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American Chica: Two Worlds, One Childhood Hardcover – May 8, 2001


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: The Dial Press (May 8, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385319622
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385319621
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.8 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #807,162 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Though this memoir of growing up in America and Peru centers on Arana's parents' turbulent marriage, her real focus is the way cultures define, limit and enrich us. At one point, Arana, whose mother is American and father is Peruvian, recalls her first lesson in the color politics of Latin America. She was living in a gated house, in a factory town high in the Andes, and wanted to invite the daughter of the family cook to her birthday party. Of course she can come, said Arana's mother, but if she does, none of the mothers of the other little girls will allow them to attend; an Indian girl is not accepted at a party of aristocratic schoolchildren. "I am reminded of my political innocence," Arana writes, "when I go to Latino conferences in [the U.S.]. When I see the children of Spanish-blooded oligarchs line up alongside migrant workers for a piece of affirmative action." It is this willingness to slice through convenient classifications, to see the rifts in every group, that distinguishes Arana's account of how she learned to navigate between a culture that encouraged family loyalty and another that fostered independence. She writes beautifully, whether describing hunting for ghosts in Peru's highlands, chewing tobacco in Wyoming, attending an American school in Lima or finding friends in New Jersey. Arana, the editor of the Washington Post Book World, blends a journalist's dedication to research with a style that sings with humor. Her memoir is an outstanding contribution to the growing shelf of Latina literature. Agent, Amanda Urban.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

From School Library Journal

Adult/High School-Arana, editor of the Washington Post Book World, recently described this memoir as a love story. It is fraught with the tension of two worlds colliding: her North American mother's independent, free-spirited individualism crashes into her South American father's traditional, family-based orientation. Their children formed the bicultural bridge between them. In rich, lyrical prose, the author details her privileged, Peruvian childhood, watched by amas, and schooled at home. She writes of her grandfather who lived like a hermit in his own house, and further back the ancestors who played a horrifying role on Peru's rubber plantations. She describes the scent of sugar, "raw, rough, Cartavio brown" from her father's factory; the sounds of "El Gringo," the crazy blind man on his daily rounds; and the surreal world of los pishtacos, the ghosts, so mystifying, but terrifyingly real to Arana. She also writes of her mother and her former marriages, and finally of her life in America. Here Arana is an American Chica, where she leads not a double life, sometimes in her "American skin" at other times she is a Latina, but a triple life in which she makes up a "whole new person." While this book, filled with humor and insight, will be of special interest to Hispanic teens, it is a sparkling addition to the story of America's "salad bowl" and will appeal to young people of all heritages.

Jane S. Drabkin, Chinn Park Regional Library, Prince William, VA

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.


More About the Author

www.mariearana.net
Marie Arana was born in Lima, Peru, the daughter of a Peruvian father and an American mother. Her latest book is a biography of the South American founder Simón Bolívar, "Bolívar: American Liberator," which was released in April 2013. Highly praised in the United States and Britain, it won the Los Angeles Times Book Award in 2014. Marie is also the author of an acclaimed memoir "American Chica," which described her bicultural childhood between North and South Americas. The book was a finalist for the National Book Award, the PEN-Memoir Award, and chosen best book of the year by several publications. Her novels, "Cellophane" and "Lima Nights," are dramatically different works, the first being a rich, lush satire of the Amazon jungle, the second being a stark, urban love story set in contemporary Peru; both were cited by numerous national publications as one of the best books of the year. Her book "The Writing Life," is a collection from her well-known column for The Washington Post, which explores the way writers think and work. Marie wrote the Latin American script for the film, "Girl Rising," which premiered in March 2013. Marie is the former editor in chief of "Book World" at The Washington Post and a senior consultant to the Librarian of Congress. You can find more information about her at www.mariearana.net.

