Getting started with The Book of Unknown Americans

Sorry for the late launch of our February book–migraine and a cold side-lined me (Rita) this week. But here we go!

What you can expect:

The last week of this month, we’ll post a reflection on our February book to start a conversation. The question we’d like everyone to think about as you’re reading is broad and simple:

As you read these stories, what are points of connection (things you can relate to because you can connect your own experience to the story) and points of disconnection (things you have a hard time relating to because you haven’t had any similar experience)?

If you’d like to have some conversation before then, please leave comments at the bottom of this post, or chat with us on our Facebook page.


Some background information that might create deeper understanding of the characters and events in this month’s book. If you have other good resources, please let us know in the comments and we’ll add them to this list.

Invasion of Panama, the event that resulted in the Toro family leaving Panama.

Los Santos, Panama, home of Rafael and Celia Toro before immigrating to the US.

Pátzcuaro, México, home of the Rivera family before immigrating to the US.

Traumatic brain injury (TBI), which is likely what Maribel sustains in her accident.

Poverty in Nicaragua, the reason for Benny Quinto’s immigration to the US, and information about the Sandinistas. From last spring: “U.S.-Mexico Border Sees Resurgence Of Central Americans Seeking Asylum

Violence in Guatemala, the reason for Gustavo Milhojas’s immigration to the US.

Sexual abuse rates of Latin American immigrants in Texas (Quisqeuya Solís)

Juan Carlos Giménez Ferreyra, the boxer who inspired Adolfo “Fito” Angelino to immigrate to the US.

Rita Moreno, inspiration for Nelia Zafón, who emigrated from Puerto Rico.

Mexican drug war, reason for Micho Alvarez’s immigration to the US; also “Mexico’s drug war as seen through the eyes of children

2 thoughts on “Getting started with The Book of Unknown Americans

  1. I’m almost a quarter of the way through. I’m really enjoying it so far.

    I felt Alma’s panic and disorientation when she was in a situation where she needed to communicate and couldn’t because she didn’t know enough English yet.

    1. Hi Kathy!
      I think Alma is the character I connect most with in some ways. She and I are about the same age, and we’re both mothers. I understand why she’d leave her home and everything she knows because she thinks it’s the thing she needs to do to save her child. I like to think I’d do the same. But seeing how hard it is for her–that is nothing I’ve ever experienced. I did have a few small incidents when traveling to other countries and having to navigate situations with those those who didn’t speak much English, but those weren’t over anything as significant as the situations Alma has to work through. I think Alma is a lot stronger than I am.

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