I was so gutted by this story of Ana Falcon, an undocumented Peruvian immigrant, and her desperate struggle to keep her family together when the weight of poverty and the threat of deportation loom over every decision. At some point in the novel, a character says, "We're f*cked" and I couldn't help but agree. I appreciated so much the way Rivero didn't flinch when dealing with cruelty and struggle; that she allowed her characters to dream and want but didn't succumb to some idea that fiction must tie things up neatly. What we want for ourselves, for our children, is so deeply held. Who and what will we sacrifice? How does bitterness and resentment seep in, especially when we are surrounded by desperate people and desperate situations? How do we protect ourselves from those who only take? Do we owe forgiveness just because it is requested? So many questions posed but, as in life, few answers. This book shed necessary light on the immigrant experience and the desperation of financial insecurity. Highly recommend.— Susan
Winner of the 2019 New American Voices Award
Longlisted for the PEN/Hemingway Award for Debut Novel
Longlisted for the Aspen Words Literary Prize
A Recommended Book of 2019 from:
Southern Living * Buzzfeed * The Huffington Post * Bustle * Fierce * Hip Latina * Ms. Magazine * Alma * Library Journal * The Rumpus * The Millions * Refinery29 * Electric Literature
A stunning debut novel about a young undocumented Peruvian woman fighting to keep her family afloat in New York City
Ana Falcón, along with her husband Lucho and their two young children, has fled the economic and political strife of Peru for a chance at a new life in New York City in the 1990s. Being undocumented, however, has significantly curtailed the family’s opportunities: Ana is indebted to a loan shark who calls herself Mama, and is stretched thin by unceasing shifts at her factory job. To make matters worse, Ana must also battle both criticism from Lucho’s cousin—who has made it obvious the family is not welcome to stay in her spare room for much longer—and escalating and unwanted attention from Mama’s husband.
As the pressure builds, Ana becomes increasingly desperate. While Lucho dreams of returning to Peru, Ana is deeply haunted by the demons she left behind and determined to persevere in this new country. But how many sacrifices is she willing to make before admitting defeat and returning to Peru? And what lines is she willing to cross in order to protect her family?
The Affairs of the Falcóns is a beautiful, deeply urgent novel about the lengths one woman is willing to go to build a new life, and a vivid rendering of the American immigrant experience.
About the Author
Melissa Rivero was born in Lima, Peru, and raised in Brooklyn. Undocumented for most of her childhood, Rivero became a US citizen in her early twenties. Her writing has taken her to the VONA/Voices Workshops, Bread Loaf, and the Norman Mailer Writers Colony. In 2015, Melissa was an Emerging Writers Fellow at the Center for Fiction. She is a graduate of NYU and Brooklyn Law School, and currently works on the legal team of a startup. She still lives in Brooklyn, with her husband, two sons, and their rescue dog.
“A beautiful, serious and life-affirming book.”
— Washington Post
“At a time when the United States is wracked with debates about what constitutes a ‘real’ American, this rendering of the immigrant experience couldn’t be more important.”
— Refinery 29
“Rivero’s talent for storytelling and sympathetic portrayal of many characters propels this novel above the melodrama of the telenovelas that play in the background on Valeria’s television. Book groups will thoroughly enjoy this vivid, inspired debut, a valuable addition to immigration literature.”
— Library Journal (starred review)
“Timely and beautifully rendered.... Rivero succeeds in drawing to light the challenges many new immigrants face.... A complex and compelling portrait of Latin American immigrants and the experience of undocumented families.”
“A nuanced look at the human cost of immigration policy.... 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.”
— Kirkus Reviews
“Melissa Rivero writes about love with all of its beauty, fierceness, and complications: of motherhood and hard choices, the bonds of family and homeland, and the sacrifices made for survival and a better future. Ana Rios is an unforgettable character and a necessary American hero.”
— Lisa Ko, author of The Leavers
“Melissa Rivero is a gifted writer with a clear view of the human heart. This novel shows us new things. It’s a winner.”
— Luis Alberto Urrea, author of The House of Broken Angels and The Devil’s Highway
“An unsparing look at the world of the undocumented through the life of Peruvian immigrant Ana Falcón and her family.... Melissa Rivero’s The Affairs of the Falcóns does poetic justice to this riveting tale of identity, belonging, and transformation.”
— Cristina García, author of Dreaming in Cuban and Here in Berlin
“The Affairs of the Falcóns is a powerfully honest testament to the strength of immigrant mothers. May we all see them, honor them, and fight for them in the way Melissa Rivero sees, honors, and fights for Ana Rios, free of judgement and full of love.”
— Natalia Sylvester, author of Chasing the Sun and Everyone Knows You Go Home
“Beautiful.... The theme is immigration, but at heart, this is a story about family—the long-standing tensions, the profound bonds, the depth of spousal, parental and filial love. It’s at once a timeless work and a book we urgently need now.”
— Rumaan Alam, author of That Kind of Mother