Book Review: I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika L. Sánchez
Title: I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter
Author: Erika L. Sánchez
Released: October 17, 2017
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, 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 kiss, 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?
Please keep in mind that this review contains spoilers for the entire book. Read with caution. If you click the “Read More”, it is under the assumption that either you don’t care about spoilers or you’ve already read the book.
While only one of my parents was an immigrant, my mom was very much a traditional Mexican lady – whether she wants to admit it or not. Growing up in a very similar homelife, I honestly related to Julia a lot, especially with regards to how her Ama thought she did drugs, had sex, and all those other things. My mother did the same to me – and I also have severe depression and anxiety.
I bring this up because this what really made me like this book a lot. It brought me back to when I was a teenager and I was always angry all the time. My mother didn’t threaten me with Mexico (she would say other things instead) but she would basically helicopter over me. While I didn’t live in Chicago, the feeling of imprisonment was the same and so was the feeling of being the black sheep of the family.
Julia honestly was fun to read, at least for me. She was extremely relatable and, although she did a lot of lying to do what she wanted, she felt she had a reason to do those things. Now, the story does take its time to build up to the mystery about Olga and what eventually would be her secret life – especially considering how little her Ama trusted her after her sister’s demise.
I was surprised that Connor wasn’t in the book as much as the summary made him out to be – and same with Lorena. There was a focus on their overall relationships but nothing as deep as Julia’s relationship with her family and the relationship with herself.
I consider this a perfect book because, especially within a traditional Mexican household, a family is key and family is the most important thing in a Mexican woman’s life. This book really encapsulates how it feels to be locked away in a family that doesn’t try to understand you but tries to wring the ambition out of you. Perhaps not because of their own selfishness but because of tradition – that’s just what good Mexican women did.
When the secret is revealed that Olga was having an affair with a married man and that she was pregnant on top of it, Julia is honestly torn between telling her mother and father or just keeping it a secret. Understandably, she keeps it a secret though it burns her up inside. And I completely agree with her – Mexican families tend to want to keep the image that everything in the family is perfect. They want to believe that if people saw what’s really on the inside, they’ll be disgusted to see the true ugliness and the secrets we carry along with the sacrifices made.
Julia finds a detestable secret about her mother and father when they crossed the border and the truth about Olga’s birth. Perhaps her mother idealizing her as the perfect daughter was her way of not being bitter towards Olga – it wasn’t her fault. Julia also realized this and even admits she’s not a bad daughter.
I felt that, because of how much I related to Julia, a lot of thoughts, phrases, and wants were ripped out of me and forced in front of my face – as if I don’t want to forget who I am and what I wanted.
And like Julia, I want to be a writer. That’s my ambition.
Of course, the story, at first, makes it sound that her parents want her to completely quash it – no, that’s not true at all. More than anything, they just want Julia to understand the sacrifices they made, and having to keep doing, in order to create a life for themselves “on the other side”.
It’s honestly difficult to express how I feel about this book without relating to my life too much. I don’t want to divulge in my life story but I feel I couldn’t express myself otherwise.
I’ve always felt like an outsider in my own family and though I never visited my family in Mexico (if I even have any at this point), I would’ve loved to visit them sometime and stay with them – even for a couple of weeks.
“Family” is a very difficult subject for me so there more parts that made me tear up and outright cry. And though the end of the book may make it seem like it wrapped everything nicely with a bow, I get this feeling this is how most Mexican families would want to support their children.
It isn’t that Mexican families quash ambition – their ambitions is their families and the love they have for them. Of course, no family is perfect and even though Julia’s family are definitely far from perfect, Olga’s death may have brought up those ugly imperfections and her secret may have been just as perfectly boring as she was – Julia and my own, understanding of family definitely have changed.
Posted on October 13, 2018, in ★★★★★ – 5 Stars, Book Reviews, Book Series, Oneshots and tagged book review, erika l. sánchez, i am not your perfect mexican daughter, latinx, review, spoilers. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.