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The Dirty Girls Social Club: A Novel Hardcover – May 2, 2003

3.7 out of 5 stars 184 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

The Dirty Girls Social Club closely resembles Terry McMillan's Waiting to Exhale: a handful of young women seek real love and job satisfaction. Unlike McMillan, Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez has completely thrown out any literary pretensions whatsoever, and that's not necessarily a bad thing. Dirty Girls is a fun, easy, ultimately charming read, not least because the girls themselves are so appealing. Six Latina women become fast friends at Boston University and thereafter meet as a group every few months. Now in their late twenties, they're each on the cusp of the life they want. The novel is narrated in turn by each woman. Feisty Lauren has a column at the Boston Globe, but can't help falling for losers; ghetto-elegant Usnavys is trying to find a man to match her own earning power and expensive tastes; uptight Rebecca is a successful magazine publisher and an unsuccessful wife; beautiful TV anchor Elizabeth has a secret; Sara leads a Martha-Stewart-perfect life as a homemaker; and Amber is a hopeful rock musician in L.A.

The novel works because Valdes-Rodriguez has compassion for her characters; each is faulted, but none is culpable. She also has an eye for the telling detail, as when Rebecca tries to befriend her white husband's stuffy family: "His sister took step classes with me and we shopped for clothes together on Newbury Street and went to the Isabella Stuart Gardner Museum one afternoon with Au Bon Pain sandwiches in our handbags." Something about those sandwiches makes the whole enterprise seem more poignant. On the down side, Valdes-Rodriguez is so eager to make things work out for her ladies, her writing sometimes beggars belief. Men actually say things like "Swear to me you're happily married, and I'll stop pursuing you." Yes, Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez is, in fact, the Latina Terry McMillan. That is, if McMillan were a slighty guiltier pleasure. --Claire Dederer

From Publishers Weekly

Valdes-Rodriguez's debut novel delivers on the promise of its sexy title, offering six lively, irreverent characters: the sucias ("dirty girls" in Spanish), who have been friends since college and get together twice a year to catch up. The book opens at just such a meeting, six years after they've graduated from Boston University, and takes us through an eventful year in their late 20-something lives. This diverse group of women defies stereotypes. There's reserved, conservative Rebecca, founder and editor of a magazine for Latina women, whose marriage to a preppy, Marxist theory-spouting academic is on the rocks; Sara, a full-time mom in Brookline, from a rich Cuban-Jewish family and married to an abusive husband; Usnavys, ambitious and entertainingly materialistic, who's an executive with United Way; Amber, a struggling singer and guitarist; Elizabeth, host of a Boston morning TV show and a born-again Christian; and Lauren, a feisty, hard-drinking newspaper columnist, half Cuban and "half white trash." The book addresses serious questions-prejudice, the difficulty of winning respect from Latino men-but balances them with enough budding (and dying) romances and descriptions of clothing and decor to satisfy any chick lit fan. The lively, humorous writing is peppered with Spanglish and attitude (watching Usnavys approach their meeting place, Lauren says, "Look at her. She just slid up to the curb out front in her silver BMW sedan.... She's on her cell phone. Wait, take two: She's on her itsy-bitsy cell phone. It gets smaller every time I see her. Or maybe she gets bigger, I can't tell. Girl loves her food.") This is a fun, irresistible debut.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press; 1st edition (May 2, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312313810
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312313814
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.2 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (184 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,744,995 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By A Customer on May 3, 2003
Format: Hardcover
I was so looking forward to this book after reading about the bidding war and the movie rights, but unfortunately it doesn't live up to the hype.
The characters, six Hispanic girl friends in their late 20s, don't have any depth to them. The dialogue sounds forced. They read as representatives of whatever ethnic group they happen to be from, and not as characters unto themselves. In good books, the characters take on a life of their own, but that just doesn't happen here. One character is so out there (Amber), it's just silly.
Overall, I just wasn't convinced.
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By A Customer on June 9, 2003
Format: Hardcover
I feel awful doing this, because there is such a shortage of Latino literature on the market that it hurts to slam anything out there, even if it's bad. "The Dirty Girls' Social Club" was just that - bad. I picked it up based on a review calling it good beach reading on my vacation, grabbed a hat and some sunscreen, and wasted a few hours.
Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez wrote her book with an admirable idea in mind - portray Latina women as strong, diverse people with interests and goals other than those portrayed by mainstream media. However, she sorely fails in reaching her own lofty goal. Her main character, Lauren, is without a doubt the most unsympathetic charater I have ever had the misfortune to read. The premise surrounding Rebecca's story was just ridiculous (I wish I could find someone willing to just throw a one million dollar check at me after one meeting!), as were the circumstances surrounding Sara's spousal abuse. Usnavys was just plain ludicrous, inside and out, and completely fell into the money-hungry, label-seeking sterotype that many people have of Latin women.
The most compelling parts of the story, while still having their roots mired in the same unbelievable muck as Sara's, were Elizabeth's. She's also, ironically enough, the most sorely underused character in the book, and the only one I would have liked to see more of. However, it would have been nice if Valdes-Rodriguez remembered that Boston, for all of its surface conservativeness, is actually more liberal than the story allowed it to be, especially with the large Gothic presence in the colleges.
As a Latina myself, I couldn't imagine sitting through this book again, and am SO not looking forward to the movie. Technically, Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez is a good writer. I'm not convinced, by this offering anyway, that she has what it takes to be a great author.
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Format: Paperback
I honestly don't understand the hype behind this book. It basically reads like an outline that's only been partially filled in, with randomly fleshed-out ideas here and there, and extremely rough character sketches. Usnavys works for a non-profit organization, yet she's a materialistic, money-grubbing gold-digger? I found that combination hard to swallow, although I may have been able to grasp the concept it if Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez had even once showed us Usvnays at her job, which she didn't.

