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American chica : two worlds, one childhood
Arana, Marie.
Adult Nonfiction PN4874.A567 A3 2001

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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. (May 8) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

From Library Journal:

Those who have lived life trying to bridge two different worlds will find that Arana's intimate and intelligent memoir captures exactly the pulse of a changing America. In the mid-1940s, Arana's Peruvian father, an upper-class, MIT-educated engineer, married a free-spirited Wyoming musician and brought her back to his homeland to raise their three children. Told from the perspective of a precocious young Arana, who is learning that she has to navigate constantly between her inner two selves the "wild American" and the "lady-like Latina" the first chapters recount an idyllic childhood in Peru. But eventually, circumstance leads her to trace her lineage back to the infamous Julio Cesar Arana, who turned a profitable rubber business at the edge of the Amazon into a virtual human slaughterhouse, and Arana reveals the legacy of shame surrounding her surname. Arana expertly juggles the good vs. evil elements essential to any coming-of-age story and forays effortlessly into mystical moments. Toward the end, her themes begin to feel repetitive, but her story still manages to grip you. Finally able to connect the pieces of her family's history, she likens Peru's earthquakes to her parents' love, in which "two force fields meet and you have confrontation." With her first book, Arana, who is editor of the Washington Post Book World, clearly demonstrates her ability to write crystalline prose and make erudite cultural observations. Recommended for all libraries. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 1/01.] Adriana Lopez, "Cr!ticas" (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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