Make Your Home Among Strangers

by

Jennine Capó Crucet

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Ariel Hernandez Symbol Analysis

Ariel Hernandez Symbol Icon

Ariel Hernandez, a five-year-old Cuban immigrant, symbolizes the ways in which immigrants’ experiences, opinions, and histories are twisted for personal, political, or ideological gain. Although Ariel becomes in many ways the emotional and political epicenter of the novel, he has no role in its action—he is infantilized, politicized, judged, and used by every major character in the book without having any say in his own story.

Ariel, whose mother attempted to bring him to America but died in the crossing, is found floating off the coast of Miami by fishermen. Paternal relatives in Miami take the child in and insist that he should stay; as the months wear on, however, his father back in Cuba petitions for his return, and the United States government becomes the decider of one boy’s fate. As the U.S. government takes up Ariel’s case, so too do the citizens of Miami, desperate for him to stay. To them, Ariel is more than one boy—he symbolizes their collective experience, the hope for an escape from the brutal regime in Cuba, and the possibility of a happy ending for so many still toiling under a dictatorship.

Ariel Hernandez’s case closely mirrors the real-life case of Elian Gonzalez, a young Cuban boy who came to Miami in a similar way to Ariel, and whose father, back in Cuba, did ultimately succeed in getting his son back. The case was extremely divisive, and the Miami community was torn apart by the painful, emotional spectacle that culminated in a border patrol raid on the apartment where Elian was being sheltered by Miami relatives. Elian, too, was denied agency in his own case; when in America, any picture of him smiling was said to have been manipulated by his paternal relatives to make it seem like he was happy, and when he returned to Cuba, given a hero’s welcome, any joy he expressed back in his home country was said to have been manipulated or forced by the Cuban government.

In using Ariel’s story (and Elian’s) throughout her novel, Jennine Capó Crucet constructs a powerful central symbol that points out the hypocrisy and cruelty inherent in peddling, dramatizing, and scrutinizing a child’s story—or the story of anyone who either cannot speak for themselves or is not given the space, freedom, and respect needed to do so.

Ariel Hernandez Quotes in Make Your Home Among Strangers

The Make Your Home Among Strangers quotes below all refer to the symbol of Ariel Hernandez. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
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). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Picador edition of Make Your Home Among Strangers published in 2015.
Chapter 10 Quotes

—You're too connected to the whole thing.

I tossed the book on the desk behind me and said—too loud and leaning too far forward—What the fuck does that mean, connected? I'm not fucking related to the kid.

—Don’t get ghetto, Liz, she said. I'm just saying that, no offense, but as a Cuban person, you can't really expect people to believe that you'll be completely rational about this.

She held the water bottle loosely now, between only a couple fingers. I tried to match her ease by leaning back in my chair.

—I was born in this country, I said, not knowing what point I was trying to make.

I righted my chair and tried again. I said, Look, I would argue that I - I can speak more intelligently about this than you because I know more about it than you ever could.

—Wow, she said, her water bottle heading back to her mouth. Let's just leave that there before you get any more racist.

Related Characters: Lizet Ramirez (speaker), Jillian (speaker)
Related Symbols: Ariel Hernandez
Page Number: 89-90
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 16 Quotes

The fourth or fifth time [Leidy] accused me of acting white was the afternoon of my second day home, when I told her how, when I'd gone to pick up Dante from daycare, the girl ranked ninth in my graduating high school class was there, working as a teacher's helper and five months pregnant with her boyfriend-turned-fiancé’s kid. Without really thinking about it, I told Leidy that seeing that girl there was depressing. I think my exact words were, It just really bummed me out. She’d said, What the fuck is bum you out? Jesus, you sound so freaking white. […] I'd hurt her feelings without realizing it, which, based on my time at Rawlings, felt to me more white than anything else I’d done since being back […] My inability to get as upset as my mom about Ariel's possible deportation made me for the first time worry that Rawlings could change me in a way that was bad.

Related Characters: Lizet Ramirez (speaker), Leidy Ramirez, Dante
Related Symbols: Ariel Hernandez
Page Number: 147
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 20 Quotes

—You don't know shit about sacrifice. You don't know shit about shit!

—Zoila's right, you only care about Ariel because what else do you have going on?

She shoved me again and the room spun […]she was letting me fall. So I reached back instead and caught myself, slid my hands against the sandpaper of the wall, pressed my spine against it and sank to the ground, my butt hitting the floor too fast and too hard.

—You can go to whatever college for as long as you want, but about some things, you'll always be fucking stupid, she said.

She tossed the paper at me on the floor and said, You think you have problems? You, your sister, your idiot tía out there? You made your problems.