I also had a hard time conjuring up a concrete image of Elizabeth, the super-successful newscaster/hard-core Christian/lesbian, mainly because she didn't seem to have any kind of struggle with being a Christian and a lesbian simultaneously. I do believe that it's possible to be a gay Christian, in fact I know several, but I also know that they've all experienced at least SOMEWHAT of a struggle (if not a long, difficult battle), to reconcile their sexual and spiritual orientations. It just seemed like Elizabeth's only struggle was keeping her personal life a secret from the public, and in real life, I think her struggle would be much more multi-faceted, an adjective AVR has yet to learn. I just had a hard time believing Elizabeth woke up one morning and said "Hmm, I'm feeling a little lesbianish today. Now, what should I wear to church?" Which is basically how AVR portrayed her.

Similarly, Sara's character is described as being a Jewish Cuban, yet we see nothing that illustrates that she's Jewish, other than a brief mention of the fact that she was one of the first Cuban girls in her neighborhood to have a Bat Mitzvah. I was intrigued by this combination of cultures, which-and I'll allow my ignorance to show here-I never knew existed.
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Format: Paperback
When I picture Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez writing this book, here's what I see:

An attractive woman sits at a desk. In front of her is a bulletin board with six character names on it, perhaps written in the center of colorful targets. In her manicured hands are a bunch of darts, each engraved with a different description -- "lesbian", "victim of domestic abuse", "jewish", "christian", "icy", "married to a white guy", "materialistic", "sassy". Actually, I think there must be at least four darts that say "sassy." The author then proceeds to toss the darts, one by one, onto the bulletin board, and then assigns traits to each character based on how the darts land.

There really can't be any other explanation for how she winds up with such paper-flat characters who have such random attributes, many of which are never fully fleshed out and ALL of which just fall right into the well-worn chick-lit groove without offering any fresh insight or expounding upon them in any way except to make the characters Latinas.

If Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez had taken each of these six people and written a separate novel -- hell, even a decent novella -- a succint SHORT STORY for cying out loud!!! -- about each of them, I could have bought it, and enjoyed reading each of them individually. But having six characters thrown at me BAM! BAM! BAM! in such rapid succession not only made my head spin trying to keep up with who was who, it also prevented me from feeling any empathy for any of the characters -- something that's just a *teensy* bit vital for any book featuring . . . characters.

Overall I think this book got attention because there are so few "mainstream" books that feature Latina characters so prominently. I think Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez's intentions were good.
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