take the time to get to know us, they might realize that we're not that bad, maybe even that we're a lot like them. And who would they hate then?” 11 likes
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