By Andrea Valdez
Broadcast News Director
Photo by Andrea Valdez
Erika Sanchez’s novel “I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter,” follows Julia Reyes, a junior in high school who recently had to overcome the tragic loss of her beloved sister, Olga, the supposed “perfect Mexican daughter” in the eyes of those who knew her when she was alive. However, even those who are perceived as perfect have their secrets. The days following her funeral, Julia makes a discovery that her perfect sister may not have been as perfect as her family thought she was. Now it is up to Julia to uncover the secrets her sister had left behind.
“I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter” explores themes such as the stages of grief after a loss, the treatment of mental health within the Mexican community, standing one’s ground and not becoming the same as family. As someone with similar background as the protagonist, this also offers a fresh perspective on the toxicity of some Mexican households and the result of those environments.
The book starts off introducing that main protagonist, Julia, and the dynamic she has with her family, which is a rocky one to say the least. Julia lives in an apartment in Chicago, Illinois, with her hard-working immigrant parents who take up jobs in housekeeping and factory work to support their family. The rest of her extended family is full of judgmental aunts and uncles who have a lot to say and cousins who brag about their accomplishments in life. The author makes it known to the reader that Julia has a “don’t care” attitude when it comes to what her family thinks of her and she carries this attitude with her throughout the story. Other characters in the story are friends she has met at school such as Lorena or even people who have influenced her life in a positive way such as Mr. Ingman, her senior year English teacher who supports her dreams of going to college to study writing.
The pacing of the story flows and takes bits and pieces of the events happening in Julia’s life one by one . From the time of Olga’s funeral to the amount of time it takes for Julia to discover the double life her sister had been living, the author paces the story in a way where something new happens in each chapter. There are times the story will often use the same mother-daughter argument trope repetitively; however it is a way for the reader to understand why Julia acts the way she does.
This story is not just meant for the Mexican daughters who feel they are not good enough for their families. This story is for everyone regardless of background. There was a character in this book who every reader could relate to. From the compassionate and caring Mr. Ingman to the outspoken and vivacious Lorena, the characters in the story are people the reader could personify to someone in real life. I related to Olga in this story. Olga was put on this pedestal to perform as the perfect daughter every Mexican parent wanted to have. She went to community college close to her home, she still lived with her family, she worked an office job that didn’t put her into any danger and there was this immense weight put on her shoulders to be the perfect person and yet, although she did everything right, she didn’t get to fully live her life.
This story will resonate with readers by placing them in Julia’s shoes. This is a pick that I recommend to anyone regardless of background. It’s just a great book that flows well and has something new happening every chapter without revealing too much about the sister’s secrets.