Make Your Home Among Strangers


Jennine Capó Crucet

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Make Your Home Among Strangers Study Guide

Welcome to the LitCharts study guide on Jennine Capó Crucet's Make Your Home Among Strangers. Created by the original team behind SparkNotes, LitCharts are the world's best literature guides.

Brief Biography of Jennine Capó Crucet

Jennine Capó Crucet, the first member of her family born in the United States, has made a name for herself over the last decade as a chronicler of the Cuban-American experience. Her debut story collection, How to Leave Hialeah, garnered praise from readers and critics alike. Her first novel, Make Your Home Among Strangers, was named a New York Times Book Review Editor’s Choice, won the International Latino Book Award for Best Latino-themed Fiction in 2016, and was longlisted for the 2015 Center for Fiction First Novel Prize. Crucet, a professor of English language and literature at the University of Nebraska Lincoln, holds a BA from Cornell University and an MFA from the University of Minnesota. She is a frequent columnist for the New York Times, where she writes, among other things, about her hometown of Miami, her experiences as a first-generation college student, and her Cuban-refugee parents.
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Historical Context of Make Your Home Among Strangers

The most obvious real-life historical parallel in Make Your Home Among Strangers is the story of Elian Gonzalez. Though in the novel, Elian’s story is loosely embellished and transmuted into the story of the fictional Ariel Hernandez, the structure of events surrounding the political fracas over one boy’s chance at asylum remains more or less the same. In November of 1999, Elian and his mother set off from Cuba for Miami on a small aluminum boat, which flooded midway through the journey when an unforeseen storm hit. Elian survived by floating on an inner tube, and was eventually helped to shore along with two other survivors. Elian’s paternal relatives sheltered him in Miami and advocated for him to stay in the United States—even as his father, back in Cuba, petitioned for the boy to be sent back. The ensuing legal battle and media frenzy called into question the United States’ nebulous “wet-foot/dry-foot” rule, the intersection of the familial and the political, and the ethics of custodial battles. On April 22, 2000—the day before Easter—Border Patrol agents, who believed that Elian’s relatives possessed weapons and would use force to keep the boy in their home, raided the house, secured Elian, and took him to the Andrews Air Force Base to be reunited with his father and ultimately returned to Castro’s Cuba. The incident is suggested to have influenced the hotly contested 2000 presidential election, in which Florida was a major point of contention and subject to a recount, which secured George W. Bush’s ascendance to the presidency.

Other Books Related to Make Your Home Among Strangers

Jennine Capó Crucet’s debut work of fiction, How to Leave Hialeah, is a collection of short stories that wrestles with many of the same themes and narrative questions as Make Your Home Among Strangers. Cristina García’s Dreaming in Cuban, though set in New York and not Miami, similarly follows a Cuban-American family adapting to life stateside, using a nonlinear plot and point-of-view shifts. Nancy Osa’s Cuba 15 follows a young girl, Violet Paz, who longs to understand her Cuban-American family’s complicated history, and who, like Lizet Ramirez, struggles with a “dual identity” born of wondering whether she is, or will ever be, “Cuban enough.”
Key Facts about Make Your Home Among Strangers
  • Full Title: Make Your Home Among Strangers
  • When Written: 2010s
  • When Published: July 2016
  • Literary Period: Contemporary
  • Genre: Coming of age novel
  • Setting: The Miami neighborhoods of Hialeah and Little Havana; upstate New York and the fictional Rawlings College
  • Climax: Government forces storm the Miami apartment where five-year-old Cuban refugee Ariel Hernandez is being cared for by relatives in order to deport him back to Cuba; Lizet and her mother, who has become a member of the radical Madres Para Justicia (Mothers For Justice) are present for the raid.
  • Antagonist: Lizet’s family (Lourdes, Ricky, Leidy) and Omar
  • Point of View: First person

Extra Credit for Make Your Home Among Strangers

Stranger Than Fiction. Though Lizet Ramirez is more or less on her own as she settles into life at Rawlings College in Make Your Home Among Strangers, Jennine Capó Crucet’s real-life story of being a first-generation college student is a little different. Unsure of how most families handled dropping their kids off at college, Jennine’s family accompanied her to orientation at the prestigious Cornell University—and didn’t leave for several days, during which they accompanied their daughter to classes, lunches, and more.