Book Reviews

The Book of Unknown Americans by Cristina Henriquez

18465852[1]“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 México 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 Panamà 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.” ~Goodreads


The Book of Unknown Americans (June 3) is not just some young forbidden romance between a girl from Mexico and a boy from Panama. It’s much more than that.

Each character in this book tells their story of how they came to America. How much they wanted to become part of this wonderful country with so many opportunities. A place that is constantly depicted as a source for freedom, opportunity, wealth, justice, equality – mostly compared to what is seen in movies. A place where they could flee from the horrors of their native lands, a country that betrayed them but leaving behind family, friends and the comfort of familiarity.

Little did they know that leaving Mexico, Venezuela, Puerto Rico, Panama, Guatemala or Nicaragua, each with their own unique heritage, food, language and culture, they would all be lumped together as a group of immigrants that were not welcomed or wanted. With such hope and eagerness to become a member of the American community they quickly found that the conditions they were subjected to in the US were unsuitable for most people but much better than the conditions they left behind.

These strangers soon became friends in their apartment complex in Delaware. Something of a newly established family. The ones who lived in the US for decades became guides and mentors to the newly arrived, sharing their experiences as well as giving encouragement.

There were so many poignant and profound lines from this story and the ecopy was highlighted page after page. Henríquez wrote such a candid and thoughtful look into the lives of immigrants that it didn’t feel like a “story” but more of a book of testimonials or a memoir of each person’s life. This book HAD to be written. And NEEDS to be read. I can’t stress that enough. A copy should show up on each politician’s desk, teacher’s desk, in each American citizen’s hands. There are so many prejudices and terrible depictions of what it is to be an immigrant today. I can go on and on soap box style, but I just want to instead encourage people to read this beautiful, heartbreaking, hopeful and enlightening book.

“We’re the unknown Americans, the ones no one even wants to know, because they’ve been told they’re supposed to be scared of us and because maybe if they did take the time to get to know us, they might realize that we’re not that bad, maybe even that we’re a lot like them. And who would they hate then?”

*Thank you to Edelweiss and Knopf for the uncorrected eBook. I was not compensated or required to review this book. All quotes might be changed in the final printed copy.

To learn more about the very talented Cristina Henríquez please visit her site here.


6 thoughts on “The Book of Unknown Americans by Cristina Henriquez

  1. Hi,
    I’ve read the book over a month ago and I can’t wait to share my review with the public. I loved, loved, loved it!! And I share your opinion that this book needs to be read by every American citizen.

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