Boldly tell the story of the diversity and magnitude of the human experience. Seek sources whose voice we seldom hear.
Cristina Henríquez is the author of the novel The Book of Unknown Americans, 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.
On a cold, bewildering night, the Riveras, who have just left their happy lives in Mexico, are dropped off at a dilapidated apartment building on the western edge of Delaware. Arturo has given up his thriving construction company to labor in a dark, grimy indoor mushroom farm, while his wife, Alma, lonely and afraid, with no English and little money, worries incessantly about their beautiful 15-year-old daughter, Maribel. She has suffered a traumatic brain injury, and her parents have sacrificed everything to send her to a special school. Their building turns out to be a sanctuary for Central and Latin American immigrants, and as the Riveras’ dramatic tale unfolds, Henríquez brings their generous neighbors forward to tell the compelling stories of why and how they left Venezuela, Puerto Rico, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Colombia, Mexico, Panama, and Paraguay. As one man says, “We are the unknown Americans,” those who are feared and hated. As Maribel opens up to Mayor, the infatuated boy next-door who is relentlessly bullied by his father and his classmates, terror of the unknown becomes a tragic force. Each scene, voice, misunderstanding, and alliance is beautifully realized and brimming with feeling in the acclaimed Henríquez’s compassionately imagined, gently comedic, and profoundly wrenching novel of big dreams and crushing reality, courageous love and unfathomable heartbreak. --Donna Seaman