The Book Of Unknown Americans
"Back then, all we wanted was the simplest things: to eat good
food, to sleep at night, to smile, to laugh, to be well. We felt it
was our right, as much as it was anyone's, to have these things. Of
course, when I think about it now, I see that I was naive. I was
blinded by the swell of hope and the promise of possibility. I
assumed that everything that would go wrong in our lives already had."
After an election season when much divisive and hateful rhetoric
has been aimed at Hispanic immigrants it is crucial to remember that
this group is comprised of distinct individuals doing the best they
can under the circumstances life throws their way.
As in just like the rest of us.
Christina Henriquez' The Book Of Unknown Citizens brings this
motif beautifully to life. At its heart lies the relationship of two
Hispanic families brought about by something apple pie American: the
attraction of teen age boy to teen age girl.
Arturo and Alma must leave Mexico so their only child, Maribel,
can have a future. She's sustained brain damage from an accident.
Special education in the United States holds her best chance for at
least partial recovery. Her parents will do whatever it takes to see
her come to life again.
Mayor is the younger son of a family from Panama. His parents
had fled a devastated homeland they could never again feel safe in.
"...Burnt-out cars and the rubble of buildings. Broken glass and
charred palm trees. It looked like a different place. It was just
destruction and more destruction...". They both miss Panama, but
believe their sons, Enrique and Mayor, are thriving in America in a
way that makes their sacrifices worthwhile.
One day Mayor and his mother are at Dollar Tree replacing
underwear that had been stolen from the Laundromat. Mayor sees a girl
who he deems "fucking gorgeous." His heart goes into overdrive. He
feels acute embarassment that he is carrying a package of size small
When Mayor discovers Maribel's frailty he becomes tenderly
protective, shielding her from perils like a local bully, Garrett. He
tries everything he can to make her smile. Somehow he can sense the
brightness of her inner self struggling to come through.
On a personal note, we're right on the brink of Thanksgiving. But
this year it isn't all Norman Rockwell for a lot of people. Many
LGBTQ students are returning to families who are not supportive of
their real selves. A gazillion people including myself are going to
spend time with relatives or in-laws who voted on the other side. A
lot of Thanksgivings will be more like detente than over the river and
through the woods.
A great big shout out goes out to you, my readers. May you have much
to be thankful for.
Sent from my iPod