The Book of Unknown Americans The Book of Unknown Americans discussion


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Tatiana What are the Rivera family’s first impressions of Delaware? What ways do they find to manage in a setting that is so unfamiliar? What aspects of the new environment are unrecognizable or confusing to them?


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Tatiana By what means do the Riveras’ neighbors offer a sense of belonging that compensates for the isolation that they feel from the larger community? What brings the neighbors closer?


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Tatiana Why is Mayor drawn to Maribel? What is she able to offer to Mayor that he lacks at home and at school? How does Mayor’s concern for Maribel evolve throughout the novel?


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Tatiana Compare the characters of the two fathers, Rafael Toro and Arturo Rivera. How does each man meet his perceived obligation to provide for his family? How do their wives, Alma and Celia, respond differently to the challenges of assimilation?


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Tatiana Be alert to signs throughout the novel that Maribel is getting better. What are the Riveras’ hopes for Maribel? What is the “essence” of their daughter that they hope to recover? Observe how laughter promotes healing for Maribel as well as her family.


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Tatiana What role does guilt play in the central narrative of the story? How does guilt cloud Alma Rivera’s judgment in the events leading to the outcome of the novel? Is it possible for Alma to forgive herself?


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Tatiana Do you think that Alma makes the right decision at the end of the novel? Read the landscape descriptions on the bottom of page 279 and page 281, as the characters move “out of one world and into the next” (284). What does it mean to be home?


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