Thursday, July 3, 2014

The Unseen Face of Immigration

It’s no coincidence that the covers of both Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok and The Book of Unknown Americans by Cristina Henríquez depict faceless women.  Both novels explore complex questions of identity:  How do others see us?  How do we perceive ourselves?

Girl in Translation, Jean Kwok’s debut novel, tells the story of Ah-Kim who arrives in New York City with her mother.  Both are eager to forge a new life.  Almost immediately, they learn that the house they were promised is, in fact, a squalid apartment, and that the "big American factory" is a sweatshop.  Bright, ambitious Kim believes she can save them, but the closer she comes to realizing the American dream, the more she struggles with questions of identity and family. 

Healing and loss lie at the heart of Cristina Henríquez's new novel, The Book of Unknown Americans. The Riveras come to the United States seeking rehabilitation for their beautiful, brain-damaged fifteen-year-old daughter. The move places them in a dilapidated apartment complex amidst other struggling Latino families who share the American dream. What happens is both loving and painful. Booklist calls The Book of Unknown Americans a "compassionately imagined, gently comedic, and profoundly wrenching novel of big dreams and crushing reality, courageous love and unfathomable heartbreak.”

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