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CHF to Welcome 'Book of Unknown Americans' Author Cristina Henriquez, 3/18


The Chicago Humanities Festival (CHF) presents Chicago author Cristina Henríquez on Wednesday, March 18 at 6 p.m. at the Instituto Cervantes of Chicago (31 W Ohio St).The Crain's "40 under 40" writer will discuss her New York Times Notable Book, The Book of Unknown Americans, with Free Street Theater artistic director Coya Paz. The evening will open with a performance by poet Javon J. Smith, and a book signing will follow the program. Tickets range from $5-15 and are currently on sale at or via the CHF Box Office at 312-494-9509.

Henríquez's The Book of Unknown Americans follows the journeys of two families--one Panamanian, one Mexican--from Latin America to their adopted homeland of the United States. At its heart, though, this is a love story, one by turns suspenseful and wry. The Washington Post calls it a "Vivid...Striking... ringing paean to love in general: to the love between man and wife, parent and child, outsider and newcomer, pilgrims and promised land."

"What I love about Cristina's work is that she reminds us to look again," said Paz. "Immigration isn't our story. Our stories are in the details, in the way that individual characters respond to shared circumstances in ways that are surprising and uniquely theirs. The Book of Unknown Americans tells a gripping story that is both surprising and achingly familiar."

Chicago author Cristina Henríquez has written the story collection Come Together, Fall Apart (a New York Times Editors' Choice selection) and another novel, The World in Half. Her nonfiction work has appeared in The New Yorker and The Atlantic. She is a recipient of the Alfredo Cisneros Del Moral Foundation Award and was recently named to Crain's "40 under 40" list. Her critically acclaimed novel, The Book of Unknown Americans, was named one of The New York Times' 100 Notable Books as well as a Top 10 Book of 2014 by Amazon. Henríquz earned her undergraduate degree from Northwestern University and is a graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop. She currently lives in Chicago.

Henríquez will be in discussion with Coya Paz. Paz is a writer, director, and lip gloss connoisseur who was raised in Peru, Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Brazil, and the United States. She is the artistic director of Free Street Theater, a cofounder of the Proyecto Latina collective, and served as the founding co-artistic director of Teatro Luna for nine years. Paz is an assistant professor in the theatre school at DePaul University and holds a PhD in performance studies from Northwestern University. She is a regular commentator on race, politics, and pop culture for

The evening will open with a performance by Javon J. Smith, a budding poet, playwright, performer, educator, and activist. Smith received his BA in secondary education English from DePaul University with minors in African and Black diaspora studies, LGBTQ studies, and theater studies. He coaches for the speech team at his alma mater, Thornton Township High School in Harvey, IL. He is currently working on his own poetry collection called Righteous Rage.

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