The Book of Unknown Americans

The Book of Unknown Americans

A Novel

eBook - 2014
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A dazzling, heartbreaking page-turner destined for breakout status: a novel that gives voice to millions of Americans as it tells the story of the love between a Panamanian boy and a Mexican girl: teenagers living in an apartment block of immigrant families like their own. After their daughter Maribel suffers a near-fatal accident, the Riveras leave Mexico 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 PanamA 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. Peopled with deeply sympathetic characters, this poignant yet unsentimental tale of young love tells a riveting story of unflinching honesty and humanity that offers a resonant new definition of what it means to be an American. An instant classic is born.
Publisher: New York : Knopf, 2014
ISBN: 9780385350853
Branch Call Number: Overdrive eBook
Characteristics: 1 online resource


From Library Staff

AL_ANNAL Jul 21, 2017

A closeup look at an immigrant community as they deal with universal life experiences.

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AL_ANNAL Jul 21, 2017

A closeup look at an immigrant community as they deal with universal life experiences.

prettiipreppii May 17, 2017

Nice and refreshing.

Sep 14, 2016

This book avoids most of the cliches I always find in books about Latinos. The novel shows well rounded characters and the story develops through the actions of the characters instead of by some by-the-numbers plot. It is a very sad story but also a story of kindness and love.

TSCPL_ChrisB Jun 04, 2016

Overall, The Book of Unknown Americans is a lovely and poignant tale. The primary narratives, told through the alternating voices of Alma and Mayor, were a pleasure to read. The secondary narratives, chapters entwined with the primary ones told in many different voices, were sometimes a little too clichéd and simple, although their purpose became clear in the end.

Apr 28, 2015

I loved the character development in this book. I loved the way the characters lives came together differently - all tied together by that apartment complex in Delaware. I wished it didn't end when/where it did, but I have recommended it dozens of times since I got past about page 10 and knew I was captivated. It helps to know some Spanish when reading this book.

memoriesofthefuture Apr 18, 2015

Powerful stories. Great Novel.

Mar 04, 2015

It is a story of immigrants anywhere in the world. Hope, confusion, clinging to culture, hoping for acceptance, only to be rejected by their own kids, who desperately want to blend in with the new world. Some of the chapters of individual point of views are a little forced to be there. It is still a good read.

Jan 07, 2015

a great book!

JCLEmilyW Dec 02, 2014

A fascinating exploration of the Latino immigrant experience in the U.S. The author vividly portrays the everyday shocks of life in an unfamiliar culture, and I enjoyed getting to know the characters of the Rivera and Toro families. However, I did find the intermittent chapters narrated from the viewpoints of secondary characters to be a little distracting, and the ending seemed a bit rushed to me. But I still highly recommend this book for its richly drawn setting and empathetic depiction of the immigrant experience.

rosenyny Jul 30, 2014

In this time of immigration chaos, this is a great book to read that humanizes the people that are so often demeaned and dismissed by politicians and community members who see only stereotypes for those seeking a better life. While it doesn't provide any answers to how best to deal with immigration, it at least has the narrative to perhaps take it to a better level of discussion and compassion. I thought the main story read more like a very good YA novel but the back stories to the characters were very illuminating. It reminded me of Orange is the New Black when they give the vignettes of how the women wound up in jail. I loved this book and see how it could be a great tool in any high school civics class. This is a book that can help build bridges for anyone interested in trying to understand issues of immigration. Everyone should read this book.

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Sonjahv Dec 31, 2014

"There was only one word - you. It applied to all people. Everyone equal. No one higher or lower than anyone else. No one more distant or more familiar. You. They. Me. I. Us. We. There were no words that changed from feminine to masculine and back again depending on the speaker. A person from New York. Not a woman from New York, not a man from New York. Simply a person."

jpainter Dec 16, 2014

From Cristina Henriquez on tumblr ( "One of my hopes for The Book of Unknown Americans was that it might tell stories people don't usually hear. And now, another hope: that we will all tell our #UnknownAmerican stories. Where did you or your family come from? What is your life like now? We'll create a chorus and make our voices known.
Share your story. To share your story, submit a piece (400 words max) and an accompanying photo, either of yourself or the place you’re writing about, to:

Or, if you’re on Tumblr, blog your unknown americans story and tag it with #unknownamericans, and we will reblog you.

Any posted story will also be posted on Cristina Henriquez’s Facebook page.

Please note that not all stories that are submitted will be posted. "

WVMLlibrarianLynn Nov 28, 2014

"Back then, all we wanted was the simplest things: to eat good food, to sleep at night, to smile, to laugh, to be well." Cristina Henriquez, The Book of Unknown Americans, p.3

SpringAltman Jul 15, 2014

“You can come back one day. Or I could come there."
"I could find you."
"Finding is for the things that are lost. You don't need to find me, Mayor.”
― Cristina Henriquez, The Book of Unknown Americans

SpringAltman Jul 15, 2014

“It's in you,' my dad assured me once. 'You were born in Panamá. It's in your bones.'

mawls Jul 07, 2014

You never know what life will bring...But that's what makes it so exciting, no? That's what keeps me going. The possibility.

JanieHH Jun 11, 2014

"sleep was like wealth, elusive and for other people.”


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Sep 14, 2016

lino_coria thinks this title is suitable for 14 years and over

JanieHH Jun 11, 2014

JanieHH thinks this title is suitable for 14 years and over


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Aug 31, 2015

This beautiful, simply told tale captured my heart. With all the anti-Latino rhetoric pervasive in the Republican candidates' speeches, this book tells why so many people come to America, just as our ancestors did recently or years ago from other parts of the world. The protagonists are the Rivera family members, who come from Mexico to seek rehabilitation for their teenage daughter who suffered a head injury. Their encounters with people from all over Central and South America in their apartment complex reveals the basic need of all these people to find a better life & fulfill dreams. The author doesn't try to embellish each character with complexity - and, by doing so, the characters become more complex as we get to,know them. Beautifully written - much like Hemingway in that by saying less, more is uncovered.


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