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.
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