She turned her back to me and walked out of the room, screaming as she left, Nobody has any idea what Ariel and Caridaylis are going through right this second, but I do. I know what it means to lose so much. None of you know shit because you haven't sacrificed shit for anyone. Selfish pigs, that's what you and your sister are.

Related Characters: Lizet Ramirez (speaker), Lourdes Ramirez (Lizet’s Mother) (speaker), Leidy Ramirez, Caridaylis, Zoila
Related Symbols: Ariel Hernandez
Page Number: 201
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 22 Quotes

The grades in bio and chem meant that I'd done so well on the finals that I'd counteracted my earlier failing mid-term exam grades, but the B-minus in my writing seminar meant both that I'd done well on the final paper and that my professor had shown mercy. I latched on to that last aspect—mercy—and instead of basking in the idea that these grades were a huge accomplishment, I sobbed: they'd all let me off easy. I remembered the tone of my hearing and thought, They want to keep their Cuban above water for another semester. […] But almost as quickly, another fact pushed that feeling away: the exams in the chem, bio, and calc courses were graded blindly—we were assigned ID numbers, and only those appeared on our answer sheets. So those scores were, in a way, pure.

Related Characters: Lizet Ramirez (speaker)
Related Symbols: Ariel Hernandez
Page Number: 214-215
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 23 Quotes

Her version of our life made me more Cuban than I technically was, degrees of Cuban-ness being something I'd never thought about until Rawlings, until the Where Was I From From question. Mami's invented version made me a more authentic Cuban, and part of me wanted to hear her tell it. I wanted to see how she pulled it off—if she had to convince herself before she could convince anyone else, or if just saying something and having people believe it could make it real.

Related Characters: Lizet Ramirez (speaker), Lourdes Ramirez (Lizet’s Mother)
Related Symbols: Ariel Hernandez
Page Number: 229
Explanation and Analysis:

I felt in that moment the power he held and wielded by accident. He was more than a cute little boy. I had the very strong desire to carry him myself, to fold him into a little ball that fit in the circle of my arms. Hidden behind the pebbles of his baby-toothed grin, you sensed a loss so profound it made anyone want to hold him, to cradle and rock him and say you were so sorry, over and over again. For so many people there, he was a mirror, some version or idea of yourself, some Baby You, fresh off a boat or a plane and alone but still hopeful that what's been set into motion around you is just fine.

Related Characters: Lizet Ramirez (speaker)
Related Symbols: Ariel Hernandez
Page Number: 236
Explanation and Analysis:

[…] Did you see that? There’s something so special in her. God bless her, she is trying so hard.

[…] My mom knew I was the first student from Hialeah Lakes to go to Rawlings even though she never acknowledged it. In the grand scheme of human achievement, I recognize this is not a big deal, but still, when I eventually showed Mami the acceptance letter and pointed out the handwritten note near the bottom stating I was the first, she’d said, Maybe you’re just the first one who ever applied? […]

—Mom, I said. It's not the first time someone’s taken care of a kid. I mean, I get it, but it's not like what she’s doing is actually that hard. She's – she's a glorified babysitter.

She released my arm, almost threw it back at me. Her now-shut mouth, the way she rolled her shoulders to push out her chest, the ugly flash of a tendon in her neck: I knew then this was the wrong thing to say. I didn't even really believe it, but I needed to say it to her. I was trying hard. What I was doing was fucking hard. My mom stared at me so long that her eyes seemed to shake in her head.

Related Characters: Lizet Ramirez (speaker), Lourdes Ramirez (Lizet’s Mother) (speaker), Caridaylis
Related Symbols: Ariel Hernandez
Page Number: 239
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 30 Quotes

I slapped my own chest and yelled, Why don't you watch the news and figure it out yourself like I did?

—That’s why you're mad at me? EI, what the fuck were you gonna do from up there?

I pointed at him and said, Exactly, Omar! That right there, what you just said? That's exactly why I'm here. To fucking do something since you and Leidy obviously didn't.

—Oh! Okay yeah, he yelled. So now you know how to handle everything, huh? You got it all figured out, don't you. You think you're so fucking smart.

He threw the car in reverse, shook his head as he turned the wheel. I'd made it halfway up the concrete leading to my dad's door when Omar lowered the passenger-side window and yelled my name, made me stop.

—Whose fault is it that you weren't here, huh? Maybe you need to think about that.

Related Characters: Lizet Ramirez (speaker), Omar (speaker), Leidy Ramirez, Lourdes Ramirez (Lizet’s Mother)
Related Symbols: Ariel Hernandez
Page Number: 310
Explanation and Analysis:

—We get the news, you know, up there […] do you have any idea how the rest of the country is seeing this? I'm tired of it. We look like a bunch of crazy people.

