“We came for her”(Henriquez 285). This was the reason for everything they sacrificed. In “The Book of Unknown Americans” by Cristina Henriquez, is a novel that emphasizes the value of the American Dream. Throughout this story each and every one of these characters wanted to come to America for a better life, as well as wanting to pursue a dream that they each had. There were some struggles and heartache alone the way but for a particular character the reason for coming was fulfilled. Although many people have an overall idea of what this dream is, the American dream is different from the actual definition, as well as being different from the book, and most importantly different from back then to now.
The American Dream is stated to be “rooted in the Declaration of Independence, which proclaims that ‘all men are created equal’ with the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” I would say that by this definition in our world today this does not describe the American Dream. There are many barriers that people today face. One being economic barriers such as low paying jobs. With low amounts of income coming in, something like this is barely even enough for someone to try and provide for their family. However, these people will work these kinds of job because they have nothing else. Another barrier that people face is immigration. These people are exploring their dreams just like people that are here legally but are struggling so much more. These people are looked at differently when they want the exact same thing everyone does, a better life for not only themselves and their loved ones.
These economic and immigration barriers relate to the book because all these characters came to American and started off with really nothing other than their family that they came with. One of the economic barrier that Alma and her family encountered was not being able to have food on the table every night for dinner. They had to eat oatmeal for several nights, they would eat this for all meals of the day. Another one was when it hit winter. The days were long and cold for her family. In the book Alma stated something that really did show their struggle, “Our first heating bill arrived in the amount of $304.52, which made me cry when I saw it… neither of us needed to say out loud that we couldn’t pay it”(119). An immigration barrier that was brought up in the book was when they introduced the character Micho Alvarez. He didn’t like that people would judged him on his skin type and on everything else for being Mexican. He exclaimed “we all have swine flu, we carry machine guns under our coats, we don’t pay any taxes, we’re lazy, we’re stupid, we’re all wetbacks who crossed the border illegally”(236). When this was stated in the book it really made a powerful statement because this is really what many people think about immigrants. This is just a few of the issues in pursuing the American Dream.
Even though in the book the American Dream had a lot of barriers, in our society today the barriers that we deal with is creating a huge divide between the unalienable rights we all have. In the article “Happiness for all” Carol Graham states, “people who do not believe in their own futures are unlikely to invest in them, and how the consequences can range from job instability and poor education to greater mortality rates, failed marriages, and higher rates of incarceration”(Graham). This point that she brought up had solid evidence because is happiness really granted for all people. The ones that work for it are the ones struggling, and the ones that have everything come easy to them is when all the rates start to go up. However, was the American Dream always like? The American Dream had to mean something before. This huge idea of wanting to pursue success and a better life had to at one point really mean something. The article “Pursuing the American Dream,” Brohl talks about how in the 1950s is when the thought of an American dream was possible. She states, “With victory under their belts and money in their pockets, Americans in the 1950s could optimistically pursue the American dream. Part of that dream included the comforts of home ownership and the opportunity to start a family”(Brohl). During this time the American Dream has increased because of all the possibilities of having a better life due to the economy and everything else doing so good. It gave people the hope of what the were all wanting.
Even though everyone’s idea of the American Dream is up to self interpretation, In “The Book of Unknown Americans” Arturo had nothing but a positive outlook with his closing statement. Of how happy him and his family was when they came to America. He talked about how the people in their apartment complex became family to them and how Maribel’s teachers had helped her so much. Seeing Maribel getting better and improving was the greatest accomplishment and joy that came to Arturo. As a family they left so much behind in Mexico all for Maribel, to see her happy and the light that they would always see in her eyes. “It’s been difficult, yes, but I would do it all over again”( Henriquez 286). When Arturo said this is showed how much of the American Dream was accomplished for his family. He loved this country and was happy for all that it was able to do for Maribel. You have to pursue your purpose is the Dream. Arturo’s self interpretation of the dream was to see Maribel become herself again and to get better and that’s exactly what he was able to get by coming to America.
Brohl, Karen. “The 1950s: Pursing the American Dream.” ACHRNEWS RSS, 11 Dec. 2001, https://www.achrnews.com/articles/87033-the-1950s-pursuing-the-american-dream
Graham, Carol. Happiness for All? : Unequal Hopes and Lives in Pursuit of the American Dream. Princeton University Press, 2017. EBSCOhost, chaffey.idm.oclc.org/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=nlebk&AN=1431834&site=ehost-live.
Henriquez, Cristina. “The Book of Unknown Americans”