The Book of Unknown Americans was both. My coworker just finished The Book of Unknown Americans and she gave it to me to read. I happened to have nothing to read on the bus ride home. I started The Book of Unknown Americans on the ride home and finished it before I fell asleep that night. And I got teary at the end. Such a beautiful book. I will be pushing this on others.
The Book of Unknown Americans follows several Latin American immigrants living in an apartment complex in Delaware. The main focus is on Alma and Arturo and their daughter, Maribel, and Mayor Rivera, a teen the same age as Maribel. Each character shares their story about how they came to Delaware. Some stories are simple, some are complex, all are beautiful. Henríquez does a beautiful job of making each character stand out. Even the characters that get 3 pages. All their voices made such a a gorgeous book.
I also loved the love story between Maribel and Mayor. Maribel has a disability which some people thinks makes her unable to make her own choices. Her parents struggle with giving her independence and protecting her from those who would hurt her. Mayor wants to love Maribel but sometimes her disability makes it difficult. I enjoyed the extra layer of adversity for these lovers. It felt like real life.
And yes, the end made me cry. I never cry about books. I can count on one hand the books that I've got teary-eyed at the end. Well, add The Book of Unknown Americans to that short list. I'm looking forward to more of Henríquez work, Others who shared their thoughts about The Book of Unknown Americans: Hey Library Girl, @homelibrarian, and For The Someday Book.