—What's with this we crap? he said. I'm not with her, you're not even here.

—We as in Cubans, I said. He smiled with only one side of his mouth. He laughed again.

—You're not Cuban, he said. This hurt me more than anything else he could've said—more than Who cares what anyone up there thinks, more than Like there’s anything coming down here is gonna do—and I think he saw it in my face, saw how impossible what he’d just said sounded to me.

—Don't look at me like that! he said. You're American. I'm wrong?

[…]

—Yeah, I said. I'm—what do you mean I'm not Cuban? I was born here, yeah, but I'm Cuban. I'm Latina at least, I said.

—Latinos are Mexicans, Central Americans. You're not that either he said.

—What? Dad, are you—other people think I'm Cuban.

He stood up from the bed and moved out through the door, leaving me alone as he said, Okay, sure you are. Whatever you say, Lizet.

Related Symbols: Ariel Hernandez
Page Number: 314
Explanation and Analysis:
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Ariel Hernandez Symbol Timeline in Make Your Home Among Strangers

The timeline below shows where the symbol Ariel Hernandez appears in Make Your Home Among Strangers. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1
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...was gone. Lizet did not hear this story until she was older—until the summer after Ariel Hernandez was sent back to Cuba “after months of rallies and riots.” (full context)
Chapter 2
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Lizet writes that she and Ariel Hernandez had their “Miami Homecoming[s]” on the same day: Thanksgiving 1999. Ariel, a five-year-old Cuban... (full context)
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...had so much to contend with that fateful Thanksgiving—and she hadn’t even heard the name Ariel Hernandez yet. (full context)
Chapter 4
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...news there is coverage of a dirty, tanned little boy—it is Lizet’s first glimpse of Ariel Hernandez, who has beaten her to Miami by just a few hours. (full context)
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...Lizet tries to explain, but her mother is more focused on the breaking news about Ariel than anything her own daughter has to say. Leidy paces the room, bouncing Dante and... (full context)
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...unpacking while Leidy folds laundry and explains that their mother was too preoccupied with the Ariel Hernandez news to focus on having a “real” Thanksgiving, even though it was Dante’s first.... (full context)
Chapter 5
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Lourdes wakes early and heads out to a rally in support of Ariel and his Miami family—it is being held just two blocks away, in front of a... (full context)
Chapter 6
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The girls watch their mother talk to a reporter about Ariel Hernandez—Lourdes is telling the interviewer that Ariel should be allowed to stay in Miami, as... (full context)
Chapter 7
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...of the problems she’s been having at school, but the dinner conversation is all about Ariel. Lourdes seems to have learned a lot at the rally, but some of it appears... (full context)
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...flight doesn’t leave until two. Lourdes says that’s a perfect plan, as there is an “Ariel meeting” on the street at two, and she wants to make it back in time.... (full context)
Chapter 9
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...answers the phone. She tells Lizet that their mother is not yet back from the Ariel meeting that started that afternoon, though it is past ten at night. (full context)
Chapter 10
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Jillian wants to hear all about “that baby from Cuba”—Ariel’s story is all over the news everywhere—but Lizet deflects, stating that her family is uninvolved... (full context)
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...this point, and instead says that it’s “insane” that “all the Cubans” in Miami think Ariel will be allowed to stay. (full context)
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...busies herself by unpacking her suitcase. Lizet, hoping to get Jillian’s attention back, confesses that Ariel is currently staying two blocks from her mother’s own apartment. Jillian does not react visibly... (full context)
Chapter 12
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...TVs mounted on the walls; they broadcast news about “impending Y2K doom” and, surprisingly, the Ariel Hernandez situation. Ariel’s father, back in Cuba, is demanding his son be sent back. Every... (full context)
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...see her. Jaquelin confesses she’s been thinking about Lizet because of the ubiquity of the Ariel news. Jaquelin asks if Lizet is free Saturday, as there’s a dance party Jaquelin has... (full context)
Chapter 15
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...is shocked to see how the block has changed. Signs and flags welcoming and supporting Ariel hang everywhere. One of the posters features a picture of a girl not much older... (full context)
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...mother. Inside the apartment, Lizet finds that there are flyers and posters featuring images of Ariel everywhere. Lizet is nervous, but then becomes happy when she sees that her mother has... (full context)
Chapter 17
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...up Dante from daycare—a job Lizet has taken on so that Lourdes can “volunteer” at Ariel’s house. (full context)
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Lizet notes that Lourdes talks about Ariel and Caridaylis as if they are close friends—when she mentioned this to Leidy the night... (full context)
Chapter 18
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...Rawlings are as crazy about their studies as some people in Miami are about the Ariel Hernandez case—specifically, Lourdes. (full context)
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Lizet asks what Ricky knows about her mother and Ariel—her father doesn’t answer. When Lizet asks if he’s talked to Lourdes recently, Ricky confesses that... (full context)
