Friday, September 12, 2014

The Book of Unknown Americans

Cristina Henriquez's The Book of Unknown Americans weaves together the interlocking stories of a group of Latino immigrants living in the same run down apartment complex in Delaware.  Through the eyes of these characters, we come to feel what it would be like, for example, to be dropped off in a less than idyllic setting (with thoughts of the "American Dream" quickly pushed aside), with hardly any possessions and no knowledge of English.  The book centers around the story of Alma and Arturo Rivera, who come to the United States seeking medical help for their impaired daughter who had an accident in Mexico.  Despite Arturo's efforts at work and Alma's efforts to protect her daughter and create a feeling of home, there are no simple answers or quick fixes, and in fact, some of these characters face even more tragedy in the U.S. than they did at home.  Henriquez doesn't sugar coat the lives of her characters, and in avoiding doing so, she brings the reader face to face with the realities of many "Unknown Americans," in all of their heartbreaks and struggles.

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