2018.55 – I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter

After quite a while on the holds list, it was finally my turn to read I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika L. Sánchez. This book was recommended to me by my friend Rosy Burke! Thank you Rosy 🙂 

Julia (pronounced hoo-lia, as in Spanish!) is a high school student living in Chicago with her parents and perfect and obedient older sister, Olga. After her sister is tragically hit and killed by a semi-truck, Julia struggles with her mother’s depression and her mother magnifying her shortcomings in Olga’s absence.

Julia is falling apart, and no one takes the time to notice her. In the process, she also begins to learn more about her sister. Was Olga really as perfect as everyone thought?

Within the narrative is the contrast between social classes. Julia is poor (or, low-income, as a few characters label her), and ventures into downtown Chicago numerous times where she either can’t afford to eat/play, or she’s with Connor, who can afford and pays.

Even more astounding is the narrative of being split between two countries. In our current political climate, the US-Mexico border is a tense and heartbreaking subject. I love how Julia puts it:

“ ‘Be careful. Please. The border…The fucking border.’ I feel a wildness spreading through me. ‘It’s nothing but a giant wound, a big gash between the two countries. 

Border Field State Park, San Diego, CA

Why does it have to be like that? I don’t understand. It’s just some random, stupid line. How can anyone tell people where they can and can’t go?’ ” (page 280).

Living in San Diego and teaching 4 miles from the border, we have a different type of relationship with the border. The San Ysidro crossing is the busiest border crossing in the world, and our community frequently passes between the two countries. Many of my students have immediate family members on both sides of the border. For perspective, the morning news gives us the weather, traffic reports, surf reports, and border wait times. This doesn’t diminish what Julia says, but emphasize the power of this arbitrary and very political line.

“Kikito” by French artist JR, just east of Tecate/San Diego. On display in September 2017.

Parts of this book made an even bigger impact because I read the majority of it while in Chicago for the ISTE conference. I went to the Chicago Art Institute, one of Julia’s favorite places. While I don’t know much about art, I can appreciate why she loves this place!

This book is beautifully written, and filled with so many real moments about family, friendship, and growing up. I highly recommend it!

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