Book Review: The Book of Unknown Americans

The U.S. gives the Riveras hope, but it doesn’t always make the fruit of that hope easy to get. Here is how Alma’s monologue begins: ”Back then, all we wanted was the simplest things: to eat good food, to sleep at night, to smile, to laugh, to be well. We felt it was our right as much as anyone else’s, to have those things.” And the book hits its first ominous note. ”Of course,” she continues, ”when I think about it now, I see that I was naïve.”

Alma’s is the first in a series of vignettes, first in her own voice, then in Arturo’s, then in the voices of the people who reside in the apartment building they come to inhabit, all Latinos in diaspora, with widely ranging stories of arrival and survival in the place they’re now trying to see as  home. As the stories pile up, framing the central action, it’s hard not to think a little of Sarah Jones’s remarkable 2004 play Bridge and Tunnel, which told stories of transit and arrival in quick deft episodes, or of Sandra Cisneros’s groundbreaking The House on Mango Street,  a coming-of age-story whose shifting lenses captured both a community’s interconnectedness and a young woman’s maturing.

Read further @ Barnes & Noble


~ by eneryvibes on 1,January 11, 2015.

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