So, like many CBR folks, I’m working on my backlog of reviews but I wanted to be sure to get a review in of this debut novel by Erika Sanchez, even though I finished it back in early November.
My positive feelings about this novel were influenced by my experience hearing Sanchez talk at the Chicago Humanities festival in October. She’s funny, irreverent, honest, and an encouraging role model to young writers of color. I watched as one young Latina woman after another stood up to ask her questions about when she knew she would be a writer, about challenges she faced, and about advice she would give to someone who’s just starting out. She’s blazing a trail, but she’s also clearly willing to turn around and guide those who are following in her footsteps.
In her novel, I am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter, the main character, Julia, is struggling with the weight of her family’s expectations, with the death of her sister, Olga, (who was the perfect Mexican daughter), and with her own bouts of depression. Julia has big dreams of moving away from Chicago to go to college and becoming a famous writer, but first she has to get through high school and she can’t seem to stay out of trouble. Her mother can barely look at her and her father has become even more silent. Her life is further complicated when she discovers a hotel keycard amongst her sister’s things and realizes that Olga may have had secrets of her own—that she may not have been the perfect Mexican daughter either.
Though I don’t know how much of an overlap there is between Sanchez’s experiences growing up and Julia’s, it’s clear that they share the same passions and the same desire to push forward and stretch the boundaries of things. I’m excited to see what Erika Sanchez does next.