DECORAH, Iowa-Events related to immigration fill the media, but rarely do stories about the day-to-day realities, the heart and humor of the immigrants themselves, make their way past the headlines and sound bites. Author Cristina Henríquez has filled her latest book, "The Book of Unknown Americans," with just such stories.
Henríquez will speak about the concept of identity and address common narratives about immigration as she gives the Luther College Opening Convocation Lecture "Finding Ourselves in Stories," Thursday, Sept. 3. Convocation begins at 9:40 a.m. in the Center for Faith and Life Main Hall on the Luther campus and is open to the public with no charge for admission.
"The Book of Unknown Americans" is a New York Times Notable Book of 2014 and appears on many other Best of 2014 book lists. Henríquez's lecture is sponsored by Luther College's Paideia program, which chose her book as this year's all-campus summer reading. Offering a new definition of what it means to be American, the book tells stories of men and women who have come to the United States from Central and South America.
Henríquez' inspiration came in part from her father's tale of immigrating from Panama as well as stories of others living in Delaware, where she grew up. The Washington Post's review called the book, "Vivid... Striking... A ringing paean to live in general: to the love between man and wife, parent and child, outsider and newcomer, pilgrims and promised land."
Henríquez has said that her book relates stories that people might not otherwise hear in hopes that more people will feel comfortable sharing their immigration stories. To further this dream, she has created a webpage at unknownamericans.tumblr.com, which shares stories posted using the hashtag #UnknownAmerican.
In addition to "The Book of Unknown Americans," Henríquez is the author of "Come Together, Fall Apart," a collection of stories about family bonds and generational conflicts in Panama, and "The World in Half," a novel telling the story of Miraflores piecing together life after finding a father she never knew.
Her work has appeared in The New Yorker, The American Scholar and The Atlantic, and she has been a guest on National Public Radio. She earned a Master of Fine Arts from the Iowa Writers' Workshop. Henríquez teaches at Northwestern University.