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Posted on: Mar 27 2020 - 4:46pm

2019 Lake Oswego Reads Selection!

The Lake Oswego Public Library has selected The Book of Unknown Americans by Cristina Henríquez as the 2019 book for its award winning citywide reading program.  

The Book of Unknown Americans is a story of hope and dreams, guilt and love and a book that offers a new definition of what it means to be American. It examines life in America today from the points of view of various immigrants, primarily the Toros and Riveras families, but it also gives short insights into the backgrounds, aspirations, and overall lives of others living in the apartment complex of the story.

Director of the Lake Oswego Public Library Bill Baars said, “We are very excited about the upcoming LO Reads program. This was one of those years where we spent extra time making the decision on a title as we wanted to get it exactly right. When we read Cristina Henriquez’ book we knew we found the one for which we had been searching. The Book of Unknown Americans is an excellent “read.” More than that, we feel that this will be a catalyst for wonderful, wide–ranging and provocative conversations and programs. With a powerful and unforgettable book we can’t wait to get started. Bring on February!”

Lake Oswego Reads Steering Committee member Paul Graham said, “The Book of Unknown Americans flies in the face of the usual approach to immigrant issues. You won't want to put it down. Christina Henriquez has masterfully written a story of inclusion that bursts through the stereotypes. These are not 'those people'. They are us, our children, neighbors and friends. This is about our shared journey.  An outstanding choice for this coming Lake Oswego Reads!"

Another Steering Committee member Joann Geddes, Director & Faculty Emerita, Academic English Studies, Lewis & Clark College said, “One might assume that this engaging novel would provide a look at the tragic back stories and suffering that so many newcomers – unknown Americans – have endured both prior to arriving and while trying to establish themselves in the U.S.  This assumption would be valid, yet while The Book of Unknown Americans addresses painful subjects that are front and center in contemporary politics, the riveting set of individual stories told directly by representatives of different Central and South American countries isn’t just about the struggles of those new to the U.S. or the challenges we face as a nation. It also offers a sincere look at what love, friendship, empathy, and hard work can bring to those who suffer, to those who dream, and to those who care about others. We do indeed learn of the horrors that these individuals have faced and fled from, but we are simultaneously uplifted by the deep love of parents who give up everything to better provide for their children, and by being reminded of the value of community.  The insights provided into how our social system works, or often doesn’t work, for both legal and illegal immigrants and refugees is another reason to delve into this compilation of newcomer stories. The moving narratives are deftly threaded together to provide food for thought, as well as reasons to both celebrate humanity while at the same time reflecting upon our own roles as they relate to the imperfect world around us and the tragedies that abound.  Kudos and thanks to Cristina Henríquez for giving us this thought-provoking look at our own culture and the newcomers within it.”

Thanks to the Friends of the Lake Oswego Library, Henríquez will be speaking in Lake Oswego on February 13.  For current members of the Friends of the Library, tickets to hear the author are guaranteed.  To join, visit https://friendslopl.org/

The Book of Unknown Americans was selected by the Steering Committee for Lake Oswego Reads, consisting of librarians, community leaders, high school English teachers and high school students.  Many books were suggested by community members and this book was suggested by the Respond to Racism group.  For a list of the 40 books the committee read and considered, go to https://www.ci.oswego.or.us/loreads/books-considered-2019

Another Steering Committee member Andrew Edwards, Executive Director of Lakewood Center for the Arts added, “Christina Henriquez’s book invites the reader to experience the world and lives of the Central American immigrants. An apartment building in Delaware is the new home of families from Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras who have come to better their lives. Their stories, largely unknown and unheard, are told, in turn by different characters. The experiences they reveal are eye-opening, uplifting, sometimes harsh, yet full of hope and longing. How little most of us know of those who come seeking a dream.” 

The official kickoff of Lake Oswego Reads will be on January 7, 2019.  As has been the practice for all 13 years, 800 free books will be distributed to Lake Oswego Public Library card holders, thanks to the Friends of the Lake Oswego Library. 

The Lake Oswego Reads Events committee is presently developing a schedule of programs for February so that Lake Oswego residents can not only discuss The Book of Unknown Americans but also experience the book with speakers, food, displays, art and more.  The Library is asking the community to help with speaker suggestions and cultural performances that will capture the lives of local immigrants. Please contact Cyndie Glazer at 503-675-2538 or cglazer@ci.oswego.or.us.

The Lake Oswego Public Library has been recognized by national organizations like the League of Mayors for this immersive program that encourages all members of the community to read the same book, celebrate its culture, recognize its message and generally create an atmosphere of learning amongst all age groups. This will be the program’s 13th year and all events will be free thanks to financial support from the Friends of the Lake Oswego Public Library, Lake Oswego Rotary Club and the Lake Oswego Review.