I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika L. Sánchez expertly covers several themes, including; grief and loss, depression, fractured families, cultural communities & immigrant families within a coming of age story.
Why I picked this book up: This book came up in conversation with my book club when we were reading Rust Belt Chicago edited by Martha Bayne.
Plot: Julia is an ambitious 15-year-old dreaming of a life after high school that is far away from her family. She has ambitions of going to college, being a writer and moving to New York. Her parents think that she should be more like her sister and attend a local college while living at home. Her parents want Julia and Olga to have an easier life, but the dreams that they have for their daughters are stunted compared to Julia's dream for herself.
Everything going on under the surface of the family dynamic erupts when Olga, Julia's older sister dies in accident. Julia is sad for the loss of her sister but feels as though she hardly knew her, especially after she discovers belongings in her room that lead Julia to believe that Olga wasn't the perfect Mexican daughter she wanted her family to believe. Julia is distracting herself from processing her grief by attempting to uncover the truth about her sister's life.
Throughout the narrative the ways things appear are often contradicted to the secrets each person is concealing.
Writing: This was beautifully written, yet approachable for a teen audience. The style caters to being gritty or authentic instead of trite or flowery. Sánchez was successful in capturing the vast array of emotions felt during that delicate time between childhood and adulthood.
What makes it stand out: I loved how complex the characters were depicted, especially the dialogue and inner thoughts of Julia. She is snarky and sarcastic and her voice really reflects that of a high school student; obnoxious, self-absorbed, confrontational, selfish. You like to dislike her, but still care what happens to her, it is as if you as the reader are a far away sibling.
As a resident of Chicago, her descriptions of neighborhoods felt accurate and rang true. It was interesting when Chicago is foiled against Evanston.
You May Also Like:
Immigrant Families: Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok
Grief and Loss: All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven
Depression/Mental Illness: Everything Here is Beautiful by Mira T Lee
Cultural Communities: Piecing Me Together by Renee Watson