"I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter" by Erika L. Sánchez, Chapters 1-4

January 23, 2018
After the sudden death of her seemingly perfect sister, Julia tries to learn more about her sister's life while negotiating complicated family relationships.

Here are links to our lists for the novel: Chapters 1-4, Chapters 5-9, Chapters 10-14, Chapters 15-20, Chapters 21-29
What’s surprised me most about seeing my sister dead is the lingering smirk on her face.
The top half of her face is angry—like she’s ready to stab someone—and the bottom half is almost smug.
Olga was as meek and fragile as a baby bird.
The bruises and gashes on her cheeks are masked with thick coats of cheap foundation, making her face haggard, even though she is (was) only twenty-two.
Where did they find this mortician, the flea market?
Tía complains about the drought the whole ride over. “It’s ruining all the crops,” she says. “The cows are emaciated. People don’t know what to do anymore.”
The land is definitely drier than I remember. The trees are yellow and brittle.
I can’t blame him, because when he tried to calm her down a few hours ago, Amá kicked and flailed her arms until she gave him a black eye.
One is wearing a faded and billowy black dress, and the other wears a saggy skirt that looks like an old curtain.
I’ve replayed the day over and over in my head so many times and have written down every single detail, but I still can’t find the foreshadowing.
When someone dies, people always say they had some sort of premonition, a sinking feeling that something awful was right around the corner.
Of course I was lying, but who was she to question my menstrual cycle? How intrusive.
“I’d be very happy to provide you with empirical evidence if you want, even though I think you’re violating my human rights.”
She’s been wearing the same loose and frumpy nightgown, and I’m almost positive she hasn’t taken a shower this entire time, which is scary, because Amá is the cleanest person I know.
When I was seven, Amá found out I hadn’t showered for five days, so she dunked me in a scalding hot tub and scrubbed me with a brush until my skin ached.
I don’t want to bother my parents because they have enough to worry about, but I’m so hungry and tired of eating nothing but tortillas and eggs.
I’d rather live in the streets than be a submissive Mexican wife who spends all day cooking and cleaning.
After searching every crevice of my room, I manage to find $4.75 in change.
“That’s not true.” Amá furrows her brow.
Sometimes I wondered if she’d live with my parents forever like that sap Tita, from Like Water for Chocolate.
The stuffed animals on the dresser make me sad. I mean, I know they’re inanimate objects—I’m not an idiot—but I imagine them all melancholic, waiting for my sister to come back.
The stuffed animals on the dresser make me sad. I mean, I know they’re inanimate objects—I’m not an idiot—but I imagine them all melancholic, waiting for my sister to come back.
Stuff that’s sexist, for example, makes me crazy.
...two pendulous burdens I’ve been lugging around since I was thirteen.
If I went out into the world with naked eyeballs, I’d probably be robbed, run over by a car, or mauled by animals.
Once, they even went to Great America (how riveting!).
In these dreams, I’m a famous writer who wears flamboyant scarves and travels all around the world, meeting fascinating people.
While Mr. Simmons goes on and on about integers, I work on a poem in my journal.
I opened my wings and took
a swim in a warm, euphoric dream
of hands pressed to faces,
opened to the mad dancing
and combusted into a new constellation.
After some brainstorming and doodling, I decide on the Art Institute, which is one of my favorite places in the whole world.
The Continental is small but lavish, lots of blue and off-white.
“Okay, well, can you at least tell me if this hotel is connected to the Skyline? Are they owned by the same company?”
“Yes, they’re a part of the same conglomerate. Why do you ask?”
“Don’t we all have a right to art? Are you trying to keep me from an education? That seems very bourgeoisie, if you ask me.”
I gasp when I see the woman’s face, because my sister’s eyes are staring back at me. I never paid attention to that expression before—neither joyous nor somber, but as if she were trying to tell me something.
On top of that, there are porcelain dolls on doilies on nearly every surface of the house.
We may be poor, but at least we’re not this tacky.
When Angie finally comes out of her room, she’s wearing a ratty gray robe and her hair is matted and greasy. Her eyes are bright red, as if she’d been crying all night.
I feel exasperated. Maybe this was a mistake.
Angie doesn’t understand how hard it’s been for me to speak to anyone in my family. She hasn’t seen how the silence and tension have been smothering us for years. She doesn’t get that I feel like a three-headed alien in my own home.
As I leave her room, Doña Ramona comes rushing toward me, her slippers flap-flap-flapping on the linoleum.

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