Author: Cristina Henriquez
Publication Date: June 3, 2014
Source: borrowed from the good ol' public library
Summary from Goodreads:
After their daughter Maribel suffers a near-fatal accident, the Riveras leave México and come to America. But upon settling at Redwood Apartments, a two-story cinderblock complex just off a highway in Delaware, they discover that Maribel's recovery--the piece of the American Dream on which they've pinned all their hopes--will not be easy. Every task seems to confront them with language, racial, and cultural obstacles.
At Redwood also lives Mayor Toro, a high school sophomore whose family arrived from Panamà fifteen years ago. Mayor sees in Maribel something others do not: that beyond her lovely face, and beneath the damage she's sustained, is a gentle, funny, and wise spirit. But as the two grow closer, violence casts a shadow over all their futures in America.
I am really struggling with making my reviews exciting these days, reader friends. I've been at the reviewing game now for 2.5 years, and it's hard to say something different and engaging each time. So, I'm taking a little advice from Leah @ Books Speak Volumes, and structuring this review a tad differently in order to shake things up. I hope this will make it more fun for me to write reviews, and also make it more fun for you as a reader.
Without further ado...5 Reasons I Adored The Book of Unknown Americans!
1. Its inclusiveness. I've read many books (fiction and nonfiction) over the years that tackle various aspects of the immigrant experience. However, this is the first one I've encountered that brought in such a wide variety of perspectives. While the Rivera and Toro families are certainly at the center of this story, you also get chapters that focus (albeit briefly) on many of their neighbors and friends who hail from a range of countries: Mexico, Puerto Rico, Guatemala, Panama, etc. And they all came to the US for very different reasons--though the end goals of happiness and fulfillment are largely the same. This extensive range of viewpoints adds a lot of depth to the story.
2. Its brevity. For a book with so much emotional complexity, it's a very quick read. It packs a big punch in a small-ish number of pages.
3. Mayor and Maribel's relationship. Everyone knows I'm not much for literary romance, but Mayor and Maribel transcend your usual teenage love story. Watching Mayor fall for Maribel, despite her medical struggles after her accident, is beautiful and moving and all-around awesome. And the way he helps her communicate with the world will tug at your heart strings.
4. It will get your wheels turning. The main focus of the book is obviously the experience of the Latino immigrants in the novel, but as an extension of their struggles, I also found myself thinking about the motives and misfortunes of the American citizens they encountered who discriminated against them (especially the primary antagonist, Garrett). People don't create hate in a vacuum. This book will force you to think about why.
5. This quote:"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?"
Read this book, friends! I have not-a-one bad thing to say about it (and way more than 5 good things that I could say).
What was the last quick-ish book you read that also packed an emotional gut-punch?