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What I didn’t understand—what I suddenly realized now—was that if I stopped moving backwards, trying to recapture the past, there might be a future waiting for me, waiting for us, a future that would reveal itself if only I turned around and looked, and that once I did, I could start to move toward it. –ALMA

Alfred A. Knopf, Publisher
THE BOOK OF UNKNOWN AMERICANS by Cristina Henriquez sounded like a scholarly tome full of statistics and pie charts.  It is anything but.  This is a masterfully written story about family, about love at first sight, about helping thy neighbor, about living in a new world, about survival. 

What’s most intriguing is the format used by Henriquez to tell her story.  Every chapter is from a different character’s point of view.  Each chapter is its own story.  One would think that all the different points of view, all the different stories would clash, but instead Henriquez has cleverly and skillfully woven these stories to give us one clear picture, one primary tale.  Readers will find this book tells a brilliant, intriguing, poignant and loving story.

SUMMARY:  Arturo and Alma Rivera leave all they have in Mexico when their 15-year old daughter Maribel is injured.  They immigrate to Delaware hoping that the doctors there will help make her better.  But their new home is anything but welcoming -- culture shock, language barriers, low-paying jobs, racial bigotry.  All take their toll on the family but with the help of good neighbors (immigrants themselves), the Riveras learn to adjust, to survive, to live.  And, when tragedy strikes, the family and neighbors will band together yet again in solidarity and love.#

NOTE:  The Washington Post named THE BOOK OF UNKNOWN AMERICANS one of the Top 50 Fiction Books of 2014.  We whole-heartedly agree!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:  Cristina Henriquez is the author of the story collection COME TOGETHER, FALL APART, which was a New York Times Editors’ Choice selection, and the novel THE WORLD IN HALF.  Her work has appeared in The New Yorker, The Atlantic, The American Scholar, Glimmer Train, Virginia Quarterly Review, Ploughshares, TriQuarterly, AGNI, and Oxford American, as well as in various anthologies.  Visit her at


Maria Behar said…
I had not heard of this book before, but, thanks to your great review, now I find myself VERY intrigued! After all, I'm an immigrant myself, so I can definitely relate to the Riveras's experiences.

Thanks for your thoughts!! : )
Although this book is adult literary fiction, it's also a must-read for teenagers and other young adults.

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