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The Affairs of the Falcóns

Review

The Affairs of the Falcóns

When home is a site of trauma, a place where there are few possibilities and most of them mean pain, you take your loved ones and you leave. You go to a place with more potential, even if its legal gates are barred to you because of the color of your skin and the location of your birth.

This is the truth not only of Ana Falcón, but of thousands of people displaced by imperialist violence, inequitable commerce, anti-indigeneity and political upheaval. Melissa Rivero’s novel explores the choices Ana makes to protect herself and her family as an undocumented immigrant in 1990s New York, elucidating an urgent and pervasive narrative, too infrequently understood by popular readership. Its logistics don’t line up explicitly with today, of course, but the resonance rings fierce and true.

"THE AFFAIRS OF THE FALCÓNS is a powerful, gripping novel, of complex choices and the tangle of family.... This is a propulsive, engrossing debut and an absolute must-read."

Ana, her husband Lucho and their two children have fled the encroaching violence in their Peruvian villages. They’re living with Lucho’s cousin Valeria and her husband Rubén, a lighter-skinned couple with an auto body shop and valid papers. Ana only wants to stay long enough to get on her feet, to make enough money to move her family to their own apartment, but it quickly becomes apparent that every part of New York costs money. Even obtaining money costs money. Ana spends long hours of the day working in a factory, while Lucho spends long hours of the night driving a cab, but the bills keep coming.

What’s worse, the interest from the loan shark continues to build, and Ana can feel Valeria’s patience wearing thin. Even with fellow Peruvian immigrants, even within family, tensions of colorism, classism and privilege emerge. As debt piles up and money comes slowly, Ana finds herself making desperate, painful choices for the sake of her family --- but those choices also come with a cost. And the threat of deportation hangs over the Falcóns like a blade, an ache of nonbelonging, an undercurrent of terror.

Rivero knows that our system of immigration is broken, in any circumstance. It disproportionately disenfranchises innocent non-white people. Yet when there are children involved, the brutality of the system is all the more heartwrenching. This truth clings to Ana like a second skin. Lucho wouldn’t mind returning to Peru, his idealized, privileged imagining, but Ana believes America is worth the risk, at least for their young children.

THE AFFAIRS OF THE FALCÓNS is a powerful, gripping novel of complex choices and the tangle of family. Of the terrifying intricacies of rape culture, of the strict power striations of citizenship. Of the encompassing, enduring messiness of motherhood, and what that means to a woman, an undocumented Peruvian immigrant woman in America. This is a propulsive, engrossing debut and an absolute must-read.

Reviewed by Maya Gittelman on April 5, 2019

The Affairs of the Falcóns
by Melissa Rivero

  • Publication Date: April 2, 2019
  • Genres: Fiction, Women's Fiction
  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Ecco
  • ISBN-10: 0062872354
  • ISBN-13: 9780062872357