The Book of Unknown Americans

The Book of Unknown Americans

Book - 2014 | First Edition.
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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.
Publisher: New York : Alfred A. Knopf, 2014.
Edition: First Edition.
ISBN: 9780385350846
Branch Call Number: FIC HENRIQU
Characteristics: 285 pages ; 22 cm


From Library Staff

The Riveras have just left their happy lives in Mexico for a difficult beginning in the U.S. to ensure their daughter gets the education she needs, in this compassionate, beautifully realized, and intelligent novel.

From the critics

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Jul 27, 2019

I would highly recommend this book!! I had learned about this book through my college Spanish teacher and I honestly have not stopped reading it ever since and that was last year! I have recommended this book to many people and they too have liked it and whats nice about this books is that there is a Spanish copy and English copy.

Jan 17, 2019

The book's depiction of a new immigrant's struggle in America is very real and very eye-opening, and I appreciated that aspect. The plot seemed a little slow and boring in some places, but that didn't stop me from getting completely engrossed in this novel. Also, there were some graphic depictions of non-consensual sexual activities that could be very triggering to some. The book could've used a disclaimer or a warning of some kind, in my opinion.

BostonPL_JordanD May 11, 2018

Holy fluff, this book just sucker punched me in the gut.

Mar 11, 2018

Married to a first generation immigrant from Mexico. I can tell you their struggle is real. I can also tell you I've witnessed most of the "stereotypes" and they're actually true.
The drinking. The philandering. Their government= corrupt AF

What makes me sad for them is instead of FIXING the corruption by citizens getting involved and joining forces together, they run. Over here, to escape.
Don't get me wrong, American's aren't without fault. We run the suburbs to escape city violence, etc. But we (obviously) will "protest vote" to get our point across to our government. Politicians crave that office/power. We, the people, have the power to give it or take it away with our votes.

I enjoyed the authors writing style, and the text was simple to read.

edit: also, they did not have to leave america b/c the father got a "victim of a crime" they could have gotten a special "U Visa"- a special expedited visa specifically for crime victims.

ArapahoeAnnaL Jul 21, 2017

A closeup look at an immigrant community as they deal with universal life experiences.

prettiipreppii May 17, 2017

Nice and refreshing.

Sep 14, 2016

This book avoids most of the cliches I always find in books about Latinos. The novel shows well rounded characters and the story develops through the actions of the characters instead of by some by-the-numbers plot. It is a very sad story but also a story of kindness and love.

TSCPL_ChrisB Jun 04, 2016

Overall, The Book of Unknown Americans is a lovely and poignant tale. The primary narratives, told through the alternating voices of Alma and Mayor, were a pleasure to read. The secondary narratives, chapters entwined with the primary ones told in many different voices, were sometimes a little too clichéd and simple, although their purpose became clear in the end.

Apr 28, 2015

I loved the character development in this book. I loved the way the characters lives came together differently - all tied together by that apartment complex in Delaware. I wished it didn't end when/where it did, but I have recommended it dozens of times since I got past about page 10 and knew I was captivated. It helps to know some Spanish when reading this book.

memoriesofthefuture Apr 18, 2015

Powerful stories. Great Novel.

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Sonjahv 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."

jpainter 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. "

WVMLlibrarianLynn 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

SpringAltman Jul 15, 2014

“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

SpringAltman Jul 15, 2014

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

mawls Jul 07, 2014

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

JanieHH Jun 11, 2014

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


Add Age Suitability
Sep 14, 2016

lino_coria thinks this title is suitable for 14 years and over

JanieHH Jun 11, 2014

JanieHH thinks this title is suitable for 14 years and over


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Aug 31, 2015

This beautiful, simply told tale captured my heart. With all the anti-Latino rhetoric pervasive in the Republican candidates' speeches, this book tells why so many people come to America, just as our ancestors did recently or years ago from other parts of the world. The protagonists are the Rivera family members, who come from Mexico to seek rehabilitation for their teenage daughter who suffered a head injury. Their encounters with people from all over Central and South America in their apartment complex reveals the basic need of all these people to find a better life & fulfill dreams. The author doesn't try to embellish each character with complexity - and, by doing so, the characters become more complex as we get to,know them. Beautifully written - much like Hemingway in that by saying less, more is uncovered.


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