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Ricky and Lizet begin eating, and Ricky continues talking about Lourdes and her Ariel obsession. He admits that it must be hard for her to hear about Ariel’s painful... (full context)
Chapter 19
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...“value[s her] life.” Lizet asks if Lourdes is home, but Leidy says she’s down at Ariel’s house. (full context)
Chapter 20
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...her mother—she walks out to see that Zoila is teasing Lourdes about her involvement with Ariel Hernandez. Most people in Miami believe that Ariel is sure to get the political asylum... (full context)
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...making. When Lizet pulls out her trump card and accuses Lourdes of only caring about Ariel because she has nothing else going on, Lourdes pushes Lizet hard, and Lizet falls to... (full context)
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...around her, believes her mother is the selfish one for volunteering all her time on Ariel’s behalf when her own daughters need her. Eventually, Lizet stands up and heads back to... (full context)
Chapter 22
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...she is at last her old self again, Lourdes sits in the other room, watching Ariel on the news and preparing for the large New Year’s Day rally in his honor... (full context)
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...Lizet to be quiet when she comes home—Lourdes has to be up early for the Ariel rally. She confesses to Lizet that the upcoming months will be difficult, as more people... (full context)
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...Omar at last admits that he was talking about Lourdes and her strange fixation with Ariel Hernandez. (full context)
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...nothing to do with Omar. She says her mother isn’t crazy—everyone else is watching the Ariel news nonstop, too. Omar admits that this is true—but Lourdes has said “some weird shit”... (full context)
Chapter 23
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...the cameras at Thanksgiving, telling news people that she had two little girls “just like Ariel” back at home. Leidy knows that Lizet is not really going in support of Ariel—she’s... (full context)
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...air is chilly for Miami. As Lourdes and Lizet walk the two blocks over to Ariel’s family’s home, Lizet notices more and more posters, flowers, and flags hanging along fences and... (full context)
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...sees why Lourdes told her to come only if she was interested in really helping Ariel; here, Lourdes is not her mother. Lourdes is someone else—she is friends with everyone, and... (full context)
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After a while, someone in front of the crowd shouts that the door to Ariel’s house is opening, and the crowd falls quiet. Lizet waits excitedly and indeed a bit... (full context)
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...step on her toe. She realizes that people all around her are shouting questions at Ariel’s uncle, asking if there has been any news from the government, and how Caridaylis is... (full context)
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Lizet looks towards the front of the crowd and sees that Caridaylis has joined Ariel at the door of the house. Lizet thinks Cari looks “painfully generic”—she could be any... (full context)
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...to Caridaylis—someone she hardly knows. Lizet realizes in this instant that this means she wants Ariel gone. Lizet apologizes and begins crying; Lourdes begins crying too, and comforts her daughter. “None... (full context)
Chapter 24
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On Tuesday, there is another rally in anticipation of the court releasing its decision on Ariel’s asylum status. Lizet again goes along with Lourdes, mainly out of a desire to support... (full context)
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...a long, horrible scream. The rest of the crowd begins wailing too. Lourdes screams that Ariel’s mother “died in vain,” and as the news outlets push through the crowd to get... (full context)
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...what has just happened, and a friend of Lourdes’s explains that the INS has granted Ariel’s father back in Cuba custody of the boy; in two weeks, he will be deported.... (full context)
Chapter 25
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During Lizet’s last few days in Miami before returning to Rawlings, Ariel’s uncle sues for temporary custody in hopes of becoming Ariel’s legal guardian. On the day... (full context)
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...to life at Rawlings, she hears snippets on the news all over campus about the Ariel Hernandez case. Lizet doesn’t pay much attention to the reports; she senses that the legal... (full context)
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...in Miami was. Thinking that he’s trying to find a way to bring up the Ariel Hernandez case, Lizet responds with suspicion, and Ethan mocks her for being so guarded. The... (full context)
Chapter 26
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...on Lourdes and Leidy and make sure Lourdes isn’t getting out of hand with the Ariel Hernandez business anymore—Omar has assured her that Lourdes has calmed down. As Lizet’s first set... (full context)
Chapter 28
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...nor Omar have indicated in their phone calls that Lourdes was still involved with the Ariel protests. Lizet barely recognizes her mother’s heavily made-up face and professional demeanor as she speaks... (full context)
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Lizet asks what is happening on the news—one of the girls answers that Ariel Hernandez’s father is on his way to Miami to retrieve Ariel. Lizet is shocked, and... (full context)
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Lizet tells Caroline and Tracy that Ariel’s father’s attempt to get his son back is just Cuban government propaganda, and dares them... (full context)
