Katherine's Reviews > The Book of Unknown Americans

The Book of Unknown Americans by Cristina Henriquez
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really liked it
bookshelves: adult, contemporary, believe-the-hype, family-saga, instalove-express, owned, romance, my-emotions
Read 2 times. Last read February 19, 2018 to February 20, 2018.

”Back then, all we wanted was the simplest things: to eat good food, to sleep at night, to smile, to laugh, to be well. We felt it was our right, as much as it was anyone’s, to have these things. Of course, when I think about it now, I see that I was naïve. I was blinded by the swell of hope and the promise of possibility, I assumed that everything that would go wrong in our lives already had.”

Excuse me, I think I have something in my eye. Or there’s an onion chopping ninja floating around somewhere who was cutting those suckers when I was reading this book. Because it was just so beautiful.

While the story follows an apartment complex made up of mainly Latino immigrants in Delaware, the main focus of this story revolves around two families; The Riveras and the Toros. Maribel and her family have immigrated from Mexico to hopefully receive medical treatment after a serious accident requires her to have brain surgery not available in her home country. Mayor Toro and his family immigrated from Panama several years ago, and have been fairly successful in living the American dream. But that same dream that seemed so close will soon become much farther from their reach than any of them have ever imagined. Told through multiple perspectives from both families and other immigrants in similar circumstances, this book fully captures the immigrant experiences and prejudices today.

Reading can be an escape from reality, but sometimes, we need to let books have us look at the cold, hard reality we’re living today. And this book does exactly that.Through Maribel and Mayor, we get to see their trials, triumphs, and experiences as immigrants in the United States.
”My life has been what it has been. It’s not a wonderful story, but it’s mine.”
I kind of liked the fact that the author chose to set the book in a state not associated with copious amounts of Latino immigration. I live in an area/state where immigration is common, so it would seem typical that a story about this subject matter would be set in California or another border state. By setting the story in Delaware, we can see the stark contrast between states that have a lot of Latino immigration and states that don’t, making the experience all the more scary and isolating to the Riveras and Toros.

Another surprising thing that I encountered was the authors portrayal of not only white prejudice and stereotypes against Latinos, but Latino stereotyping against Latinos (and other racial minorities). This humanized them for me, as I think we tend to forget that minorities tend to have stereotypes about not only white culture, but their own as well.
”For him, the logic went something like: I was Latino and male and not a cripple therefore I should play soccer. Soccer was for Latinos, basketball for blacks, and the whites could keep their tennis and golf as far as he was concerned.”
Living up to these Latino stereotypes is something Mayor struggles with, as he’s not the macho, soccer playing Latino male his father wants him to be.

Oh no; he’s more focused on Maribel, the pretty new neighbor. He’s immediately attracted to her in the way only a teenage boy could be.
”Forget about how she was dressed- white canvas sneakers straight out of another decade and a huge yellow sweater over leggings- and forget about the fact that her black hair was mussed like she’d just woken up and the fact that she wasn’t wearing any makeup of jewelry o anything else that most of the girls in my school liked to pile on. Forget about all that. She was fucking gorgeous.”
Despite this, he falls hard for her, and their romance was rather sweet. It was raw and real in the way teenage love tends to be, no matter if you were born here or anywhere else.

I did like the multiple perspectives of this book, I do think that the author needed to compromise some of the sections. What I mean is this: pretty much everyone from the building got at least one chapter in the book to tell their background, where they came from and how they came to America? Do I think it was necessary? Probably, to give more insight to the characters. However, I think the author could have combined some of the character’s chapters or at least intertwined them with the main narratives. Having just one chapter devoted to the side characters made me wish for more about them, and it also felt like a waste to have such brief words written about them.

During political times such as this, books like these really hit home. With all the problems and debates we’re having with immigration (not just here, but in Europe especially), hearing from the other side of the story will help us understand their perspectives and hopefully squash the stereotypes surrounding them. Reade it and weep, friends.
”I know some people here think we’re trying to take over, but we just want to be a part of it. We want to have our stake. This is our home, too.”
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Reading Progress

December 27, 2016 – Shelved
December 27, 2016 – Shelved as: to-read
January 9, 2017 – Started Reading
January 9, 2017 – Finished Reading
January 10, 2017 – Shelved as: adult
January 10, 2017 – Shelved as: contemporary
January 10, 2017 – Shelved as: believe-the-hype
January 10, 2017 – Shelved as: family-saga
January 10, 2017 – Shelved as: instalove-express
January 10, 2017 – Shelved as: owned
January 10, 2017 – Shelved as: romance
January 10, 2017 – Shelved as: my-emotions
February 19, 2018 – Started Reading
February 19, 2018 – Started Reading
February 20, 2018 – Finished Reading

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