Make Your Home Among Strangers by Jennine Capo Crucet is a fantastic debut novel that chronicles the immigrant experience.
Lizet is Cuban American. She grew up in Miami among many other Cuban Americans, but secretly applies to a prestigious liberal arts college far from home. When she arrives at college she is one of a handful of Cuban students and must learn to assimilate into the white culture.
It soon becomes obvious that her high school experience was different from many of her college classmates and she is starting at a disadvantage. Yet, Lizet doesn't give up.
Even when things back home in Miami are in the news. A young boy named Ariel Hernandez has come to Miami, leaving Cuba with his mother on a life raft. She dies on the trip and when the Coast Guard picks him up he is taken to his mother's family in Miami. Although Lizet and her family have no connection to this child, her mother develops a bit of an obsession with him and spends much of her time and energy on the news surrounding Ariel and whether he will stay in the United States or be returned to Cuba.
Lizet and her family are at the center of this novel and Crucet has done a great job depicting the culture of Cuban Americans, first by developing these characters and then by having Lizet attend a white college where her education, relationship with her family and boyfriend are all held up and compared to those of her white classmates.
One interesting thing to note is that dialogue is not written in the traditional way, with the use of quotation marks. Instead a small dash begins each bit of dialogue. I have found this difficult to read in some instances, but became accustomed to it fairly quickly while reading.
Make Your Home Among Strangers is receiving quite a bit of well deserved buzz. I'm anxiously awaiting it's August release to discuss it with other readers.