Lest the power of fiction in the political sphere be doubted, remember Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin. By personalizing the slave experience and bringing to light the subhuman ways slaves were treated, the 1852 novel heightened the tensions between Northerners and Southerners that erupted in the Civil War. Reportedly, Lincoln called Stowe “the little woman who wrote the book that made this great war.” After reading Upton Sinclair’s 1906 novel The Jungle, a riled-up Teddy Roosevelt launched his own investigation of food preparation and handling conditions. The public outcry in response to Sinclair’s scarily accurate descriptions of unsanitary food preparation brought about the signing of the Meat Inspection Act and other regulatory laws.
Henríquez’s novel is poised to have a similar impact on how people understand the immigrant experience. Calling the truth fiction is sometimes the best way, after all, to open people’s eyes.