Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 262
The Book of Unknown Americans is a novel by American writer Cristina Henríquez, published in 2014. It tells the story of recent immigrants to the United States from Latin America.
Alma Rivera is the story's protagonist and the story is told, in part, from her first person perspective, though other characters share in the narration from chapter to chapter. A housewife from Michoacán, Mexico, she is the Rivera family matriarch who helps lead its emigration from Mexico to the United States in order to seek medical treatment for her daughter, Maribel. She is imbued with a pessimism borne by her experiences. Early in the story, she remarks that she had "assumed that everything that would go wrong in our lives already had."
Arturo, Alma's wife, once owned a construction business in Mexico but has come to the United States with his family and, to his resigned indifference, has had to seek work as an agricultural laborer.
Mayor Toro is another principal character in the novel. He is the son of a family which has immigrated to the United States from Panama. Toro is frequently abused at school by the bully Garrett Miller and has become siloed from his non-immigrant peers. At home, however, he develops an attachment to Maribel Rivera, and their forbidden relationship becomes a major theme in the story. Maribel is the daughter of Arturo and Alma who has suffered a traumatic brain injury, which is the inspiration for her family's emigration from Mexico.
Other characters in the story include Quisqueya Solis, Benny Quinto, Rafael Toro, and Gustavo Milhojas.
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