The Book of Unknown Americans

Cristina Henríquez

The Book of Unknown Americans by Cristina Henríquez (Paperback ISBN 9781782111191) book cover

Available as Paperback

Inspired by the story of her father, Cristina Henríquez has crafted a deeply moving novel about the many different voices of the immigrant experience, and one family in particular.


We had been planning our life here for so long. Filling out papers, hoping, praying, waiting. We had all of our dreams pinned on this place, but the pin was thin and delicate and it was too soon to tell whether it was going to hold much of anything at all.

When Alma Rivera arrives in Newark, Delaware she is brim full of the promise and possibilities of her new American home. Hope that her luminous daughter Maribel will be helped by the specialist education the US can provide, and faith that her husband Arturo will flourish in a country that celebrates the hard-working and the talented.

But the reality of life without status, money, family and friends soon becomes apparent. And when violence casts its shadow, Alma realizes that her biggest mistake was assuming that everything that could go wrong in their lives already had …

In this tale of great imagination and grace, Cristina Henríquez gives voice to the stories of the displaced and unknown - the untold stories of our time that resonate for us all.

The Book of Unknown Americans is filled with the fiercest kinds of love - of a boy for a beautiful girl, of stricken parents for an injured daughter, of an immigrant community for an impossible America. In this powerful novel, Cristina Henríquez gives us unforgettable characters, whose destinies are shaped by forces - senseless, random, political - far beyond their control, and yet whose resilience yields a most profound and unexpected kind of beauty”
Ruth Ozeki
author Of A Tale For The Time Being

See more reviews

“Timely … powerful … genuinely moving … Henríquez’s myriad gifts as a writer shine”
Michiko Kakutani
new York Times

“Cristina Henríquez’s novel is a triumph not just of storytelling, but of American storytelling, a novel whose breadth and power blow open any traditional definition of ‘American.’ Henríquez pulls us into the lives of her characters with such mastery that we hang onto them just as fiercely as they hang onto one another, and their dreams. This passionate, powerful novel will stay with you long after you’ve turned the final page”
Ben Fountain
author Of Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk

“Throughout, the book is lit by sharp observations … and warmed by Henríquez’s obvious affection for her characters”
Sandra Newman

“A quiet, unassuming novel that ravels slowly, quickens without warning, spins into high drama and leaves you in thrall to its vivid characters and its author’s sure hand … a deeply stirring story”
washington Post

Cristina Henríquez

Cristina Henríquez is the author of the novel The World In Half and the story collection Come Together, Fall Apart, which was a New York Times Editors’ Choice selection. Cristina earned her undergraduate degree from Northwestern University and is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. She lives in Chicago.