Thursday, May 17, 2012

American Chica: Two Worlds, One Childhood, Marie Arana

The corridors of my skull are haunted. I carry the smell of sugar there. The odors of a factory- wet cane, dripping iron, molasses pits- are up behind my forehead, deep inside my throat. I'm reminded of those scents when children offer me candy from a damp palm, when the man I love sighs with wine upon his tongue, when I inhale the heartbreaking sweetness of rotting fruit and human waste that rises from garbage dwellers' camps along the road to Lima. 

Though Marie Arana is Peruvian, not Chilean, her writing style really reminded me a lot of Isabel Allende's. American Chica is a memoir, but it's not a straightforward memoir; she meanders between her own experiences and investigating her family. A big focus of American Chica is Arana's identity. Her father is a Peruvian, and here mother an American, and she's not sure whether she's South American or a "gringa." Through different phases of her life, she alternates between the two. In Peru, she's expected to be a proper lady, but in her mother's American family in Wyoming she learns to shoot a gun, break a horse, and kill a chicken for dinner, two very different worlds. American Chica is mainly about coming to terms with the fact the she is a "hybrid" American with two different cultural identities. But I think my favorite parts of the book were the parts about her family, both her immediate family and her more distant relatives. Also, the descriptions of life in Peru were really great.

Read American Chica:
  • if you like memoirs
  • if you are interested in Peru
  • if you like Isabel Allende
  • if you like books about coming to terms with who you really are
305 pages.

Very Good! I would recommend this book!

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