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Cristina Henríques – The Book of Unknown Americans

Posted in Book reviews, and Fiction

I really, really wanted to like this book. Its topic is promising for someone, who is interested in social issues. Also, I feel in love with its cover. Dear reader, you simply cannot judge a book by its cover. So why I did?! It took me over the half of the book to get into it. Ay Díos, por qué?!

The Book of Unknown Americans is a collection of life stories, where their protagonists have few things in common: they come from countries of South America, they have hard lives, they’ve been through lot, and their dreams ended unfulfilled.

I was hoping for a realistic insight in a highly relevant issue of immigrants, coming from their home countries to seek new, better opportunities somewhere else. As far as I’m concerned, the position of Latinos within an American society isn’t the easy one, and I wanted to learn more.

Immigrants love their countries, but are not dumb. The escape itself is a sign of a common sense, and I think there are many citizens of various countries all around the world, who would rather stay where they feel at home, than trying to start their lives all over again, often from the scratch. Unfortunately, there is a word standing behind their decision: IF. If they felt safe, they would stay at home. If they weren’t dreaming about a career, impossible to pursue at home, they would stay at home. If their lovers were not abroad, they would stay at home. If health care was at a higher level, they wouldn’t need to move to help their closest ones. And we can continue.

Henríquez probably felt a need to convey stories of few people. The main story line takes place in a housing devoted to immigrants, grey concrete place in the middle of nowhere. It slowly reveals background of two families, whose situations are not enviable, and their kids happen to fell in love. The result was tragic, as expected.

The Book of Unknown Americans is full of stereotypes. Bad boys from dysfunctional families, bullying, poverty, low wage and bleak days. Although I‘m aware how common this is, there is a flip side of every coin and I want to learn that one.

I KNOW we have to speak, read and listen to those stories. Their importance is irreplaceable. But in this case, I wish it was more about the adults, and less about the teenagers. More about life, less about love. This book will rest on my bookshelf happily – for its cover and attempt, but unfortunately not for the result.

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