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I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter
Cover of I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter
I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter
National Book Award Finalist!Instant New York Times Bestseller!The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian meets Jane the Virgin in this poignant but often laugh-out-loud funny contemporary YA...
National Book Award Finalist!Instant New York Times Bestseller!The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian meets Jane the Virgin in this poignant but often laugh-out-loud funny contemporary YA...
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Description-

  • National Book Award Finalist!
    Instant New York Times Bestseller!
    The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian
    meets Jane the Virgin in this poignant but often laugh-out-loud funny contemporary YA about losing a sister and finding yourself amid the pressures, expectations, and stereotypes of growing up in a Mexican-American home.


    Perfect Mexican daughters do not go away to college. And they do not move out of their parents' house after high school graduation. Perfect Mexican daughters never abandon their family.

    But Julia is not your perfect Mexican daughter. That was Olga's role.

    Then a tragic accident on the busiest street in Chicago leaves Olga dead and Julia left behind to reassemble the shattered pieces of her family. And no one seems to acknowledge that Julia is broken, too. Instead, her mother seems to channel her grief into pointing out every possible way Julia has failed.

    But it's not long before Julia discovers that Olga might not have been as perfect as everyone thought. With the help of her best friend Lorena, and her first love, first everything boyfriend Connor, Julia is determined to find out. Was Olga really what she seemed? Or was there more to her sister's story? And either way, how can Julia even attempt to live up to a seemingly impossible ideal?
    "Alive and crackling—a gritty tale wrapped in a page-turner. "—The New York Times

    "Unique and fresh." —Entertainment Weekly
    "A standout." —NPR
 

Awards-

Excerpts-

  • From the book

    What's surprised me most about seeing my sister dead is the lingering smirk on her face. Her pale lips are turned up ever so slightly, and someone has filled in her patchy eyebrows with a black pencil. The top half of her face is angry—like she's ready to stab someone—and the bottom half is almost smug. This is not the Olga I knew. Olga was as meek and fragile as a baby bird.

    I wanted her to wear the pretty purple dress that didn't hide her body like all of her other outfits, but Amá chose the bright yellow one with the pink flowers I've always hated. It was so unstylish, so classically Olga. It made her either four or eighty years old. I could never decide which. Her hair is just as bad as the dress—tight, crunchy curls that remind me of a rich lady's poodle. How cruel to let her look like that. The bruises and gashes on her cheeks are masked with thick coats of cheap foundation, making her face haggard, even though she is (was) only twenty-two. Don't they pump your body full of strange chemicals to prevent your skin from stretching and puckering, to keep your face from resembling a rubber mask? Where did they find this mortician, the flea market?

    My poor older sister had a special talent for making herself less attractive. She was skinny and had an okay body, but she always managed to make it look like a sack of potatoes. Her face was pale and plain, never a single drop of makeup. What a waste. I'm no fashion icon—far from it—but I do feel strongly against dressing like the elderly. Now she's doing it from beyond the grave, but this time it's not even her fault.

    Olga never looked or acted like a normal twenty-two-year-old. It made me mad sometimes. Here she was, a grown-ass woman, and all she did was go to work, sit at home with our parents, and take one class each semester at the local community college. Every once and a while, she'd go shopping with Amá or to the movies with her best friend, Angie, to watch terrible romantic comedies about clumsy but adorable blond women who fall in love with architects in the streets of New York City. What kind of life is that? Didn't she want more? Didn't she ever want to go out and grab the world by the balls? Ever since I could pick up a pen, I've wanted to be a famous writer. I want to be so successful that people stop me on the street and ask, "Oh my God, are you Julia Reyes, the best writer who has ever graced this earth?" All I know is that I'm going to pack my bags when I graduate and say, "Peace out, mothafuckas."

    But not Olga. Saint Olga, the perfect Mexican daughter. Sometimes I wanted to scream at her until something switched on in her brain. But the only time I ever asked her why she didn't move out or go to a real college, she told me to leave her alone in a voice so weak and brittle, I never wanted to ask her again. Now I'll never know what Olga would have become. Maybe she would have surprised us all.

    Here I am, thinking all of these horrible thoughts about my dead sister. It's easier to be pissed, though. If I stop being angry, I'm afraid I'll fall apart until I'm just a warm mound of flesh on the floor.

    While I stare at my chewed-up nails and sink deeper into this floppy green couch, I hear Amá wailing. She really throws her body into it, too. "Mija, mija!" she screams as she practically climbs inside the casket. Apá doesn't even try to pull her off. I can't blame him, because when he tried to calm her down a few hours ago, Amá kicked and flailed her arms until she gave him a black eye. I guess he's going to leave her alone for now. She'll tire herself out eventually. I've seen babies do...

About the Author-

  • Erika L. Sánchez is a poet, a feminist, and a cheerleader for young women everywhere. She was the sex and love advice columnist for Cosmopolitan for Latinas for three years, and her writing has appeared in the Rolling Stone, Salon, and the Paris Review. Since she was a 12-year-old nerd in giant bifocals and embroidered vests, Erika has dreamed of writing complex, empowering stories about girls of color—what she wanted to read as a young adult. She lives in Chicago, not far from the setting of I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter. Erika is fluent in Spanish, Spanglish, and cat. You can find out more about her at erikalsanchez.com or @erikalsanchez.

