Debut Novel Inspired by Author’s Personal Immigration Story

In Melissa Rivero’s urgent, stunning debut, THE AFFAIRS OF THE FALCÓNS: A Novel, the immigrant experience is illustrated in deeply human and strikingly personal detail. Ana and her husband, Lucho, along with their two young children, have fled the economic and political upheaval facing Peru in the twilight of the twentieth century, for a chance at a new life in New York City. When Lucho loses his job, his cousin proposes a tenuous offer of hospitality to the family. Despite the setback, Ana is intent on putting down roots, but she soon finds that her undocumented status significantly curtails her family’s opportunities. Ana is indebted to a loan shark who calls herself Mama, and she 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— as well as escalating, unwanted attention from Mama’s husband.

With the pressure building, Lucho dreams of returning to Peru, but Ana is deeply haunted by the demons she left behind and determined to forge a better future for her children. Soon Ana will be forced to decide just how much she’s willing to sacrifice to protect her family – and how much more she can take in this new country before she admits defeat.

Melissa Rivero, a 2015 Emerging Writers Fellow at the Center for Fiction, was born in Lima, Peru, and raised in Brooklyn. THE AFFAIRS OF THE FALCÓNS is inspired by Rivero and her family’s experience of living undocumented in New York City in the 1980s, and their struggle to survive under the constant fear of deportation. Leaning on friends, who were at times stretched thin themselves, and their close-knit community, Rivero’s parents managed to survive the experience of immigrating, and raise their children in their adopted home. Rivero uses this experience to infuse her debut novel with a palpable authenticity and emotional intelligence that make her characters feel incredibly real. And though the issues Rivero grapples with are incredibly relevant today, the backdrop of the 1990s gives the potent reminder that undocumented people have been living in the U.S. under threat of raids, deportation, and family separations for decades.  

THE AFFAIRS OF THE FALCÓNS explores some of the tensions within the immigrant community, including the economic divide between those who are documented and those who are not, and the colorism and classism that often carry over from countries of origin. And in the complex, incredibly strong character of Ana, Melissa Rivero grapples with the loss of self that motherhood can bring, and the ways losing one’s family can raise the stakes in the process of building a new life and community.

THE AFFAIRS OF THE FALCÓNS is a beautiful, vital novel about the lengths one woman is willing to go in pursuit of a new American dream, and a vivid, remarkable portrait of the contemporary immigrant experience. 

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.

Image credit: Ecco

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