I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika L. Sánchez
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
First Published: October 17th, 2017
Publisher: Knopf BFYR
Recommended Age: 12+
Genres & Themes: Young Adult, Family Tensions, Contemporary, Culture, Death
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.
I learned so much about Mexican culture from this book. It doesn’t just mention that Julia is Mexican like some books tend to do—it explains what makes her and her family Mexican. It’s very insightful and honest.
As an immigrant myself (Romania → Canada), I had no problem finding similarities between her family and mine. Her parents immigrated to another country to have a better future, as did my mother. They want Julia to be well-behaved and close to perfect because they know how hard the world can be. At the same, for Julia’s parents family comes first, whereas for my own, education does.
In fact, it was my first time hearing of people who believe that staying with one’s parents instead of going to a great college is preferable. In my mind, education always comes first and one should do everything in their means to finish their studies.
But while Mexican and (my own) Romanian culture clash when it comes to this particular subject, I nonetheless was interested in learning why exactly family comes before education in Mexican culture so I could understand better and refrain from judging them.
Unfortunately, I could not connect with Julia because she is extremely confrontational. She often mentions that she hates this and that, and I have to admit I am not a fan of characters who complain at all times—which she does. By the end I enjoyed her chapters more, since she began to realize some things about herself and the people around her that changed the way she looked at her life and the world in general.
I also prefer heroines who think first and act/speak second, but if this is not something that irks you, I am certain you will enjoy this much more. However, even if Julia never stole my heart, I could not stop reading this book. I read it for the story, culture and family tensions. Well done.
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