Reviews-

  • Publisher's Weekly

    August 7, 2017
    Why isn’t 15-year-old Julia Reyes a perfect Mexican daughter in her mother’s eyes? Mostly because of her older sister, Olga, who puts family first, listens to her parents, and dresses conservatively. Julia, by contrast, argues with her mother, talks back at school, and dreams of becoming a famous writer. When Olga dies suddenly, Julia is left wishing that they had been closer and grieving what she sees as Olga’s wasted life. And when she starts to suspect that Olga might not have been so perfect, she follows every clue. Sánchez’s debut novel covers a lot of ground, including Julia’s day-to-day activities in Chicago, her college ambitions, her first boyfriend (who is white and comes from a wealthy neighborhood), her difficult relationship with her overprotective parents, and her search for Olga’s secrets. As the book moves along, Julia’s frustration with the many constraints she lives under—poverty, family expectations, and conditioning that she resents but can’t quite ignore—reaches dangerous levels. Julia is a sympathetic character, but Sánchez’s often expository writing keeps her and her struggles at arm’s length. Ages 14–up. Agent: Michelle Brower, Zachary Shuster Harmsworth Literary.

  • School Library Journal

    September 1, 2017

    Gr 10 Up-Fifteen-year-old outcast Julia Reyes longs to attend college in New York, in order to get away from the suffocating watch of her undocumented Mexican parents in Chicago. The unusual death of Julia's older sister Olga-considered the perfect child by her family-only bolsters this desire, as her parents focus their attention even more strongly on their now only child. When Julia stumbles across unexpected items in Olga's bedroom after the funeral, she sets off on a course to discover her sister's secrets while trying to find some escape from her strict parents. Sanchez makes Julia's unflinching candidness very clear from the start, with the opening sentence providing her stark description of Olga's corpse. This attitude intermittently brings levity to heavy moments, but also heartbreak when the weight of it all comes crashing down. That honesty and heartbreak is skillfully woven throughout, from the authentic portrayal of sacrifices made and challenges faced by immigrants to the clash of traditional versus contemporary practices, and the struggle of first-generation Americans to balance their two cultures. The importance of language, a lens through which Latinxs are often viewed and sharply judged, is brilliantly highlighted through an ample but measured use of Spanish that is often defined in context without feeling forced or awkward. The author interweaves threads related to depression/anxiety, body image, sexuality, rape, suicide, abuse, and gang violence in both the U.S. and Mexico with nuance, while remaining true to the realities of those issues. VERDICT Like Isabel Quintero's Gabi, a Girl in Pieces, sans the diary format, this novel richly explores coming-of-age topics; a timely and must-have account of survival in a culturally contentious world.-Alea Perez, Westmont Public Library, IL

    Copyright 2017 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Kirkus

    August 15, 2017
    After the death of her dutiful older sister, Olga, Julia must deal with grieving parents and the discovery that her sister was keeping secrets.Fifteen-year-old Julia Reyes is nothing like her sister, "Saint Olga," who was struck by a semi at age 22 and was always the family's "perfect Mexican daughter": contributing at home, attending community college, working at a doctor's office, and helping their mother clean houses. Julia, on the other hand, hates living in her roach-infested apartment building in their predominantly Latinx Chicago neighborhood, and she doesn't even try to live up to her Ama and Apa's expectations that she behave like a proper Mexican young lady. After secretly snooping through Olga's room, Julia begins to suspect that Olga may have led a double life. In one of many overlong subplots, Julia starts a romance with a rich Evanston white boy, Connor, whom she meets at a used bookstore. Sanchez's prose is authentic, but it's difficult to root for Julia, because she's so contemptuous, judgmental, and unpleasant: "I do dislike most people and most things"--from "nosy" aunts, "idiot" cousins, and tacky quinceanera parties to even her "wild and slutty" best friend, Lorena, at least sometimes. An abrupt plot development involving self-harm and mental illness feels forced, as does a magically life-changing trip to Mexico in the third act. This gritty contemporary novel about an unlikable first-generation Mexican-American teen fails to deliver as a coming-of-age journey. (Fiction. 14-17)

    COPYRIGHT(2017) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Publisher's Weekly

    March 5, 2018
    For the audio edition of Sánchez’s YA novel, actor Garcia plays up the resentment, guilt, and disbelief of a tough-as-nails protagonist grieving the death of her older sister. Fifteen-year-old Julia Reyes always saw herself as the rebel of the family, while her older sister, Olga, was the perfect one, whom their parents favored. After Olga is killed in a traffic accident, Julia starts to lash out at everyone around her. Actor Garcia perfects Julia’s hardened exterior and presents her gritty attitude not as an act of defiance, but rather in terms of her determination to leave her Chicago home and lead a full life, in part because her sister will never have that opportunity. Though Sánchez packs multiple plot lines into the book, including Julia’s suicide attempt and her fling with a rich boy from the suburbs, Garcia’s reading helps situate them into the larger emotional journey of coming-of-age while grieving the tragic death of a family member. The result is a powerful audiobook. Ages 14–up. A Knopf hardcover.

  • Juan Felipe Herrera, Poet Laureate of the United States "This book will change everything. . . . A perfect book about imperfection."
  • Los Angeles Review of Books "A wonderfully complex and interesting character."
  • Christian Science Monitor "Blistering. Julia's persona rockets off the page and into your face from the get-go."
  • Booklist "An earnest and heartfelt tale."
  • SLJ, Starred "A timely and must-have account of survival in a culturally contested world."
  • Shelf Awareness, Starred "Beautifully written."

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    Random House Children's Books
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