In the novel, The Book of Unknown Americans by Cristina Henriquez, she tells the stories of immigrants who hope to start over somewhere in the United States. Henriquez introduces us into many different characters throughout the book but two characters that stand out are Maribel and Mayor. Maribel is a teenage girl that had a brain injury and Mayor is a teenage boy who lives in the same apartment complex as Maribel. Mayor develops feelings for Maribel because she is different from the other girls. Some might argue that Mayor is taking advantage of Maribel because she has a brain injury. But, Mayor truly cares about Maribel and he shows it when he says he cares about her wellbeing, he wants to impress her, and says he feels connected to her.
Mayor goes to Maribel’s apartment every Sunday after church to talk and hangout. Maribel’s mom doesn’t let her go anywhere so Mayor would sit in her room with her and they would talk. Mayor saw that they didn’t have anything and that Maribel slept only in a sleeping bag. Mayor said he wishes he could take her somewhere, Mayor says, “But the atmosphere was uninspiring, to say the least, and I found myself wishing that I could take her somewhere, even just to Dunkin’ Donuts down the street, where I know we could score free doughnuts if they were about to throw them out anyway, or maybe to the movie theater…” (Henriquez 110). This shows even though Mayor has seen her lifestyle he wants to give her something more. Mayor got grounded after getting into a small fight at school and Mayor’s mother and her friend Quisqueya were talking and that’s when Quisqueya started talking to Mayor about Maribel. Quisqueya said “It’s a shame about her, isn’t it? But when I see you with her, the two of you seem to be having actual conversations. Like real people.” (169). Mayor was furious she said that about Maribel. Then Quisqueya went on talking about her sons and how they’re majoring in computer science and that she doesn’t get any of it. Mayor quickly said to Quisqueya, “Maybe that’s because there’s something wrong with your brain.” (170). Mayor cares about Maribel’s wellbeing and defends her even when she’s not around. Mayor wants to take care of Maribel and is willing to protect her.
One day, Mayor went to Maribel’s class to see her and told her to come outside with him. The two got in Mayor’s fathers truck and drove off. He wanted to take her somewhere to hangout. Mayor says Maribel deserves to get out and see the world, he said “Maribel and I deserved to be together and she deserved to see the snow if she wanted to and nobody was going to hold us back. I was her one chance. I wanted to give her the thing that it seemed like everyone else wanted to keep from her: freedom.” (231). This shows Mayor wanted to show her he can give her something others won’t, he wanted to impress her. Mayor and Maribel have been out for a long time but Mayor’s father finds them and takes them both to the hospital because Maribel’s father is having surgery. Mayor suddenly feels bad for talking Maribel out without her parents knowing and blames himself for what happened, Mayor says, “ I’d taken Maribel away because why? Because I’d wanted to see her? Because I was trying to be romantic? Because I was trying to free her from the confines of her life? Because I’d wanted to show her the snow on the ocean, the thing had made my mom fall in love with this country, and I had wanted to make Maribel fall in love, too? With me?” (255). Mayor regrets taking Maribel out but he did that so he could impress her and she would fall in love with him. Mayor tries to make MAribel smile and laugh to impress her and he realizes he does all this stuff because not only does he like her but he wants her to fall in love with him.
Also, Mayor’s father didn’t like that Mayor was taking to Maribel because she wasn’t a normal girl, Mayor said, “My dad’s narrow-mindedness only made me feel more connected to Maribel, though. Like maybe I was the only one who understood her, the only one who was willing to give her a chance.” (109) . Mayor gives us many examples that he feels connected to Maribel. In the book, Autistic Guide’s to Dating:A Book by Autistics, for Autistics and Those Who Love Them or Who Are in Love with Them, by Ramey, Emilia Murry, Jody John they tell us how a man , Jody John , with autism and a woman Emilia Murry , fall in love through both of their eyes. Emilia is told by one of her friends that Jody is a high-functioning autistic but she didn’t really care. Emilia said, “ He does seem a bit different from some other guys I’ve met—nicer, friendlier, and easier to talk to. And I already knew that he was cute and that I liked him.” (Ramey, Murry, John 35). This shows Emilia felt connected to Jody even before her friend told her he’s autistic. Even if someone has a condition some might still feel connected and have a special bond that others might not understand.
Although, some might argue that Mayor is taking advantage of Maribel because in the novel Mayor says it was never easy for him to talk to girls but it was easy to talk to Maribel because she is brain damaged. But after that he says he feels connected to her because most people don’t get her like he does and he says he truly likes her. Mayor says, “I still wanted to take care of her in certain ways, but it was more than that now. I liked her. I liked her more than I liked anyone.” (Henriquez 110) . Mayor says he cares about her and truly likes her.
Nevertheless, Mayor shows he cares about Maribel by caring for her wellbeing and feelings, he tries to impress her, and says he feels connected to her. Cristina Henriquez gives many examples to show that Mayor is not taking advantage of Maribel but instead develops true feelings for her. And even in the book Autistic Guide’s to Dating, they show even if you have a condition you can be connected to someone.