Suburban Mosaic

The Book of Unknown Americans

By Christina Henriquez

Adult Title

Discussion Questions
The Book of Unknown Americans

  1. How does the Rivera’s new life in America disappoint them? Were you surprised at how difficult their situation in the United States was? What experiences help them adjust?
  2. What draws Maribel and Mayor together?
  3. Discuss the theme of guilt in the novel. Which characters feel guilty? About what? How do these different characters cope with their guilt differently? Do any come to terms with their guilt? If so, how?
  4. How does the author use food to demonstrate the family’s adjustment? What role does food play in this story? What about the family dinner of oatmeal?
  5. Does gender play a role in how individuals deal with the challenges in their lives? Compare how Alma and Celia deal with assimilation compared to their husbands.
  6. Most of the main characters narrate portions of the story, except for Maribel. Would you have liked to have heard her story in her own voice? How would this have changed the story?
  7. The Rivera’s neighbors come from a variety of Latin American countries. What do they share in common? What unites them?
  8. How do the alternating chapters detailing how some of the Rivera’s neighbors came to United States add to the narrative? Or did they detract?
  9. Do you think the family’s decision to return to Mexico was inevitable? Are you hopeful about their future?