The Book of Unknown Americans

by

Cristina Henríquez

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The Book of Unknown Americans: Chapter 5: Mayor Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Mayor knows that “sooner or later all the kids who move into our part of town show up at school,” and he waits to run into Maribel there. He asks his friend William if William has seen anyone new in his classes, but William says there are too many to keep count—when Mayor presses him, William taunts him for having a crush.
Mayor is curious about Maribel from the start—he has been feeling somewhat bored and out-of-place in his own life, and he longs for something, or someone, new.
Themes
Longing Theme Icon
Mayor has stopped going to soccer practice after his fall during the drill—he is too embarrassed to continue playing. He hasn’t told his parents, though, that he’s quit the team. He packs his gym bag conspicuously every morning and tells his parents stories about “practice” every night. Celia longs for a job, but Rafael insists that he is the family’s sole provider. The two are so busy fighting that they hardly notice anything is different with Mayor.
Mayor is afraid to tell his parents how he really feels or show them who he really is. The dynamic in Mayor’s household is one in which his domineering father has the final say in all things, so it makes sense that Mayor would not want to disappoint or anger Rafael.
Themes
Isolation vs. Community Theme Icon
One day, Celia and Mayor go to the Dollar Tree, where they run into Maribel and Alma. Mayor is mesmerized by Maribel’s beauty. Celia introduces herself and Mayor to Alma and Maribel, and then offers Alma advice on food shopping—there is a Mexican market nearby. The two commiserate over the horrible American impersonations of Latino food, while Mayor attempts to start a conversation with Maribel. She stares at him blankly. When Alma mentions that Maribel will hopefully be attending the Evers School, Mayor is shocked—he and his friends cruelly call it “the Turtle School.” Mayor thinks that Maribel is too beautiful to have something wrong with her.
When Mayor finally gets to meet Maribel, he is entranced by her looks but confused as to why she is not able to respond to him or hold a conversation. He is shocked to hear that she is going to be starting at the Evers School, and this somewhat complicates his initial overwhelming attraction to her. However, this realization also complicates his feelings about the Evers School, as he begins to realize his cruelty and prejudice.
Themes
Longing Theme Icon
Celia tells Alma and Maribel to stop by the Toro apartment any time—she is almost always home, she says spitefully, because “[her] husband likes it that way.”
Celia is unhappy with her isolated circumstances and she resents her husband for preferring her to stay at home and out of the way.
Themes
Isolation vs. Community Theme Icon
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