On My Bookshelf: I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika L. Sánchez

July 27, 2020

In I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika L. Sánchez, Julia is a star student who loves to read, but she spirals into a depression after her old sister is hit by a bus, an incident that she blames herself for. Read on for more of my review and ideas for classroom application.
The basic plot from Amazon: The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian meets Jane the Virgin in this poignant but often laugh-out-loud funny contemporary YA about losing a sister and finding yourself amid the pressures, expectations, and stereotypes of growing up in a Mexican American home.

Perfect Mexican daughters do not go away to college. And they do not move out of their parents’ house after high school graduation. Perfect Mexican daughters never abandon their family.

But Julia is not your perfect Mexican daughter. That was Olga’s role.

Then a tragic accident on the busiest street in Chicago leaves Olga dead and Julia left behind to reassemble the shattered pieces of her family. And no one seems to acknowledge that Julia is broken, too. Instead, her mother seems to channel her grief into pointing out every possible way Julia has failed.

But it’s not long before Julia discovers that Olga might not have been as perfect as everyone thought. With the help of her best friend, Lorena, and her first love (first everything), Connor, Julia is determined to find out. Was Olga really what she seemed? Or was there more to her sister’s story? And either way, how can Julia even attempt to live up to a seemingly impossible ideal?

In I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika L. Sánchez, Julia is a star student who loves to read, but she spirals into a depression after her old sister is hit by a bus, an incident that she blames herself for. Read on for more of my review and ideas for classroom application.
Why I liked it: I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika L. Sánchez reminded me of a darker more emotional version of the movie Real Women Have Curves. Julia is a star student who loves to read, but she spirals into a depression after her old sister is hit by a bus, an incident that she blames herself for. After her sister Olga's death, in an attempt to knows her better, Julia discovers that her sister had some secrets, but can't quite figure out how they all connect. Julia becomes determined to find out what her sister was hiding, but then once she does, she doesn't know what to do with the information.

Julia is a character you can't help but root for. She is unabashedly herself even when it annoys, and sometimes hurts others. There are times when it seems that things are on the up for Julia: she meets a guy who seems to get her, she has a supportive best friend, and she has a teacher who is guiding her on her path to college, but the death of her sister and its effect on her already volatile relationship with her mother lead to a suicide attempt. Through it all I couldn't help but root for her.

Classroom application: This one is for high school and up as it is filled with mature content and language. This novel will appeal to students for so many reasons: the main character's biting sense of humor, the relatability of the difficulties in getting along with your parents, as well as the main character's mental health struggles. You can find more books about mental health for secondary students here and here.

I couldn't help but think of it as a sister to The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo and a cousin to The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros. The narrators push back against the expectations of their gender and race and all three have aspirations to become a writer. Other titles to add to this book "family" might include Gabi, a Girl in Pieces by Isabel Quintero, Almost a Woman by Esmeralda Santiago, Black Dove Mama, Mijo, and Me by Ana Castillo, How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents by Julia Alvarez, In The Country We Love by Diane Guerrero, “Try to Remember” from Petty Crimes by Gary Soto, and anything by Reyna Grand.

If you are interested in purchasing a copy of I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter for yourself, you can find it on Amazon here.

Note: The Literary Maven is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.

In I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika L. Sánchez, Julia is a star student who loves to read, but she spirals into a depression after her old sister is hit by a bus, an incident that she blames herself for. Read on for more of my review and ideas for classroom application.

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