I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter

Erika L. Sánchez

Fiction 2017 | 344 pages


You can tell by the title, there is bound to be some humor in here.  And there is!  I am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter is the story of Julia (pronounced hoo - lyah, please!) in her last two years of high school. Her older sister Olga is killed when she attempts to cross a street while texting.  Julia's parents believe Olga is the perfect Mexican daughter.  The two girls are first-generation Americans, living in a Mexican ghetto in Chicago.  Their apá works in a candy factory, and their amá cleans houses for rich white folks.  Poor, and with traditional values, Julia's parents do not understand her at all.  She is not the perfect Mexican daughter.

Julia, of course, wants a better life.  She doesn't want to be a receptionist like Olga.  She wants to go to college in New York City and be a writer. She is angry, passionate, smart, assertive, and can’t hold her tongue.  She gets in trouble in school constantly.  After Olga's death, she is very depressed, though everyone seems to look right past the impact this death must have had on her.  And she discovers that Olga was not quite the perfect Mexican daughter everyone thought she was.  But I will not expound upon that, as that is the mystery that pulls this novel along.

I often laughed.  Here is one time (page 114).  "The girls next to us are now scandalized, call her a slut, skank, whore, and so many other synonyms in both English and Spanish that is seems like they have consulted a bilingual thesaurus."

I loved Julia and how she pushed at boundaries.  I loved her best friend Lorena and Lorena's good friend, Juanga, who is unabashedly all-out gay, colorful, and unashamed.

This was a book my decolonization book club was about to read, when I left that book club.  I think it presents a delightful picture of being poor, Mexican, first generation, and the spunk and love it takes to rise above it. I am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter is a satisfying read, and I recommend it.

February 2023