"For the girls they were, for the girl I was, for girls everywhere who are just like we used to be. For the black and brown girls. For the girls on the merry-go-round making the world spin. For the wild girls and the party girls, the loudmouths and troublemakers. For the girls who are angry and lost. For the girls who never saw themselves in books. For the girls who love other girls, sometimes in secret. For the girls who believe in monsters. For the girls on the edge who are ready to fly. For the ordinary girls. For all the girls who broke my heart. And their mothers. And their daughters. And if I could reach back through time and space to that girl I was, to all my girls, I would tell you to take care, to love each other, fight less, dance dance dance until you're breathless. And goddamn, girl. Love."
This is a searing memoir. I wasn't sure what to expect from the blurb or the critically acclaimed reviews. I knew it would be fantastically written, but I wasn't sure what kind of story it would be. Regardless, I was utterly, completely, heartstoppingly captivated by Jaquira Diaz' words.
Diaz writes about her life, and the multiple lifetimes it feels like she has lived as, in her words, an ordinary girl. Her experience is singular yet representative, poignantly alone and yet surrounded by other similar echoes of other girls' experiences. While the main story is Diaz's, the vibrating truth speaks for all the women intersecting with Diaz's voice and identity.
As a half-Black Puerto Rico child born to a Black father, poet and womanizer, and a white mother, hounded by schizophrenia and addiction, Diaz's life emerges into uncertainty and follows the fracture lines as her tale unfolds, spanning the family's early life in Puerto Rico and their move to Miami Beach, her parents' separation and Diaz's own struggles to cope with the constant cycle of change. And it's not just her tale that unfolds, but those of the girls and women who are facets of her life: her Abuela, her grandmother, her mother, her younger sister, her neighbors, her friends, her enemies, strangers on the street.
Through Diaz's words, all these women and herself and her community are connecting, spiraling, fracturing, unending. There are so many words I could use to describe the flow of the narrative but let's settle for hypnotic. That feels the most true.
What an important and showstopping debut. I look forward to whatever Diaz decides to write next—you best believe I'll have that on preorder.
Thank you to Algonquin Books for my copy in exchange for an honest review.
Amy Imogene Reads
Just someone looking for her own door into Wonderland.