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...daughters in tow. Lizet calls Tracy a “fucking idiot,” and asks if Tracy understands that Ariel’s mother died getting him to America. Tracy asks, in response, what Lizet’s mother sacrificed for... (full context)
Chapter 29
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...almost every day. They act as human speed bumps in the road in front of Ariel’s house and join hands in prayer night and day dressed in head-to-toe black in mourning... (full context)
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...as if he’s her RA. She has, so far, kept everything about her mother and Ariel from him; Ethan is the only one of her Rawlings friends who has never asked... (full context)
Chapter 30
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Lizet tells Ricky that she needs to get her mother away from the Ariel situation. She tells her father that she has been watching the news up at school—“we... (full context)
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...is at least a small part of why Lourdes has thrown herself into all the Ariel stuff. Lizet will not be able to pull her away from it by herself. (full context)
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...window together and look down at the street at the procession of people heading towards Ariel’s house. Quietly, Leidy admits she is happy to see Lizet; Lizet knows Leidy must think... (full context)
Chapter 31
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Leidy tells Lizet that Lourdes has been spending all over her time over at Ariel’s house—she has only been coming home “to shower and to shit.” It turns out that... (full context)
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...jeopardy. Hearing this, Lizet feels hurt that her mother is using her vacation days for Ariel, but wouldn’t use them to spend more time with Lizet when she was home for... (full context)
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Leidy, Lizet, and Dante head down the street towards Ariel’s. As they approach the house, they see a group of women gathered on the lawn,... (full context)
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...the mayor of Miami, who has declared that no matter what the federal government says, Ariel will stay. Lizet tells her mother she doesn’t think this is possible, and she sees... (full context)
Chapter 32
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...to ask her mother about her involvement with the Madres on the walk over to Ariel’s, but she doesn’t even know where to begin. When they arrive, Lourdes ushers Lizet inside... (full context)
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...“visit” the beach while she’s in Miami as well. He then asks if Lizet thinks Ariel should go back to Cuba or stay in America. (full context)
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...not a sellout, and Victor accuses her of being a “baby reporter,” spying on the Ariel operation so she can write about it for school. Lizet, truly uncomfortable, says she’s going... (full context)
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...it is easier to think about that than to think about what would happen to Ariel just a few hours later. (full context)
Chapter 33
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...her shoes, and joins the others outside. She will later learn that the raid on Ariel’s house lasted less than four minutes. (full context)
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By the time Lizet gets to the front gate of the house, Ariel has already been removed from his uncle’s home. Lizet does not know that, inside the... (full context)
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...continue running past her, chasing the van. Lizet senses that her mother must be inside Ariel’s house, and she rushes through the madness to try to find a way inside. (full context)
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...and again for Lourdes, and eventually finds her in a room which holds a racecar bed—Ariel’s room. There is a crowd of people in the room, and from the center of... (full context)
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Leidy is furious with Lizet for leaving Lourdes at Ariel’s. Lourdes does not come home later the next day or even the next night, and... (full context)
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...to drive her to the airport, and Lourdes has chained herself to the front of Ariel’s house. Ricky offers to drive Lizet, but Lizet is embarrassed to need his help again,... (full context)
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...her dorm room, Jillian asks how her weekend was, and asks some questions about the Ariel raid—Lizet knows she will never be willing to give Jillian the answers she wants to... (full context)
Chapter 34
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...clams up and tells her they are “done.” Lizet wishes she could tell Ethan everything—about Ariel, about her family, about Santa Barbara—but knows it is too late, and too much has... (full context)
Chapter 35
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...living at home in the “cold war” of her mother’s apartment for three weeks when Ariel Hernandez is deported on a Wednesday in June. She and Leidy have been civil to... (full context)
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...airport, where the lines are chaotic due to upped security in the wake of the Ariel fiasco. Ricky and Lizet sit in the terminal, waiting for her flight to board and... (full context)
Chapter 36
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...send a letter. They talked and caught up as if nothing had happened, discussing the Ariel Hernandez case and their respective summers. (full context)
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...was going around that Al Gore had been the one to order the raid on Ariel’s house; Lizet doubted that it was true. Leidy told Lizet that Lourdes had forgiven her—but... (full context)
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The November after the Ariel debacle was the first election in which Lizet was old enough to vote. She followed... (full context)