The Book of Unknown Americans

The Book

The Book of Unknown Americans follows the story of two families, the Riveras and Toros, and their struggles, challenges, joys and tragedy as recent immigrants to the United States. Each family has come to America for different reasons, but ultimately to provide a better life for their children. Interwoven into the novel are the testimonials of men and women from all over Central and Latin America, providing an authentic voice to the characters’ individual stories. The novel explores the definition of what it means to be American and brings to life the sacrifices and challenges immigrants face along this journey. 

Awards and Praise 

  • 100 Notable Books of 2014, The New York Times 
  • 2014 Novel of the Year, The Daily Beast 
  • Goodreads Choice Award Nominee for Best Fiction of 2014 
  • O Magazine 15 Must Read Books of the Year
  • Amazon's Top 10 Books of 2014
  • Target's Club Pick, March 2015 

 “Timely, powerful...Genuinely moving. The story of the Rivera and Toro families encapsulates both the promises and perils of the American dream...Henriquez's myriad gifts as a writer shine."
—Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times
"Gripping, memorable...Devastating...A novel that can both make you think and break your heart."
San Francisco Chronicle
“With eloquence, grace, and, yes, sorrow, Henriquez creates an ensemble cast (of) people whose voices are rarely heard. This is a remarkable novel that every American should read.”
—Minneapolis Star Tribune

About the Author

Cristina Henríquez, the author of The Book of Unknown Americans, was inspired by her father’s Panamà-to-U.S. immigration story and other experiences of real people in Delaware, where she grew up. While immigration news makes headlines daily, the nitty-gritty, humor and heart behind the topic have rarely been brought to page. The novel brings to life the varied human stories behind the issues of immigration through the eyes of characters from all over Latin America.

Henríquez is also the author the novel The World In Half, and Come Together, Fall Apart, a story collection which was a New York Times Editors’ Choice selection.

Cristina’s non-fiction has appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine, The Wall Street Journal, Real Simple and Oxford American as well as in various anthologies.

She was featured in Virginia Quarterly Review as one of “Fiction’s New Luminaries,” has been a guest on National Public Radio, and is a recipient of the Alfredo Cisneros Del Moral Foundation Award, a grant started by author Sandra Cisneros in honor of her father.

Cristina earned her undergraduate degree from Northwestern University and is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. She currently teaches at Northwestern University. 
Learn more about Cristina at
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