The Book of Unknown Americans by Cristina Henríquez is all about immigrant families. There are several novels on immigration but TheDailyBeast.com calls “The Book of Unknown Americans” the 2014 novel of the year.
All the characters in novel happen to be immigrants. The novel’s central narrative is about the relationship between the teenage children of two families, the Riveras and Toros. Arturo Rivera and his family travel to the U.S. leaving behind their construction company in Mexico as they want their little daughter Maribel to get better. Maribel sustains an injury while helping her dad at a work site. The Riveras travel to the U.S. with the dream that America will offer them a lot of opportunities and resources that will help their daughter get better. Mayor Toro from Panama falls in love with Maribel soon after he sees her in a Dollar Tree store. This is the core of Henríquez’s The Book of Unknown Americans.
The novel also includes stories of their neighbors, a boxer from Paraguay who discovers his passion for real estate after coming to the U.S. and a Puerto Rican woman who started a theater company after her acting career failed. Stories of other men and women in the novel will inspire and surprise the reader.
Henríquez has written about how the Toros obtained U.S. citizenship by going through the naturalization process. Her novel also talks about the difficulties faced by the legal immigrants who are in most cases mistaken for undocumented immigrants. Many who are mistaken suffer cruel consequences.
Characters in this novel, just like other Americans, are good and loyal. They work hard and they love the country and the opportunities it offers. They also enlist in the U.S. military, start businesses and contribute to the country.
The hot button of the U.S. immigration reform affects undocumented immigrants living in the U.S. and the country as a whole. These immigrants living in the shadows are not given an opportunity to contribute to the country where they have been living for years. This novel teaches everyone an unsubtle lesson. While many in the U.S. are against immigrants and immigration, Henríquez’s novel tells a different story. Her novel proves that immigrants are righteous.
Other good reads on immigration:
What Is the What by Dave Eggers
The True American: Murder and Mercy in Texas by Anand Giridharadas
The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri