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Campus Book Discussion Series: The Book of Unknown Americans

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This Semester's Book: The Book of Unknown Americans

Campus Book Discussion Series

When fifteen-year-old Maribel Rivera sustains a terrible injury, the Riveras leave behind a comfortable life in Mexico and risk everything to come to the United States so that Maribel can have the care she needs. Once they arrive, it’s not long before Maribel attracts the attention of Mayor Toro, the son of one of their new neighbors, who sees a kindred spirit in this beautiful, damaged outsider. Their love story sets in motion events that will have profound repercussions for everyone involved.

Here Henríquez seamlessly interweaves the story of these star-crossed lovers, and of the Rivera and Toro families, with the testimonials of men and women who have come to the United States from all over Latin America and offers a resonant new definition of what it means to be Americans

Discussion Dates, Times, and Locations

Discussion Dates and Times

Thursday, October 6, 12:30pm - 1:45pm
Student Center, Room H105

Moderators: Mary Rolle, Bill Buckley & Shelby Carmon
Theme: Assumptions, Stereotypes and Discrimination

Wednesday, October 12, 11:00am-12:15pm
Student Center, Room H102A

Moderators: Laura Cordova and Centro Hispano
Theme: A Sense of Belonging

Monday, October 17, 12:30pm-1:45pm
Student Center, Room H105

Moderators: Literacy Council
Theme: Literacy as a Component of Identity

Tuesday, October 25, 11:00am-12:15pm
Student Center, Room H102A

Moderators: Christine Rai & Lora Diaz
Theme: Displacement

Tuesday, November 1, 12:30pm - 1:45pm
Student Center, Room H105

Moderators: Gohar Farahani
Theme: Personal Narrative

Wednesday, November 16, 12:30pm - 1:30pm
Student Center, Room H105

Moderators: ESL Student panel
Theme: Global Community Fest

Thursday, November 17, 6:00pm-7:00pm
Student Center, Room H105

Moderators: ESL Student panel
Theme: Global Community Fest

Related Events

Hispanic Heritage Month celebration: October 5, 11:00am - 2:00pm
Sponsored by FCC Spanish Club

Latino Festival: October 9, 12:00pm - 4:00pm

Film showing, Under the Same Moon: Time and date TBA
Sponsored by FCC Spanish Club

Film Showing, Latino Americans Time and date TBA

Interviews/Articles/Videos with the Author: Christian Heriquez

Reviews and Articles
Rich Fahle interviews author Cristina Henríquez about her novel, The Book of Unknown Americans at Miami Book Fair International 2014. Watch more interviews at https ...
In Cristina Henríquez’s “The Book of Unknown Americans,” an array of characters from Latin America talk directly about their reasons for coming to ...

Immigration Stories and News

Immigration Stories
One evening in November 2014, Aissatou Sanogo's husband came to tell her some startling news. "Aissatou," he said, "I'm leaving for Europe" — that very ...
Bordertown is about two families on both sides of the immigration debate. One is a white border patrol agent and his family and the other is a Mexican-American immigrant family.
Despite U.S. efforts to staunch the flow, numbers are approaching the crisis of two years ago. U.S. Border Patrol agents say it's diverting resources away from catching drug and human traffickers.
At the 2013 Folklife Festival, visitors add markers to a world map indicating their first language and their heritage languages. Photo by Francisco Guerra, Ralph ...
Donald Trump's comments about a Latino federal judge have sparked discussion about racism and bias. But to many Latinos they're about historic burden.
Immigrants at the U.S.-Mexico border, often fleeing violence, are put in detention centers. That was the best way to handle the influx at the time, says one Homeland official. Now, rules are changing.

Immigration in the News
Reacting to a deadlocked Supreme Court, President Obama said the ball is now in the court of the American voters when it comes to immigration.
Leslie Berestein Rojas of Southern California Public Radio has an update on the annual May Day march for immigrant rights. The march comes after Donald Trump visited the state, sparking protests.
Frederick County Sheriff Chuck Jenkins told a U.S. House subcommittee that the county's approach to immigration enforcement is working. [Video by Siri Bulusu, Medill ...
Dozens of men have died in disturbing circumstances in privatized, immigrant-only prisons. The Bureau of Prisons itself says there’s a problem. And yet the ...

Immigration Facts and Statistics

Immigration Statistics in the United States

Movies and Books with Immigration Themes

Movies Available in the FCC Learning Commons or Online

Books Available in the FCC Learning Commons

Discussion Questions

Discussion Questions

1. How does Alma’s perspective in the novel’s first chapter illustrate her and her family’s hopes for their new life in America? Take another look at her statement after the trip to the gas station: “The three of us started toward the road, doubling back in the direction from which we had come, heading toward home” (11). What are the meanings of “home” here, and how does this scene show how America meets and differs from the Riveras’ expectations of it?

2. Mayor describes how he’s bullied at school and his general feelings of not fitting in. How do you think this draws him to Maribel? What do they have in common that perhaps those around them, including their parents, cannot see on the surface?

3. How is the scene where the Riveras sit down for a dinner of oatmeal a turning point for the family and for the book? Discuss the role of food in the novel, especially how it evokes memories of home and establishes a sense of community. Are there any other cultural values or traditions that do the same thing?

4. What are some key differences in the way that the women in the novel respond to challenges of assimilation compared to the men? How does Alma’s point of view highlight these differences?

5. What brings Alma and Celia together as neighbors and friends, and how does their relationship change by the end of the book?

6. How would you describe the atmosphere of the impromptu Christmas party in the Toros’ apartment (p. 137)? What brings the residents of the building together, as a group and in more intimate settings? Why do you think Cristina Henríquez brought all the characters together during this particular holiday?

7. Alma and Mayor are the primary narrators of the book, yet they have very different voices and perspectives. How does pairing these points of view affect the telling of this story, even as they are punctuated by the voices of the neighbors in Redwood Apartments? And how does the chorus of voices affect this main story and pose larger questions of immigration and the Latino experience in the United States?

8. Were you surprised that the book takes place in Newark, Delaware, rather than in the larger Latin American communities of Florida, New York, Texas, or California? What does this setting suggest about immigrant families like the Riveras and the Toros across the country? Do you feel differently about the immigration debate now raging in the United States after reading this book?

9. Do you, the members of your family, or your friends have stories of moving to another country to start a new life? Did any of the stories in the novel resonate with those you know?

10. How does the final chapter, told in Arturo’s voice, influence your understanding of what he felt about America? What do you make of how he ends his narrative, “I loved this country,” and that it is the last line of the book (286)?

Ways to Help


Border Charity Addresses for Donations

Humane Borders   Keeps water stations in the desert    
PO Box 27024
Tuscson, AZ 85726
preferred method: PayPal through website


Kino Border Initiative   Operates sour kitchen and shelters in Mexico
PO Box 159
Nogales, AZ 85628-0159
Mail donations directly or through Paypal from website


Coalicion De Derechos Humanos   Locates missing migrants, and educates migrants on workers rights
Donate through website

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