A Thousand Steps

A Thousand Steps
A Thousand Steps by T. Jefferson Parker

Friday, July 9, 2021

The Book of Unknown Americans- by Christina Henriquez- Feature and Review


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 Panamá 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.



The Book of Unknown AmericansThe Book of Unknown Americans by Cristina Henriquez
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Book of Unknown Americans by Cristina Henriquez is a 2014 Knopf publication.

I’ve been looking to expand my reading repertoire lately, so while browsing through the literary offerings, I came across this book. Checking this book out is like doing a 180 for me as I usually stick pretty close to my preferred genres.

But, something about it spoke to me and so I decided to give it a try.

So often we hear about laws, and issues, and the numbers surrounding immigration without stopping to consider the human element.

This book puts names with faces, and finally humanizes the population of people who come to this country for various reasons, hoping for a better way of life.

When Maribel Riveras suffers a traumatic brain injury, her family moves to America to enroll her in a special school in hopes she will eventually regain all she lost in the accident.

Fifteen year old Mayor Toro has lived in America his entire life, but his family is from Panama. He and Maribel strikes up a friendship which eventually turns into a sweet and tender love story while their parents struggle with the decision they made to make America their home.

While the topic of immigration is one that is sure to spark instant and heated debate, especially during after the election, this book is not a political novel, it is just a story that paints a vivid portrait of the way of life many immigrants face after moving to America.

There are inspired moments amid the bittersweet and poignant realities, and will really make you stop and consider things from an entirely different perspective.

I admired the families that were represented in this story, and recognized in them the same qualities as most Americans possess. They worked hard to provide for their families, they had hopes and dreams, went through good times and bad, but mostly they wanted to give their children a better way of life, something which I think we all strive for.

The love story between Maribel and Mayor is especially touching and despite the animosity and stubbornness, his father exhibited, Mayor followed his heart, and his attention to Maribel was what brought about the biggest improvements for her.

Although the story was not necessarily one that left me feeling upbeat or all that hopeful in the end, it did enlighten me, and is very thought provoking.

I can see why this story as garnered such critical acclaim and I have to say I am pleased I took a chance on it.





Cristina Henríquez is the author of the novel The Book of Unknown Americans, forthcoming in June 2014, as well as the novel The World in Half, and the short story collection Come Together, Fall Apart, which was a New York Times Editors' Choice selection. A graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop, her stories have appeared in The New Yorker, The Atlantic, American Scholar, Glimmer Train, Ploughshares, TriQuarterly, AGNI, and the Virginia Quarterly Review, where she was named one of "Fiction's New Luminaries." She is also the recipient of an Alfredo Cisneros Del Moral Foundation Award. Henríquez lives in Illinois.

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