And we’re glad you aren’t. Erika Sánchez has done something great, here. My weekly reading has increasingly featured stories that are aimed at a young adult crowd, and I must say that there is something about literature that is written with the idea of shaping the worldview of those on the precipice of adulthood that is special. It’s here, in young adult fiction, that we see what our society values, what our morals are, what our viewpoints are, what our ideas are, and which of those we think should be imparted to our young people.
A couple months ago, I ran through The Hate U Give, and followed that up by several young adult sci-fi books. Those books were entirely different from I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter. First, our protagonist in Sánchez’s novel is nothing like those in the other novels I’ve read this year, who may go through the trials and tribulations of life, but seem to rise to the various challenges in a normal and healthy way. Here, our protagonist struggles with the burdens of life in a poor Mexican family in Chicago, and endless self-doubt and disillusionment slowly give way to suicidal ideation. I particularly love the glance we get at a Mexican family, one that is the very type of family discussed in the news these days as if they are some sort of pariahs-at-large (“illegal” immigrant parents working menial jobs with children born in the US); we see this family as hard-working, normal, hopeful, and belonging. I would say that stories like this would change the preconceptions of immigrants held by even the fiercest Republicans, but I know in the age of Tr*mp, that isn’t true. Too bad.
When I was younger, I don’t think I even could adequately describe the concept of suicide. Before the age of 10 or 11, it was a completely foreign concept to me. Even in my teenage years, when I thought that my life was over if my high-school crush ignored my existence, the thought of taking my own life could barely form in my mind before it was overtaken by what I was going to eat for dinner. As the rates of child and teenage suicide have skyrocketed over the last decade, I have often wondered how could we have possibly gotten here as a society. I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter is how. Childhood is different now. And the burdens of being a person in America are not limited to those over the age of 18. When reading this book, you not only identify with the protagonist, but you understand the circumstances and thinking that took her to the edge, even if you have never been there yourself. This is an important story. It’s an engaging one too. And somehow, even though it highlights the poverty, violence, depression, desperation, and ostracization that some of our young people experience, it isn’t a depressing story. There’s hope — and mental health resources — at the end of this one.*
In light of the news lately and our loss of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain, I thought I would relist some of the resources that are listed in the book here:
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: Text “START” to 741-741 or call 1-800-273-TALK