WHO: Cristina Henríquez
WHAT: THE BOOK OF UNKNOWN AMERICANS, a novel
WHEN: Published by Knopf June 3, 2014
WHERE: Set in Deleware.
WHY: “A compassionately imagined, gently comedic, and profoundly wrenching novel of big dreams and crushing reality, courageous love and unfathomable heartbreak.
“On a cold, bewildering night, the Riveras, who have just left their happy lives in Mexico, are dropped off at a dilapidated apartment building on the western edge of Delaware. Arturo has given up his thriving construction company to labor in a dark, grimy indoor mushroom farm, while his wife, Alma, lonely and afraid, with no English and little money, worries incessantly about their beautiful 15-year-old, Maribel. She has suffered a traumatic brain injury, and her parents have sacrificed everything to send her to a special school.
“Their building turns out to be a sanctuary for Central and Latin American immigrants, and as the Riveras’ dramatic tale unfolds, Henríquez brings their generous neighbors forward to tell the compelling stories of why and how they left Venezuela, Puerto Rico, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Colombia, Mexico, Panama, and Paraguay. As one man says, ‘We are the unknown Americans,’ those who are feared and hated. As Maribel opens up to Mayor, the infatuated boy next-door who is relentlessly bullied by his father and his classmates, terror of the unknown becomes a tragic force. Each scene, voice, misunderstanding, and alliance is beautifully realized and brimming with feeling.”
—Donna Seaman, in a starred review for BOOKLIST
“A smartly observed tale of immigrant life that cannily balances its optimistic tone with straight talk. Henríquez is best at capturing the way immigrant life is often an accrual of small victories in the face of a thousand cuts and how ad hoc support systems form to help new arrivals get by.” —KIRKUS REVIEWS
“A moving account of those who will do anything to build a future for their children — even if it means confronting the fear and alienation lurking behind the American dream.” —PUBLISHERS WEEKLY
From the beginning of the book: 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 those things. Of course, when I think about it now, I see that I was naîve. 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. Thirty hours after crossing the border, we arrived, the three of us in the backseat of a red pickup truck that smelled of cigarette smoke and gasoline.
About the book | About the author | Reading group guide | Download the jacket | Download the author photo | Listen to the AudioBook
Publicist for this title: Gabrielle Brooks | 212-572-2152 | email@example.com