The book that I chose to read this quarter is I am not your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika L. Sánchez. This book is about a girl named Julia Reyes. She lives on the south side of Chicago with her parents. In the beginning, her 22-year-old sister, Olga is hit by a bus. She wasn’t very close to her sister because she is so different than her family. Olga was the perfect daughter that her parents wanted. Julia is exactly the opposite. Julia finds some evidence that Julia wasn’t the perfect daughter that she was known to be and continues to investigate this throughout the book. She doesn’t agree on a lot of things with her mother, with whom she is always bickering. Julia shows signs of depression and anxiety throughout the book and it reaches a breaking point where she decides to cut herself. She ends up in the hospital when she wakes up. In I am not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter, Erika Sanchez uses the development of Julia’s struggle with herself to impact the outcome of the book.
First, I will explain the event when Julia harmed herself that led to the development that changed Julia. Julia was upset because her mother, Ama had ripped out the pages in her journals. This happens on page 210. This upset Julia because she loved writing and reading something her mother never understood. So she locked herself in her room and cut herself. “I heard Apa at my door when I made my first cut. “Mija,” he said quietly “Miga,?Estas Bien? He was supposed to be helping tip Bigotes with his car, but I guess he had finished early. He must have felt something was wrong, because, unlike Ama, he never bothers me when I’m alone in my room. I tried to quiet myself by pressing my face against my pillow, but I couldn’t. The noise came against my will. My body wouldn’t let me silence it.” (Sanchez. 337) Her father sensed something was wrong and opened up her door, he immediately brought her to the hospital.
When Julia wakes up, she is in the hospital. What happened the night before is blurry and she doesn’t remember what happened right away. The doctor comes in and informs her that she has depression and anxiety. This happens between pages 211 and 219. “She also wants to see me every week for therapy and says I need to take medication to balance out my brain. It turns out I suffer from severe depression and anxiety, which have to be treated right away, or else I can end up here again. I’ve had it for a long time but obviously got much worse after Olga died. Something in my head isn’t wired right.” (Sanchez, 219) She gets out of the hospital, but Julia has to attend a group for 5 days.
Julia has to go to group outpatient therapy where she meets other kids who have experienced psychological damage. This is mentioned in the book on page 222. “During movement therapy, Ashely, the young therapist with the asexual mom haircut, tells us to say what we feel and bounce the foam ball however we want. “The ball is an expression of our feelings.” she says.” (Sanchez, 222) The exercises help them figure out what they are feeling and what they can do with those emotions. Julia needs to figure out her emotions and learn how to cope with them every day. This group not only does that. Julia also meets everyone in the group and learns what they are going through. On page 223 everyone in the group is introduced to us, and we quickly understand that Julia’s case is by far not the worst. The kids in the group have been abused, cut themselves regularly, and are anorexic or something similar. In my opinion, this gives Julia a little perspective and she realizes that her life could be a lot worse, a lot different. On page 228 Julia finds out that she will be going to Mexico to visit her family. Her parents think it’s for the best, but she disagrees she resents the trip but goes along anyway.
When she arrives in Mexico on page 241, her family is very friendly and feeds her everything until she can’t eat anymore. She will spend 2 weeks in Mexico helping her aunts and uncles. Toward the end of her stay, she is talking to her aunt and she learns something she didn’t know about her mom. “Your mother, el coyote…” Tia looks like she’s trying to untangle what she needs to say. She begins to cry. “He took her…” “He took her where?” I scream. Tia can’t get the words out. My brain is pounding” (Sanchez, 274) Julia already knew that when her parents were crossing the border, they were robbed of all their money. But she is shocked by what her aunt tells her. It implied that her mother was rapped by the coyote, the man who you pay to bring you across the border illegally. Julia is horrified to find out that her mother was raped while she was carrying her sister, Olga, and her father was held at gunpoint so he couldn’t do anything. Julia thinks about this constantly when she’s on the way back to Chicago this is shown on page 250. She understands a little bit more why her mother is so strict because she doesn’t want the same thing to happen to her. She empathizes with Ama which helps her because she isn’t always mad at Ama and understands where she is coming from.
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Now that she understands Ama a little more, Julia makes the effort to try to be a better daughter so she goes to a church group with Ama on page 287. “That’s not how I want to live, Ama.” I’m not sure if I’m supposed to speak, but I can’t help it “I’m sorry that I’m not Olga and I never will be. I love you, but I want a different life for myself. I don’t want to stay at home. I don’t even know if I ever want to get married or have kids. I want to go to school. I want to see the world. I want so many things I can’t even stand it. I feel like I’m going to explode.” (Sanchez, 289) I see this as Julia accepting who she is and making her mother accept her. That she needs to come to terms with Julia because she isn’t going to change who she is. This is indispensable to Julia’s development because it allows her to come to terms with who she is.
By the end of the book, she has come to terms with herself, her depression, and her anxiety. She recognizes how far she has come and feels proud of herself and what she has accomplished. “I know I’ve come a long way, and though it’s hard, I’m trying to give myself credit for that. If I think about it, just a few months ago, I was ready to die, and now here I am on a plane to New York City all by myself. I honestly don’t even know how I was able to pick myself back up, and sometimes I’m not sure how long it will last. I hope it’s forever, but how can I know for certain? Nothing is ever guaranteed. What if my brain fails me once again? I suppose the only thing I can do is keep going.” (Sanchez, 339) This to me is saying that she is going to go through the world more sure of herself and she is ready to accomplish a lot in college. This quote shows how the events I talked about helped her and changed the course of the book. Without her ending up in the hospital, it’s possible that she would still be depressed and still feel hopeless.
The evidence that I have presented to you, shows how Julia’s development impacts the text. Without every piece of evidence, the outcome of the story would’ve probably been different. Each event impacts the other, especially the event where she cuts herself. That impacts the entire book. The other events collectively contribute to Julia’s change for the better.
- Sánchez, Erika L. I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter. Ember, 2019.