Henriquez, Cristina. The Book of Unknown Americans: A Novel. Read by Christine Avila, Ozzie Rodriguez, Yareli Arizmendi, Gustavo Res, Gabriel Romero, Jesse Corti . 2014.
image from (Audiofilemagazine.com)
This captivating story of America's "simultaneously conspicuous and invisible" population is powerfully rendered by an ensemble of narrators representing voices from all over Latin America. Like families before them, the Riveras immigrate to the U.S. in search of a better life for their daughter, Maribel. Though Maribel is the catalyst, it is Alma, her mother, and Mayor, her friend, who lure listeners in during alternating chapters. Their voices shift with emotion as the narrators deftly use pitch and pacing to maintain an intimate atmosphere amid the shifting perspectives. Periodically, new voices and new accents claim a chapter to share their own immigrant experiences. Each is captured with sensitivity, lending an immediacy to the story and providing a larger context to the Riveras's experience. A.S. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine [Published: JUNE 2014]
This is a collection of stories, but they are connected. Alma and Mayor tell most of the narrative. I could related to Alma's worries for her daughter and hoping that coming to America would help her daughter.
Maribel's story (really, her mother's truth) is heartbreaking.
I liked Mayor and that he liked Maribel and demonstrates his love for her.
As I listened to this book, I wished I could see some of the Spanish words. It took me a little while to understand the accent on some of the narrators.
We hear stories from other tenants in the building like Quisqueya Solis and Gustavo Milhojas and Benny Quinto. It just reminded me of how everyone has a story.
As I neared the end of the book, I was in tears. I can't believe that the story spans only 7 months (but really it is several lifetimes). The last chapter, Arturo Rivera's, was a surprise. Even though we see him through the other characters, it's the only chapter he has in the book.
The title reference is in Micho Alvarez' chapter, over 80% into the book.
I think these characters will stay in my conscience, especially when I look at my students and wonder, "What's their story?"