Valpo Reads A Book selects The Book of Unknown Americans

By: Contributor Last Updated: July 13, 2016

VRAB-City-ScapeThe Valpo Reads A Book project is pleased to announce a new book selection for 2016, The Book of Unknown Americans by Cristina Henríquez.

The Book of Unknown Americans is a powerful and deeply moving novel about the love, hopes, and dreams shared through the uniquely American experience of immigration. Henríquez takes the reader on a journey through the lives and relationships of multiple connected characters. While slowly weaving their stories together, Henríquez shows the tender human nature of each individual as part of a new bigger tapestry comprised of family, community, and friendship. The book shines a beacon of light on the lives of Latino immigrants, gently touching on the political issue of immigration while magnificently rising above the discord of the current political debate.

The Valpo Reads a Book project is comprised of educators, parents, and community members that volunteer together to bring one mission to fruition: the community-wide reading of one dynamic and unforgettable book. One of the project volunteers, Tatiana Cochran said that “This year’s book selection could not be more timely and relevant to the ongoing dialogue in the Valparaiso community today. The Book of Unknown Americans brings to life the authentic experience of immigration, of dreaming of a life better than the one left behind. A better life for our children, our grandchildren, and for everyone.”

“Over the past 10-15 years, Valparaiso has experienced a cultural burgeoning as a result of immigration and an influx of families of various cultural and ethnic backgrounds moving to the city. This book will give our community the opportunity to reflect and consider the experience of this newest generation of American immigrants. It is an opportunity to see how their lives so deeply resemble the lives of all Americans, and it will help us grow in understanding ourselves as part of this community.”

“Valpo Reads A Book is a unique asset for all of us to share here in Valparaiso,” said Kaye Frataccia who also volunteers on the project. “By bringing one single and unifying book as an opportunity for all Valpo residents to read and discuss together, it creates a shared experience that expands the minds and hearts of the people in our community.”

“We area able to present this book not only through community wide activities for adults, but also through the the middle and high schools in Valparaiso as a learning experience for our students. We also have selected a Young Adult reader companion book Esparanza Rising by Pam Munoz Ryan for the 4th – 7th grade students. As a teacher, I can not tell you how important this kind of activity is for our kids and future leaders. It is exciting to be a part of bringing this experience back to Valparaiso.”

After a handful of years without a book selection, Valpo Reads A Book began meeting again this past Spring and decided to move ahead with the book selection process. “After Valparaiso University Professor Alan Bloom passed away, we took a break from organizing the project and the book selection,” said Michelle Michaels a past co-chairperson of the Valpo Reads a Book project. “His influence, his personal ownership and support of the Valpo Reads A Book project provided a strong foundation in past years with our book selections. From To Kill A Mockingbird and Our Town to A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier and Touching Spirit Bear, Alan’s influence helped build our community around this project. There isn’t anything more valuable that we could do in honor of Alan’s memory than to breathe fresh air into the project and get it up and going again.”

With each book selection, Valpo Reads A Book organizes several community and civic engagement experiences which community members can participate including: author visits, book discussions, movies, shared storytelling, and other cultural outreach activities. Organizing the project takes a significant investment of time, energy, and resources from individuals to make this happen. “We are always open to the help and support from anyone interested in being involved and you can contact Cindy McCormack, the Chairperson of the Valpo Reads A Book project through email at: or by messaging Valpo Reads A Book on any one of our social media accounts,” Michelle Michaels said.

The Book of Unknown Americans is available for purchase at most online and standing book stores including: Barnes and Noble, Amazon, Kindle, iBooks, and more.

Click here to read reviews of The Book of Unknown Americans

About the Author:
Cristina Henríquez is the author of The Book of Unknown Americans, which was a New York Times Notable Book of 2014 and one of Amazon’s Top 10 Books of the Year. It was the Daily Beast Novel of the Year, a Washington Post Notable Book, an NPR Great Read, and was chosen one of the best books of the year by BookPage,, and School Library Journal. It was also longlisted for the Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction.

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 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 lives in Chicago.