The Book of Unknown Americans

by

Cristina Henríquez

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The Book of Unknown Americans: Chapter 12: Quisqueya Solís Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Quisqueya describes her journey from Venezuela—where she was born and where she lived until she was twelve—to the United States. When her mother fell in love with a man from California, Quisqueya and her mother moved to Long Beach to live in his “glamorous” home. Quisqueya was happy for a while, but soon her new stepbrother began to abuse her. He raped her when she was sixteen, and when she told her mother what had transpired, her mother did not believe her and “warned [her] not to be ungrateful” for the beautiful life they now led. Quisqueya left home and stayed in shelters and with friends. She left California as soon as she graduated from high school and went across the country with a friend who was attending college in New Jersey.
The story of Quisqueya’s difficult and even dangerous life highlights the vulnerability and desperation many immigrants face. Quisqueya’s mother, desperate both for love and a better life, overlooked and discounted her daughter’s vulnerabilities in order to protect her own. Rather than suffer more abuse in order to remain in the lifestyle her mother had chosen for both of them, Quisqueya struck out on her own—in some ways deepening her own vulnerability within a new, strange country, and in other ways refusing to allow herself to be victimized any longer, and reclaiming her strength.
Themes
The Unknown and The American Dream Theme Icon
Longing Theme Icon
Isolation vs. Community Theme Icon
Futility, Chance, and Loss Theme Icon
Related Quotes
Quisqueya met her husband while she was a waitress at a diner, and had two children with him—boys whom she has raised to be “good and respectful” towards women. Quisqueya and her husband are divorced now, and the monthly alimony she receives keeps her financially secure. She volunteers at the local hospital and remains in Newark because “all [her] friends” are there. Quisqueya says that no one in her life knows what she has been through, and she plans to keep it that way—she does not need “anyone’s pity.”
Quisqueya’s deep internal privacy stands in stark contrast to her flamboyant, busybody exterior—further deepening Henríquez’s commitment to drawing her characters authentically in all their layered, complicated shades. 
Themes
The Unknown and The American Dream Theme Icon
Longing Theme Icon
Isolation vs. Community Theme Icon
Futility, Chance, and Loss Theme Icon