Book review: The Book of Unknown Americans by Christina Henríquez

Story can do many things, but its greatest capacity, particularly in this time of division, is the power to inspire understanding of lives outside our own. Some books are a deeply-felt, resonant encounter with another’s truth.

My first read of 2017 was one such book. 

The Book of Unknown Americans by Christina Henríquez is told from the alternating perspectives of the working-class residents of an apartment building, all immigrants from Latin America. The principal storyline follows the newest tenants: Alma and her husband Arturo, who seek a better future for their teenage daughter Maribel, who suffered a tragic accident in México. Once they arrive, a bond develops between Maribel and the neighboring family’s teenage son, Mayor – a closeness that skirts a first, blushing romance.

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This is a story about the passions, fears, celebrations, and determination of immigrants to the United States.

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Brave New Year: 3 Diverse Books Blog Resolutions

About three months ago, I held my breath and published the post introducing a new, fledgling voice into the Internet. I called it Intrepid to characterize what I think about the first-gen American/immigrant experience – that it was fearless, that it necessarily dealt with the unknown. So appropriately, I hadn’t a clue of what I was doing and expected nothing.

Champagne and sequins and the fact that time is a construct aside, New Year’s Day is a big deal for me. It gives me space to reflect on how I’ve changed in the past year, and how I want to navigate the next one. Looking back, starting Intrepid was one of the biggest, happiest surprises, and I’m still so curious about how it will grow. I’m learning every day about writing thoughtfully on the intersection of representation, immigration, and YA lit.

So, gazing across the vast and promising blank page that is 2017, here are three resolutions for how I’d like Intrepid to grow and hopefully bring more art and understanding into the world.

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Dumbledore’s Army Read-a-Thon Reading List!

Have you heard of the Dumbledore’s Army Readathon? The inventive brainchild of Aentee over at Read at Midnight, it’s a great challenge to get book bloggers to read and share diverse, #ownvoices books. Below, I’ll also be sharing my little fleet of books and what makes them magical to me!

I adore this idea, not only because it provides great structure to spread the word about diverse stories, but because Dumbledore’s Army and resistance have basically characterized my mood for this last, dreary chunk of 2016.

And of course, I will be representing the house of my soul, Hufflepuff. Thanks to Aentee for this lovely graphic!

 

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Since I try to keep my blog reviews to YA and the first-gen/immigrant experience, I will only be formally reviewing some of the books here on Intrepid. I’m sure that reflections and recommendations on Twitter, however, will be plentiful 🙂

So here’s to kicking off 2017 with an open heart and open books!

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Reflection: Homecoming and Reading Diversely

Hi again! After a long hiatus finishing final exams and rushing to rustle together Christmas presents, it is wonderful to be back. (At peace. At a desk. With tea, cookies, and precious time to write and think about books.)

Now that the holiday scramble has subsided, I’ve had some time to think about my reading diverse books in my hometown. Or more specifically, what reading diverse books means to me in the small, majority white, politically conservative enclave where I grew up.

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6 Things I’m Thinking About 11/9

This week’s round-up is focused on celebration – celebrating up-and-coming children’s books artists, Latino American stories, and the young first-gen and immigrant-origin youth that are making the United States a better, brighter place. Read on for more!

  1. We Need Diverse Books announced their 2016 Walter Dean Myers Award Winners! These are the up-and-coming children’s/YA authors to look out for. I’ll certainly be keeping an eye out for their work!
  2. Are you thinking about holiday shopping for little ones? (Or maybe you’re a children’s lit fan yourself! If so, you’re in good company.) Here’s list of Latino children’s books everyone should have on their bookshelves. Enchanted Air made the list in the YA category!fullsizerender-2
  3. I really resonated with Latina American author Meg Medina’s reflections on Writing the American family: “My parents came to the United States during the mass political exodus of the Cuban upper and middle class in the 1960s. All these years later, I still find joy in writing about families grappling with transition and about how children fit into that dynamic over time.” Lots of great book recommendations here, too!
  4. Dreamers – the young, bright undocumented students protected under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals act – are some of the United States’s greatest assets. California Sen. Dianne Feinstein explains in an editorial.
  5. A study from the U.S. Dept. of Education finds the real, measurable economic gains propelled by… new American graduates! First-gen and immigrant youth reading this blog, your voices are SO important, and you’re going to make us all proud 🙂

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    First snowfall! The white-frosted view on the way to my 9am Spanish class.

  6. Last of all, snow has powdered the grounds of my university! Which also means final exams are around the corner. I’m going to take a hiatus for the next week or so as I replace reading YA with some old French philosophers. Wish me luck, and I’ll see you on the other side!