The Book of Unknown Americans


Cristina Henríquez

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The Book of Unknown Americans: Chapter 6: Benny Quinto Summary & Analysis

Benny Quinto, an immigrant from Nicaragua, describes his journey to the Redwood Apartments. He has been in America for eight years. In Nicaragua, he was studying and preparing to enter the priesthood and he believed he had been chosen by God. He says that “drugs hadn’t come into [his] life then,” and that in his conversations with God in more recent years, he has realized that he was never “the one.” After a few of Benny’s friends left Nicaragua in hopes of making money, Benny followed suit. He stole money from the church in order to pay someone to bring him over the border. Once in Arizona, he lived in a flophouse with twelve other immigrants—the men were not allowed outside until they paid off their debts to the men who’d brought them over. When one of the other men in the house started dealing drugs for the smugglers and earned his debt back in just weeks, Benny again followed the tide and went “out on the streets in Phoenix.” After being stabbed by a junkie, Benny decided to get out of Arizona, so he hitched a ride to Baltimore. Unable to handle the even rougher drug scene there, Benny bought a Greyhound ticket to Delaware—a place where he could be at peace.
Benny Quinto’s story is the second “point-of-view” chapter and a look at a harsher story of immigration. Benny shamelessly admits that he found his way to America through theft, and primarily came over out of a desire to make money. When he found that the easiest way to do that was to sell drugs, he eagerly became involved in the game. Benny soon realized, though, that his version of the American dream—getting rich off drug money—was more complicated and dangerous than he thought. Benny’s brushes with danger are presented casually and nonchalantly, and his decision to get himself out of trouble and start over is framed as an effortless one. Benny has known what the “right” choices were all along, and his decision to move on from danger and isolation and join a safe, peaceful community is, in essence, the one he always longed for. 
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