The Book of Unknown Americans

 

Author: Christina Henriquez

Time period: Present

Fiction or Non-Fiction: Fiction
What communities does this book explore? Latinx American, immigrants, people with disabilities
Short summary of the book:  This book was ultimately a love story. Love within a family, love between teens, love for your country (both home and adopted) and love for your neighbors. A middle class family decides to immigrate to America after their daughter suffers a traumatic brain injury and requires schooling in the United States. Through a series of different narrators we learn about the myriad of ways and reasons people immigrate to the US and many of the difficulties people they experience when they arrive in the United States including racism, bias and poverty. Most of the book is told from the perspective of two teenagers who start to fall in love and the many challenges being from different cultures pose. Ultimately through the book and its narrators we learn about people seeking to live their own American dream and the many forces that can limit that.
What cultural aspects are presented in the book?
The book explores cultural identities and differences within Latin and Central American immigrants.
How did this break or address stereotypes of this group?

The book brought up the many ways and reasons people immigrate to the US from Latin and Central America. It also helped explore illegal immigration and the love for family and opportunity that drives people to seek US shores.

How does the book handle intersectionality or diversity within the community?

This is one of the few books I’ve read that breaks down diversity of identities within latin communities AND includes an additional minority group at the center of the narrative. It doesn’t tackle it as thoroughly as it could but for a fictional book it starts to show so much more diversity than many books even come close to.

Criticism of the book:  Some have found the writing a bit simplistic but I assumed this had a lot to do with one of the main narrators having a brain injury. Others found bouncing between narrators made the story disjunct and lacking in depth.
Best for readers who: are interested in learning more about immigrant communities and diversity of Latin American cultural groups.
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