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The Things We Didn't Know: Novelist Elba Iris Pérez

  • January 25, 2024
  • 2:00 PM - 3:00 PM
  • Zoom


  • Any staff member of a LILRC Institutional Member or a LILRC Retired Member
  • Not a LILRC or ESLN Member, or outside of NYS, or Individual
  • For staff and members of any other NY councils. (CDLC, CLRC, METRO, NNYLN, RRLC, SCRLC, SENYLRC, WNYLRC)


Join LILRC for a moderated conversation with author Elba Iris Pérez about her acclaimed novel, The Things We Didn't Know (Gallery Books, February 6, 2024). LILRC members who attend are eligible to win copies of the book! 

The inaugural winner of Simon & Schuster’s Books Like Us contest, Elba Iris Pérez’s lyrical, cross-cultural coming-of-age debut novel explores a young girl’s childhood between 1950s Puerto Rico and a small Massachusetts factory town.

Andrea Rodríguez is nine years old when her mother whisks her and her brother, Pablo, away from Woronoco, the tiny Massachusetts factory town that is the only home they’ve known. With no plan and no money, she leaves them with family in the mountainside villages of Puerto Rico and promises to return.

Months later, when Andrea and Pablo are brought back to Massachusetts, they find their hometown significantly changed. As they navigate the rifts between their family’s values and all-American culture and face the harsh realities of growing up, they must embrace both the triumphs and heartache that mark the journey to adulthood.

A heartfelt, evocative portrait of another side of life in 1950s America, The Things We Didn’t Know establishes Elba Iris Pérez as a sensational new literary voice.

Elba Iris Pérez is from Aguas Buenas, Puerto Rico, spent her early childhood in Woronoco, Massachusetts, taught theater and history at the University of Puerto Rico in Arecibo, and now lives in Houston. She is also the author of El teatro como bandera, a history of street theater in Puerto Rico. Her debut novel THE THINGS WE DIDN’T KNOW is the inaugural winner of the Simon & Schuster Books Like Us Contest.

Advance Praise:

“Perez’s rich English-language debut novel chronicles a girl’s 1960s upbringing in an isolated Massachusetts suburb with her strict Puerto Rican parents… Perez proves to be a natural storyteller.”

Publisher's Weekly

"Elba Iris Pérez’s debut novel, The Things We Didn’t Know, breathes with narrative magic ... Andrea's coming-of-age as she searches for a stable sense of family will resonate with readers as if it were their own reality."

—Harry Youtt, poet and author of I'm Never Not Thinking of You

"The Things We Didn't Know will sweep you up from Massachusetts to Puerto Rico and back again in a whirlwind of unfamiliar cultures, betrayals, cruelties, and loves. Elba Iris Pérez delivers a wonderfully compelling read."

—Judith Simon Prager, co-author of The Worst Is Over and author of What the Dolphin Said

“Elba Iris Pérez gifts us with rich and powerful storytelling, the triumphant intelligence of the heart.”

—Elidio La Torre Lagardes, author of Wonderful Wasteland and other natural disasters


Code of Conduct

For questions, please email Eliscia Cirrone,

Professional Development Hours: 1 (.1 CEUs)

Program Recording: Yes


1. If you do not receive a confirmation email after registering, please contact Eliscia Cirrone, to check your registration.  

2.  If you have any questions regarding this program or registration and program access, please contact Eliscia Cirrone,

Long Island Library Resources Council
627 N. Sunrise Service Road
Bellport NY, 11713
Phone: (631) 675-1570

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