Skip to main content

Book Review - Hijas Americanas

First off, the only negative for this book is that it is from Seal Press, so I know right off some WOC will not buy this book. I bought this book last summer. That said, I really did love this book, so if at all, go pick it up from your local library. Read it in Borders and reshelve it. I don't care, just get your hands on this book. That said, let's get into the review.

The back of Hijas Americanas [WCF, Powells, Amazon] by Rosie Molinary sets up the entire book by asking - How Latina Are You?

This of course forces you to come up with a definition of what is a Latina. Does she speak Spanish? With an accent? Have tan skin? Molinary delves into these questions and much more.

This is another entry into what I'm calling pseudo-academic books. It's not a slam, but an acknowledgment that a book chock full of research and data is wrapped up in a memoir. Unlike other pseudo-academic books, this book is about the research first. Molinary surveyed Latinas from around the country as well as some in-depth interviews. Her memoir is secondary to the story she is weaving. We still learn a lot about her including that the essential question is often asked of her, "I've also been told plenty of times that I wasn't Puerto Rican enough, or even Puerto Rican at all." - page 6.

The opening chapter, "Turning Gringa" gives us Latinas the ultimate bottom line:

Ultimately, I learned that the way people labeled me was often more about their own perconceived notions than about what I did or said. I slowly began to understand that the one thing I did have control over was how I saw myself. Page 20

It really should be that easy and leaving us with a great booklet. But it's not, it's only the beginning.

It's not all happy fiestas in the book though. Molinary spends a good chunk of time going over the hardships that Latinas face including being raised to please everyone but yourself (page 67) that may leave many unable to negotiate sexual relationships. Not to mention having to negotiate the way society and our families frame Latina sexuality (page 94).

I've previously stated that Hijas Americanas is a true self-help book and it is. Molinary goes through many of the stereotypes of being Latina - our sexuality, fashion sense, education - and proves them AND dispells them. Essentially she proves to us that being Latina is not a prescription but a spectrum.

Disclaimer: I received no payment for this review as I bought this book myself.

Technorati tags: latinas, Hijas Americanas, Rosie Molinary, book review


Becki said…
Sounds like an interesting book. I may check it out :) Thanks!

Found you through NaCoLeavMo.
Anonymous said…
what's with the cover, though? is there some reason why we are presented with this image of a person without eyes? sorry, i just think about weird things like that. publishers think about visual marketing very carefully when they package a book - i can't imagine that it's simply some random image. what do you think?
Anonymous said…
This definitely sounds like something I should pick up. From a couple of the things you pointed out like:

"I've also been told plenty of times that I wasn't Puerto Rican enough, or even Puerto Rican at all." - page 6.

Molinary spends a good chunk of time going over the hardships that Latinas face including being raised to please everyone but yourself (page 67) that may leave many unable to negotiate sexual relationships. Not to mention having to negotiate the way society and our families frame Latina sexuality (page 94).

... this is my life! I'm not Cuban enough for anyone (because I was born here and speak more english than Spanish), but then when I travel North, I'm a "spic" (hate, hate HATE that word!), so which is it? And the not being able to please everyone, um yeah! All the freaking time! Nobody's every happy with anything I do. They just want to suck the soul out of me!

Enough ranting, thanks for the heads up!
Anonymous said…
Getting an education is a paradox. It seems that once we go to college we become "not Latina" enough. It's as thought setting the lowest possible expectations for ourselves is paramount to belonging to our communities. I could have used this book 20 years ago but could enjoy it retrospectively today.
Anonymous said…
Veronica, I so appreciated reading your thoughts about the book. It's always interesting to learn what resonated with people-- and I appreciate your thoughtful commentary.

Javacat, your comment reminded me of what my grad school professor said when I told him I didn't want to publish. He looked me in the eye and said, "Would it have made you feel better at 17 if you had been able to read then what you just spent 2 years writing?"

r@d@r, you asked a great question about the cover. After it was presented to me, I learned that the designer was trying to find a way to evoke the idea that the book was about the coming of age experiences of Latinas especially with regard to ethnic identity, body image, and beauty perception without assigning one face to the notion. The photo, I believe, was from stock images that the designer/ publisher purchased to use for the cover. I wonder if the young woman has ever walked into a book store, saw the cover, and thought, "They cut my face off." That's the weird thing I think about-- that young woman, probably now a woman, discovering this cover. Actually, I sometimes play it out in my head like an Everybody Hates Chris or Seinfeld episode. Maybe I should write a blog about that!
Veronica said…
Thanks for stopping by Rosie! And for answering our questions.
Anonymous said…
thanks rosie, you putting my question in context so eloquently. i'll see if the campus where i work has a copy in the bookstore. if they don't, they should.

Popular posts from this blog

Is there love after abortion?

Over two years ago , way before I started writing for Girl w/Pen, Alison Piepmeier wowed me with an essay about getting an abortion and how her decision made with her husband was a love story : ...the story I most want to tell—and one I have never heard—is of abortion as an intimate part of a couple’s life together.  Our abortion was a love story. I’d worried that Walter and I were rejecting a gift from the universe.  What I discovered, though, was that when we stripped away the distractions of everyday life so that we could make this difficult decision together, it bound us together as surely as if our choice had been different—and as it turns out, that was the gift. Every once in awhile their story returns to me. I often don't know why it stumbles into my brain and says, "Hey! Ponder me!" but it does. This morning it returned to me yelling, "Why?!" I was half-listening to WBEZ's 848 and some story about a man running away from his life. Original, I kn

Book Review: Wolfpack by Abby Wambach

Less than a year ago, Abby Wambach took the stage at Barnard's commencement and gave a speech that shook many, including myself, to the core . Her speech went viral and I made the above image in order to share the highlights of her speech. Earlier this month Abby released the speech in book form. Wolfpack : How to Come Together, Unleash Our Power, and Change the Game is short (less than 100 pages) but is much more than just her speech . You get a peek into how the speech came together and why she said everything. And because the book is short and is an expanded speech, it moves quickly. I feel that it moves with the same ferocity that Abby use to move down a soccer field. And you might find yourself cheering as she takes you through the story. Abby has always been one of my favorite players. The way she ran amok on the pitch was exactly the way I felt I played sports. Never caring how you looked and giving it your all. Leaving it all on the field. When she retired from socc

Chicago Women Who Owned 2015

When I asked social media which Chicago women kicked ass in 2015, I got a list far too long to do justice. I also realized how many of my lady friends kick ass every day, but it's a constant kicking of the ass, not a lot of headline kicking. Ya know what I mean? So I tried to make this list a mix of Chicagoans who had some headline kicks and some who kick ass every day and deserve a shout out. Let's get started, shall we? Photos from social media or public domain pages Luvvie Ajayi Luvvie did my job and summed up her amazing year herself! I love it when women do that. Yes, let's take a moment to reflect on our accomplishments and dance at our own parties. Luvvie makes us laugh, even when we want to cry. She pushes us to be active, even down to our shoes. You'll never laugh so hard when learning so much than when you are in a meeting with her. From hanging with celebs to her epic travel schedule, Luvvie definitely owned 2015. Charlene Carruthers Carruther