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American Chica: Two Worlds, One Childhood Paperback – May 28, 2002
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"Lush, mystical ... a memoir that blends family historia and the puzzling deadly politics of Peru."—USA Today
"American Chica is a fascinating blend of autobiography and soap opera, memoir and meditation. ... full of larger-than-life characters and stranger-than-fiction situations. ... delightful."—Washington Post
"Arana's intimate and intelligent memoir captures exactly the pulse of a changing America. ...[C]learly demonstrates her ability to write crystalline prose and make erudite cultural observations."—Library Journal
"Part history, part family memoir ... American Chica reads like a collaboration between John Cheever and Isabel Allende.... One of the many reasons the reader can't put this memoir down is the author's impressive command of her craft.... Arana has left her own imprint on her material, while at the same time displaying virtuosity in the storyteller's traditional gifts: spareness, clarity, and a passion for allegory."—The New York Times Book Review
A South American man, a North American woman—hoping against hope, throwing a frail span over the divide, trying to bolt beams into sand. There was one large lesson my parents had yet to learn as they strode into the garden with friends, hungry for rum and fried blood: There is a fundamental rift between North and South America, a flaw so deep it is tectonic. The plates don't fit. The earth is loose. A fault runs through. Earthquakes happen. Walls are likely to fall.
—from American Chica
From the Hardcover edition.
From the Inside Flap
In her father's Peruvian family, MARIE ARANA was taught to be a proper lady, yet in her mother's American family she learned to shoot a gun, break a horse, and snap a chicken's neck for dinner. Arana shuttled easily between these deeply separate cultures for years. But only when she immigrated with her family to the United States did she come to understand that she was a hybrid American whose cultural identity was split in half. Coming to terms with this split is at the heart of this graceful, beautifully realized portrait of a child who "was a north-south collision, a New World fusion. An American Chica."
Here are two vastly different landscapes: Peru--earthquake-prone, charged with ghosts of history and mythology--and the sprawling prairie lands of Wyoming. In these rich terrains resides a colorful cast of family members who bring Arana's historia to life...her proud grandfather who one day simply stopped coming down the stairs; her dazzling grandmother, "clicking through the house as if she were making her way onstage." But most important are Arana's parents: he a brilliant engineer, she a gifted musician. For more than half a century these two passionate, strong-willed people struggled to overcome the bicultural tensions in their marriage and, finally, to prevail.
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Life centers around her mother and father--the dashing Peruvian engineer and her mother, the beautiful, mysterious American. But not everything is perfect in Marizi's world. Every now and then she is subject to the reverse racism of being half-foreign. Nevermind that she is a native of Peru. Yet, when she moves to New Jersey with her mother, she is subject to racism from those who see her as an intuder--(insert racist slurs here); a person who doesn't belong. Nevermind that she is as American as those who insult her for being different.
That sense of belonging sets the tone of this memoir. How well-adjusted is a child who is constantly told that she is different? She is half Peruvian, half North-American. She carries the richness of both cultures and speaks two languages. The conclusion Ms. Arana draws of being made to feel insincere because she is neither one thing nor another is a very powerful one, which only someone who is the offspring of parents of different nationalities can understand.
Ms. Arana tells her story with prose that draws you in. Sometimes, though, it is over the top and the pace of the novel seems to slow towards the end. Yet, she recounts the story of her childhood with the heart-felt affection of one sharing her most special memories
enjoyed the author's reminisces.....great read!!! Five Stars!!