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Read With Us: I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter

It’s time to discuss our spring book selection for the Read With Us book club and this time we’re doing things a bit differently. We still want the discussion to take place in the comments but Bonny and Kym and I are all asking one question today rather than taking turns and spreading this out over several weeks as we have in the past. We’re also seriously considering a Zoom meeting to have a live discussion of the book.

As you may recall (and have hopefully read) our spring book is I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika L. Sánchez , a YA book set in Chicago, about Julia, the daughter of Mexican immigrants, and her struggles to come to terms with her sister’s death and her parents expectations for her life. The book was nominated for several awards, including being a National Book Award Finalist for Young People’s Literature, and it was given the Tomas Rivera Mexican American Children’s Book Award in 2018.

This is the review I wrote on GoodReads:
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I truly enjoyed this YA book about Julia, a Mexican teenager living in Chicago and struggling with the loss of her sister and dealing with her immigrant parents. The setting feels alive to me and the descriptions of Chicago in the winter and the scenery in Mexico are great. A realistic coming-of-age story with a tiny bit of mystery thrown in, I recommend this for those who like the genre.

And here is the question I want you to consider:

This book begins in Chicago, a melting pot of American cultures. Then we travel to Mexico where Julia’s parents are from. Which setting did you enjoy the most? What did you think about the contrast between the settings and the cultures?

I am a reader who relishes a well described setting. I love a book that makes me feel like I’m right there in the story, whether it’s being hot and thirsty in the desert or enjoying a fabulous meal with a view of the ocean. And for me, the two settings in this book felt very authentic and true. I’ve been to Chicago and could picture some of the places Julia describes. I’ve also been to Mexico and have strayed out of the tourist areas into some neighborhoods where people actually live. I had those in mind when Julia visited her family and it helped me to visualize it and relate to it. I don’t want to say more because I want to hear what you have to say about this question so please comment and after you comment come back and read what others have to say, too.

And don’t forget to visit Kym and Bonny today and answer the questions they post as well.

Thanks for Reading With Us!

This Post Has 13 Comments

  1. Of the two settings, I have only been to Chicago, though I don’t think the Chicago I’ve been to (mainly the suburbs) is the same one Julia inhabits. I did find the settings realistic, though, I think it makes the story overall more believable. What struck me about the contrast between the two locations is that they seemed to mirror Julia’s emotions. She seemed much more relaxed and happy in Mexico, where the pace of life was slower.

  2. Like Sarah, I have never been to Mexico either but I found Chicago to be very realistic. What I struggled with was her going to Mexico at all. I am not sure that undocumented parents would send their children to Mexico. But since in the story Julia has no family here, it was the way the writer elected to reveal things about Julia’s parents.

  3. I’ve been to Chicago, but not to Mexico. Both settings seemed realistic to me, but I think I enjoyed reading the Mexico setting best. Julia learned a lot about her family while she was there, and I think it helped her begin to understand why her parents behaved the way they did.

  4. I liked it when the parents sent her to Mexico, but I did keep wondering if the parents understood how much Mexico had changed, and whether that was the ‘lesson’, or whether they just couldn’t deal with her in the house any longer. I found the Chicago parts fine, although as I wrote on Kym’s board that I couldn’t figure out exactly where she lived in Chicago and she seemed to get around really easily which has not been my experience on Chicago public transit!

  5. This book really did not resonate with me and I didn’t enjoy it much. I read it so long ago that I’m even having a hard time remembering it! I think (if I can remember) that I enjoyed the Mexico segment more.

  6. I’ve been to both Mexico and Chicago though only the north side. My daughter live in two sections of Chicago for several years, Lincoln Park and Wrigleyville. What struck me about Chicago was each section is its own little community. Everything my daughter needed was often within walking distance of her apartment (s). With that in mind, I could envision the neighborhood that Julia lived in. I do agree sending Julia to Mexico seemed off a bit and probably was used to allow her to gain insight into her mother’s life. She also seemed to gain a renewed appreciation.

  7. I have no background to discern if the settings were appropriately portrayed, but I thought the author did a great job in comparing the differences in the two societies and the expectations of each one. Julie was less anxious in Mexico, but I thought that was related to her ability to get away from all the conflicts in Chicago. If there are conflicts at home, it is generally easier to be away from them for a time. I felt the trip to Mexico served to put things in perspective for Julia, as it would an adult who made that sort of change. It allowed her “breathing room” to decide who she was for a time. I thought that was a very complete story, did not think it was too complex, and truly felt it deserved all the accolades it received. I enjoyed it very much.

  8. I enjoyed both settings and they seemed realistic to me. I felt that in Mexico Julie had the freedom to grow and gain a deeper understanding of her parents and of herself.

  9. I still haven’t figured out why the mother insisted on sending her to Mexico. I have not experienced the poverty that Julia comes from–so that was really hard for me to relate to.

  10. I haven’t been to Chicago or Mexico so it was interesting to read about the two locations. It as interesting to read her view of being in Mexico which was different from her home in Chicago. The Chicago section was interesting as the large cities have different neighborhoods that seem like separate cities as they are so different from other areas in town. I guess most towns have different neighborhoods but we don’t always think about them as we tend to think about where we are located.

  11. I just started the book last night (oops! it snuck up on me). I promise to be ready for the discussion on Zoom!

  12. I’ve spent a LOT of time in Chicago, and I’ve had several trips to Mexico (although I stayed in tourist-y locations in Mexico and did NOT spend time in actual places like where Julia’s family lived, so I don’t know that it really counts). I am betting that Julia’s family lived on the West Side in Chicago, although the book never made that explicit. It would be fairly easy for Julia to get to the downtown Chicago locations the book describes — BUT — it would not be quick or easy for her and Connor to zip back and forth to Evanston! (The relationship/friendship with Connor is actually the only part of the book that didn’t feel realistic or authentic to me. It’s like. . . if Ferris Bueller took the train in every weekend to hang out downtown with his West Side friend. Not impossible, but also not entirely believable to me.)

    I think the contrast between Julia’s life in Chicago and her family’s life in Mexico was important in the book for Julia’s personal growth. She learned a lot about herself — and her family background — while she was in Mexico. I think that element is especially important in a coming-of-age YA story like this — even if it may not have been entirely realistic (or didn’t provide enough detail to feel realistic for me, but I’m willing to suspend judgment here).

  13. Kym’s point of why Julia had to go to Mexico is exactly right. It’s part of a YA coming of age story. The reader needs to know Julia’s family roots and why there were expectations for her to be a perfect Mexican daughter, not an American. Her parents were not fully realized and this was a good device to share their stories.

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