Reflection on The Book of Unknown Americans
The Book of Unknown Americans is an intriguing account of the families of people legally coming into a land of all possibilities with a swell of hope.
It talks about people leaving Mexico, Nicaragua, and Panama for reasons starting from political to personal safety to just be able to have a better quality of life.
The story realistically describes the emotions of Alma, Arturo and Maribel, as the family enters Delaware, and moves into a modest job and house.
The anxiety of foreign land and away from all that’s familiar from people, food to language is wonderfully captured. There is always a sense of belonging and comfort at home. But at this distant land that they chose to come into so that their daughter could have a special education and in turn that might provide a window for her to return to normalcy is real and emotional.
The author - Cristina Henriques captures the truthful sacrifices parents make to ensure the best for the children no matter how difficult life gets for them. The experiences regaled to show that they try to adapt when Alma tries to find familiarity in calling the sun as the same sun that shone on them might sound silly but shows how much she is ready to adapt even when there are hardly anything to relate to.
While parallelly the author brings in the lives of Rafael Torro, Celia, Enrique and Mayor who have moved out of Panama years ago due to political turmoil, but now have made USA as their home.
They have tried to make the best of the opportunities they had and by that always motivated their sons to grow. Eventually they are happy about the decision to move into the US as to them like Torro proudly says “We’re citizens and if someone asks me where my home is, I say los Estados Unidos.”
And then another character arises in Benny Quinto from Nicaragua. He is troubled youngster smuggling drugs for money. Though to begin with he wanted to become a priest, he became a drug dealer at the end however he moves to Delaware in the hope of atleast having a peaceful life and to escape the pangs of drug mafia groups.
The change of heart that the change of place gave him made him call this new city his home.
In all they are in a quest to make a peaceful living and all they wished for in Alma’s words “to eat good food, to sleep at night, to smile, to laugh and to be well”. The simple things that are often taken for granted but in many a place around the world they are counted still a miracle and blessing.
The hope of beacon that this land – United States, has turned into is inspiring as it touches and changes lives making dreams possible and lives valuable. It is an interesting and realistic story of emotions of finding a home away from home.