Brain injuries can be one of the hardest thing to deal with and one of the hardest thing to cure because every case is different. In The Book of Unknown Americans by Christina Henriquez explains the story of a girl named Maribel and they journey she must endure after she get a brain injury. Henriquez uses a multi-point view between Maribel and the people around her. On how they feel about Maribel with her injury. She will show the effect on the mother has when her child is injured, and the mother is only able to watch to see if the daughter would get better or get worse. In the book Henriquez explain the struggles people have to go thought with a brain injury. Also, explain how it does not only affect the person who has the injury, but also the people who are around them regularly.  

Towards the beginning of the story Alma (Maribel’s Mother) explains how Maribel was in Mexico before her accident. Alma said, “Maribel had the kind of beauty that reduced people to simpleton” (Henriquez 19). Maribel had such in her eyes that when people would look in them they would be such in a daze they would do what ever she says. Then one day when Maribel wanted to help her dad Arturo with a roofing job. When she got to the top the ladder moved making her fall on the ground from two stories high.  

That fall would be the most life changing thing that would probably ever happen to the Rivera Family. The accident made them move to the United States because there where not a lot of opportunities in Mexico to help people like Maribel. On their first couple of day in the United States Alma could see Maribel, “was expressionless, as usual, [while] clutching her notebook to her chest” (Henriquez 13). She had such a surveyor brain injury that she could not feel or do much of anything. She was unable to feel any emotion towards anything. When she did have emotions, she could not express it to others. After her accident people would thought, “she was no longer worthy of their attention” (Henriquez 19). People would think she was not who she was before the accident. Which would cause them not to care about her. They might also think if they were to stare then they would just be rude. Maribel and the people around her had their life changed by this accident. But after it she would eventually get better and could get better by the day. 

In the middle of the book Alma talks about how far Maribel has come. Alma explains all of the hard ship they had to endure over the time with Maribel. 

But also, the great strides she has come from the beginning of the accident. Alma explained how the school would call and say, “Maribel has limited attention span and often fiddles with her pencil or other desk supplies during class” (Henriquez 74). When people have a brain injury as bad as Maribel did they brain restart. Which can cause them to have to relearn everything again. In an article that covered traumatic brain injuries and comparing the patients from how they were 2 years to 5 years after they accident they noticed, ” 60% had difficulties with concentration” (Olver). Not being able to concentration can mean that your brain in trying to repair itself by looking at different things and think about it. People also had, “69% [of] slower thing” (Olver). The reason for slower thing is the brain is just trying to comprehend what is happening, and at the same time trying to figure out why it is happening. And ways it can solve it. Every time Maribel is messing with something or looking at something her brain is trying to comprehend what is going on. The days right after her accident she would just sit there emotion less and would look like she is staring into space. Now she is able to look at thing and play with them. Everday Alma would notice the improvement in her daughter’s health.  


At the end everyone talks about how far along Maribel had come. Even though she is not fully better she is getting better every day. She is also better enough that she is about to move back to Mexico. Right before Maribel and her mother were packing to go back to Mexico Alma noticed, “suddenly, out of nowhere, there… Maribel,” Almost back to normal (Henriquez 396). Alma felt her Maribel was almost back the way she was. She understood that Maribel would never be the say, but she never would’ve thought of her to be almost the same. Alma has been long waiting for this day and wished Arturo could see Maribel now. She was able to now leave the United States with excitement that the reason for coming to the U.S. was to help Maribel get better, and that is what happened. They are now able to feel confident enough to go back home to Mexico. Where they could lay rest of Arturo. Now that her is looking from the skies he is now able to see the, “light in [Maribel’s] eyes now” (Henriquez 401). He feels grateful because the reason for the visit in the U.S. was to help Maribel and get that light back into her eyes. He feels all that hard work he had to do with getting multiple jobs and working long and hard hours paid off with the happiness back in his daughter.  

 Maribel has gone from an emotion less bean that would stare into space to being able to reexplore the world. With having light and emotion back in her life. Henriquez shows the life Maribel had to endure with her tragic brain injury. Not only did she talk about how Maribel felt about but about how her mother and towards the end how her father thought about her progress. Henriquez also shows that even though everyone heals differently that most of them will getter better with time, and that you just have to take it day by day.  


Work Cited 

Henríquez Cristina. The Book of Unknown Americans. Vintage Books, a Division of Random House LLC, 2015. 

Olver, J. H., et al. “Outcome Following Traumatic Brain Injury: a Comparison between 2 and 5 Years after Injury.” Brain Injury, vol. 10, no. 11, 10 Apr. 1996, pp. 841–848., doi:10.1080/026990596123945.