The Book of Unknown Americans

by

Cristina Henríquez

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The Book of Unknown Americans: Chapter 23: Mayor Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
It is March, and Rafael has secured a job as a newspaper carrier. Tensions in the Toro house have eased, and Rafael ends Mayor’s grounding. It almost doesn’t matter to Mayor, though, as he is still not allowed to see Maribel.
Mayor’s whole life has been thrown into disarray by his inability see Maribel—nothing can cheer him up, even as his home life seems to be improving.
Themes
The Unknown and The American Dream Theme Icon
Longing Theme Icon
Isolation vs. Community Theme Icon
Futility, Chance, and Loss Theme Icon
One Friday afternoon, Mayor is sitting in class when he notices that it is snowing outside—though it is late in the season, it is the first snow all winter. Mayor excuses himself from class, claiming that he has to go to the bathroom. He goes to find his friend William in study hall and asks William to drive him home. When they get to the Redwood Apartments, Mayor confesses that he is not going to spend the afternoon with William, but instead he is going to steal his father’s car. Mayor goes inside and takes the keys, and then William accompanies him to an empty lot and teaches him how to drive automatic. William intuits that whatever Mayor is up to, it is about Maribel.
Mayor remembers his conversation with Maribel about snow, and about how interested she was in it. Miserable over the fact that he cannot spend the first snow she has ever seen with her, Mayor decides to take matters into his own hands, once again betraying his father’s trust and using the car as a means of asserting his independence and his maturity.
Themes
Longing Theme Icon
Mayor drives his father’s car out to the Evers School and gets there at around two in the afternoon. The snow is falling even harder. There are no security guards outside the school, and Mayor creeps around the building from window to window looking for Maribel. After a while, he finds her and motions for her to come outside. He points to the sky, indicating the snow, and watches as Maribel secures a hall pass from her teacher and leaves the classroom.
Mayor and Maribel both have a desire to be together—though Mayor is the instigator of this rendezvous, Maribel willingly leaves class in order to be with him.
Themes
Longing Theme Icon
Mayor meets her at the front of the school, and, though Maribel does not have her coat or her sunglasses, she agrees to go with Mayor to a “cool” place he wants to take her. They drive for a while in silence, and then Maribel tells Mayor that he is “the only one who thinks [she] can do anything.” They drive for an hour and a half—Mayor’s cell phone rings, but he turns it off instead of answering it. He does not want anything to stop him from seeing Maribel—they “deserve to be together,” he thinks.
Maribel tells Mayor, in her own way, that she has missed him by admitting that he is the only one who believes in her and the only one who takes her seriously. Mayor relishes the time that they are spending together and shuts off his phone in an attempt to isolate them both from the outside world, which has proven that it wants to keep them apart.
Themes
Longing Theme Icon
Isolation vs. Community Theme Icon
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At nearly five in the evening, Maribel and Mayor arrive at their destination—it is the beach that Rafael once took the Toros to. Maribel thinks the beach is beautiful and thanks Mayor for bringing her. They kiss, and Mayor knows that Maribel wants to be there “as much as [he does.]” The two huddle together inside Mayor’s coat and eventually fall down in the sand laughing—Mayor wishes that their afternoon could last forever.
Mayor and Maribel share a sweet moment of connection on the beach—their longing is intense and mutual, and they both wish that the time they are sharing could last, though they know it cannot and that there will be consequences for both of them for pursuing one another.  
Themes
Longing Theme Icon
Isolation vs. Community Theme Icon