The Book of Unknown Americans

A Novel

Henríquez, Cristina

Book - 2014
Average Rating: 4 stars out of 5.
The Book of Unknown Americans
Moving from Mexico to America when their daughter suffers a near-fatal accident, the Riveras confront cultural barriers, their daughter's difficult recovery and her developing relationship with a Panamanian boy. "Arturo and Alma Rivera have lived their whole lives in Mexico. One day, their beautiful fifteen-year-old daughter, Maribel, sustains a terrible injury, one that casts doubt on whether she'll ever be the same. And so, leaving all they have behind, the Riveras come to America with a single dream: that in this country of great opportunity and resources, Maribel can get better. When Mayor Toro, whose family is from Panama, sees Maribel in a Dollar Tree store, it is love at first sight. It's also the beginning of a friendship between the Rivera and Toro families, whose web of guilt and love and responsibility is at this novels core"--Provided by publisher.

Publisher: New York :, Alfred A. Knopf,, 2014
Edition: First Edition
ISBN: 9780385350846
Characteristics: 286 pages ; 22 cm


From the critics

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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 13, 2015
  • jl94110 rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

a great book!

Dec 02, 2014
  • JCLEmilyW rated this: 3.5 stars out of 5.

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.

Jul 30, 2014
  • rosenyny rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

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.

Jul 15, 2014
  • SpringAltman rated this: 3.5 stars out of 5.

Immigrants from Mexico and Central American tell about their experience living in the United States.
The story showcases Alma, Arturo and Maribel, a small family who dreams of a better life after Maribel suffers brain damage in an accident.

Jun 21, 2014
  • madison382 rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

This is a moving story about a group of Hispanic immigrants from various Latin countries and their integration in the American culture. The writer draws you into the families and make you feel like you are there with them rooting for them to make it in this strange land. I was very disappointed when the book ended, because I felt that I was leaving some of my family behind.

Jun 11, 2014
  • JanieHH rated this: 4.5 stars out of 5.

This is the first book I have read by Cristina Henriquez and I know that I will be seeking out her past books for future reading.

Her writing is crisp and clear, the voices in the story are strong and the dialogue in the story reels you in so that you are unable to put this book down. The vignettes that provide poignant insights in to the lives of a variety of immigrants from across Latin America are woven in to the story so artfully that they enhance the main storyline of Maribel, her parents and that of Mayor and his parents without interrupting the flow of events.

Besides being a good story, this book provides lots of food for thought and discussion about the importance of family, parental love, and how immigrants are viewed in America today, especially if they are hispanic.

Likely to be a top pick for book groups in the months to come.


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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."

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. "

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

Jul 15, 2014
  • SpringAltman rated this: 3.5 stars out of 5.

“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

Jul 15, 2014
  • SpringAltman rated this: 3.5 stars out of 5.

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

Jul 07, 2014
  • mawls rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

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

Jun 11, 2014
  • JanieHH rated this: 4.5 stars out of 5.

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


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Jun 11, 2014
  • JanieHH rated this: 4.5 stars out of 5.

JanieHH thinks this title is suitable for 14 years and over


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