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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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!

Where do we go from here? Read, heal, work.

I was hoping to write a happy article today.

I was hoping to talk about what this new American dawn means for me as a young woman of color from an immigrant family, about the ways that a country I have loved is taking a step toward the intentional inclusion of marginalized people.

But today is not that day. I’m guessing that if you are following this Intrepid journey, you have some interest in the well-being of young people, in how books can open possibilities for young readers, in telling the honest story of immigration. If any of these things have a place in your heart, you are likely as shaken, even sickened, as I am.

I wish I could write about joy. Instead, I am writing about pain and responsibility.

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Review: Something in Between by Melissa de la Cruz

Today, I am so excited to share a book that instantly spoke to my own life – one of those rare, brilliant shimmers of belonging. You know the feeling. When a book knows you so well, it puts words to your inarticulate emotions. When a book is a beacon light of not-alone-ness.

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Full disclosure: Advanced Readers copy obtained as a gift from a friend whose parents own a small bookstore. (I love this friend all the more for bringing this book into my life.)

Growing up, I didn’t think that Filipina girls were important enough to be the heroine. Happily, I was wrong. Read on, and maybe, in ways different from mine, this book will be a light for you, too.
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Words matter. So let’s talk about “illegal alien.”

Last night, with Halloween on the mind, we were thinking about creepy creatures. Monsters. Ghosts. Aliens, maybe?

Tonight, let’s talk about something else that should give us chills: How everyday language permits dehumanizing thoughts and actions toward people. Okay, it’s not a monster, but this should be frightening because this is a real problem that impacts real people.

This day after the Halloween revelry, we’re going to talk about the use of the word “illegal alien.”

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