A nuanced look at the human cost of immigration policy.
It’s New York in the 1990s. Ana Falcón works as a seamstress. Her husband, Lucho, is driving a cab. Along with their two small children, the Falcóns are living with Lucho’s cousin’s family. The pressures—personal, financial—that Ana faces will be recognizable to most readers, but the fact that the Falcóns are undocumented immigrants adds a layer of complexity and peril to every choice they make. Ana and Lucho are limited in the kinds of jobs they can find and vulnerable to employers willing to hire workers illegally. Housing is hard to come by, and they know that their welcome with extended family is not indefinite. With no access to banks, they are forced to do business with loan sharks. Rivero offers a portrait of the immigrant experience that will undoubtedly ring true to many, but she also writes with great specificity. She offers insight into the economic and political instability that drove Ana and Lucho to leave Peru, and she depicts the ways in which class and race factor into the lives of the Falcóns. Ana’s background is rural and indigenous. Terrorists and soldiers were a threat to her and her mother. Lucho’s family is from Lima, and these differences color Ana’s relationship with Lucho’s cousin Valeria. Ana is a very well-crafted protagonist, sympathetic but not perfect. Her situation is circumscribed, but Rivero gives her considerable agency—including the freedom to make dubious choices. This is, obviously, a book that has a lot to say to our current moment, but it also has an emotional appeal that is timeless and universal.
Thoughtful and eye-opening, this is an admirable debut.