Customer Reviews

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I can understand her feelings.
Gloria G. Bernero
She writes with penetrating insights into the minds and soul of an extraordinarily gifted family, the strengths and weaknesses of their characters, their humanity.
Frances Marie Scura
Language is so much more than a vehicle to transmit information.
Esther R. Nelson

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

18 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Esther R. Nelson on September 7, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Marie Arana's story is so much more than her account of growing up between two continents--North and South America. She contextualizes herself within a particular historical time--both in Peru and in the United States, showing how the "goings on" in the wider culture of both continents affected her own particular development. How she navigates both worlds is what American Chica is all about.
Particularly enlightening to me was Arana's discovery of a theory at the British University of Hong Kong "claiming that bilingualism can hurt you...The bicultural person seems so thoroughly one way in one language, so thoroughly different in another. Only an impostor would hide that other half so well." Since I also grew up "bilingual," Arana's discovery at the British University resonated with my own experience. Just exactly who am I and where is it that I belong? Language is so much more than a vehicle to transmit information. With language we create the "self" and name our environment. That "self" and that environment will look different depending on what language I use. Sometimes the footing is as unsteady as walking the earth after one of those Peruvian earthquakes.
Great job!
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Frances Marie Scura on August 13, 2001
Format: Hardcover
American Chica is an adventure story, a love story, and ultimately a learning to find peace with yourself story. Marie Arana's authorial voice has an authentic, radiant and haunting passion for Peru. Her connection to its almost mystical soil is so palpable it shimmers. She writes about her love for a homeland half-a-world away, and half-a-lifetime away, with descriptions so vivid the reader can feel the hacienda's sand beneath the feet and smell the sugar cane in fields as far as the eye can see. But Ms. Arana draws her readers into her story not on the strength of an exotic locale alone. She writes with penetrating insights into the minds and soul of an extraordinarily gifted family, the strengths and weaknesses of their characters, their humanity. Ms. Arana is able to present the various points of view of her parents' clash of backgrounds without taking sides. Her family members are sympathetic and drawn with depth, as her passionate father makes over-arching efforts to make a good life for his family in Peru and her mother passionately dedicates herself to the education and protection of her children and her North American way of life. Ms. Arana captures our sympathy most of all, as the child caught in the middle, who as she grows up, has to work harder and harder to succeed because being different is a liability in both hemispheres. But it is Peru whose presence in the story is the real protagonist, a member and an outcast of the family, whose terrible and beautiful history loses and gains its soul over and over, but always yearns for a future of redemption and respect. It is now a place reinventing itself for new generations, but the tug of its terrible and entrenched class system holds fast. Ms.Read more ›
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Lisa Pozzi on December 26, 2005
Format: Paperback
I looked forward every night to reading Arana's way with words. Not only was the subject matter a great story -- duality on many levels, and she explored all the layers -- but she told her story with excellent prose.

Having studied Latin America for years I've always been envious of my follow classmates & friends who have multiple identities...this book opened my eyes to the deeper challenges of multicultural identity, beyond the obvious racism/segregation to the more internal challenges; Arana's description of how she developed not just her gringa identity, or her Peruvian identity but her "faking it" identity fascinated me.

I hope to see more of her work.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 26, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Without the prompting of my book club, I would not have read American Chica, and I would have missed this honest, thoughtful and absolutely captivating insight into a bicultural family. I would have missed one of the best books that I've read this year.
I was surprised to discover how much I related to Marie Arana's experiences even though I was the daughter of two white-bread American parents. Her lush descriptions of the Peruvian gardens revived memories of my early childhood in Puerto Rico. I remembered the difficult adjustment when we moved from Puerto Rico to Canada. I wanted to shout "I'm an American!" every time I would overhear teachers and other students referring to me as the "Puerto Rican girl." I remember being embarrassed when fellow students would ask me to "say something in Spanish" and then later the culture shock when we moved to Texas and I became known as "the Canadian."
As our world becomes smaller, travel more accessible, and bicultural families more common, Arana's work becomes meaningful to all of us. The only way to counter our human inclination toward prejudice is by learning about each other and sharing our stories, the priceless gifts of our culture and experiences. I applaud Arana for her beautifully written and engaging work and for sharing this gift with us.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Jaime Alcabes on September 25, 2001
Format: Hardcover
This wonderful bio of the author's early years in Peru and the States describes a situation that so many of us find ourselves in these days when we sense that we belong to more than one culture. It is a situation that makes the participant feel like an impostor, always having to somehow fake belonging to one or the other; but it also provides tremendous wealth for we are thus able to get more than just one puny opening to the universe.
The style is rich and the descriptions seem authentic. But what makes the book quite special are the situations the young Marie gets into as she tries with humor and imagination to penetrate the different worlds she comes into contact.
Bien vale la pena.
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