Make Your Home Among Strangers by Jennine Capo Crucet Page 1-72 The novel opens with the narrator, Lizet, reflecting on the canals of Miami, where her family had thrown all sorts of trash into them when she was a child. As she now works in a research lab, trying to understand the destruction of coral reefs around the world, her family's environmental pollution is a long-running joke.
The second chapter is set in 1999 when most of the novel's story takes place. Lizet is returning home from college for Thanksgiving, but she misses connecting flights due to overbooking, and she is forced to spend the night. In Miami, on a ride home, she reflects on her troubles at school. Then Lizet notices that the woman in the car with her, who she thought was a professor, is crying, so she asks if she is alright. The woman reassures her that she is just being "weird," and they begin talking and getting to know each other.
Lizet arrives at her family's apartment and is surprised and excited by everybody that she is there. At the apartment on the television was showing images of Ariel Hernandez, who had just been rescued from the Florida Straits and brought to Miami. Lizet's mother is distracted by the news and disappointed that Lizet did not tell them she was coming home. The next morning there is a rally for Ariel Hernandez, so Lizet spends the time with her nephew, Dante, and Leidy while her mother attends the rally.
At the start of the novel, the reader is provided a glimpse of what the outcome will be for Lizet. It has already been noted that she manages a research lab on the West Coast. This is far from her home in Hialeah, Miami, and appears at odds with her description of struggling academically and facing allegations of academic misconduct.
The first two chapters also start to give the reader an image of Lizet and her family. The discussion of her aid package indicates that they are not financially stable, but the need for an appeal of the decision following her parents' separation suggests that their combined income had been too high for an aid package to be provided. The reader is also made aware that Lizet has an older sister, who, it seems, had not gone to college, as the aid application process appears to have been new ground when Lizet applied. Through the description of her family's attitude toward throwing trash in the canals and their response to her falling in, it can further be seen that they take a relatively carefree approach to life.
There is a sense of foreshadowing in Lizet's interaction with the woman she thinks is a professor. Having come from the same area of Miami and both gone away to school, this woman is a representation of the future Lizet could work towards. Her tears suggest that this life is not necessarily going to be easy...