I originally started writing a typical review of this book but last night I had a text conversation with my cousin and I realized how boring that review was so here goes:
I loved the book of Unknown Americans: I gave it 5 STARS.
Mayar and Maribel’s teenage love story is the love story of two teenage neighbors who fall in love in the most American way in spite of their Americaness constantly being denied. There’s seeing each other in a way that no one else does, stolen kisses, and stolen moments of teenage rebellion that lead to the most fucked up shit. Adding to their love story is the fact that it isn’t tied up neatly with a bright red bow.
In The Book of Unknown Americans we travel with a group of neighbors who live in a building full of other immigrants as they make their way from their respective lands and end up in Maryland in this apartment building. The journeys of each tenant gives the reader insights into the reasons why people leave their homes, their families, their lives, their beautiful native lands of Puerto Rico, Panama, Mexico, Columbia- to chase the American Dream.
In the story we are forced to bare witness to the ugliness that immigrants are forced to deal with; poor working conditions, racial profiling, harassment, robbery, bullying, the constant feeling of less than, while trying to survive and get a piece of the elusive American Pie.
And I loved the journeys. Up until this book I had a very minimal understanding of why people would leave home for America only to be frequently ridiculed and treated like a burden.
So that’s the love. Now for the hate. I’ll keep it brief. Check it under this Spoiler Alert:
THINGS I HATE:
- ALMA- Keeper of secrets that cause harm for the stupidest of reasons. ALMA, why the eff didn’t you at least try to get a job washing laundry, cooking, babysitting, something? Why is your family struggling whilst you try to find your damn self and threaten teenagers in a language that you can barely speak? ALMA, most of this is your fault.
- The shifting of characters is a bit to get used to as each character tells their story in the first person narrative style and some stories feel more authentic than others.
- The glossing over of Garret Miller’s life. There’s enough there to gather that this family has problems but if this character is going to be the antagonist that character’s life and encounters can’t be written as an after thought.
I recommend that most people read this book especially people who think that immigrants are stealing their jobs, want to Make America Great Again, tell other people to “Go back where you came from” and those who say “We speak English in America if you can’t speak the language then go back home.”