The Book of Unknown Americans

by

Cristina Henríquez

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The Book of Unknown Americans: Chapter 2: Mayor Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Mayor Toro and his parents watch the Riveras through the front window of their apartment as the Riveras—whom the Toros assume are Mexican due to their shortness—move into the building. Rafael Toro asks his wife Celia if the new family has a lot of things—Celia answers that it doesn’t look like it. Rafael is satisfied, proclaiming that perhaps the new family is similar to them.
The Toros hope that the Riveras will be “like” them, in that they will be able to feel seen, known, and build a sense of community with their new neighbors.
Themes
The Unknown and The American Dream Theme Icon
Longing Theme Icon
Isolation vs. Community Theme Icon
The Toros learn from their busybody neighbor, Quisqueya Solís, that the new family’s last name is Rivera, and that they are all in the States legally—their visas are sponsored by a nearby mushroom farm. Quisqueya has heard this information from Nelia Zafón, who heard it from Fito, the landlord. Celia says it will be nice to have a new addition to the building, and Quisqueya expresses a hesitation—she begins to say something about “the girl,” but hesitates when she realizes Mayor is listening. Instead, she tells the Toros that they’ll “see for [themselves] eventually.”
This passage establishes the lively network of gossip and sharing that takes place within the community of the apartment building. Quisqueya hints that there is something different or isolating about Maribel, but shies away from revealing too much.
Themes
The Unknown and The American Dream Theme Icon
Isolation vs. Community Theme Icon
The Toros continue to hear more and more rumors about the Riveras—many of which seem outlandish and untrue. Mayor has started a new school year and he hopes that this will be “the year the other kids stop picking on [him.]” He wears his college-soccer-star older brother Enrique’s gym shorts, hoping that “some of Enrique’s popularity [will] rub off on [him,]” but he’s teased nonetheless.
As the community prepares to welcome a new family, rumors fly about what they are doing in America and what they might be like. Meanwhile, Mayor struggles with feelings of isolation at school, which are compounded by his sense of inferiority to his brother.
Themes
The Unknown and The American Dream Theme Icon
Longing Theme Icon
Isolation vs. Community Theme Icon
Garrett Miller, a bully with a neck tattoo, has made Mayor his “special project.” He calls Mayor “Pollo” due to his scrawny legs. Garrett went to juvenile detention the previous year for beating another student bloody, so Mayor does not want to retaliate against Garrett’s taunts in any way.
The “sketchy” boy from outside the gas station is revealed to be Mayor’s bully, and a general troublemaker in the community. Mayor is prepared to endure Garrett’s bullying silently, genuinely afraid of provoking him to violence. Alma’s seemingly irrational fears are, unbeknownst to her, completely validated.
Themes
Isolation vs. Community Theme Icon
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The other anxiety Mayor faces with the start of the new school year is soccer. He feels forced into playing the sport by his father, for whom “the logic” is that “soccer [is] for Latinos.” Mayor’s older brother Enrique was a natural at soccer in high school, and Rafael is disappointed that Mayor has not even come close to matching his brother’s skill. Mayor attends practice after school and falls during a drill—a group of nearby girls “erupt in laughter” after his fall.
Mayor wants to make his father proud, but he feels like he is so bad at soccer that there is no chance for his improvement. Rather than working hard and dedicating himself to getting better, Mayor resigns himself to being a failure when it comes to soccer and divorces himself entirely from any kind of motivation to improve at the sport.
Themes
Isolation vs. Community Theme Icon
Futility, Chance, and Loss Theme Icon