Book Review: American Chica: Two Worlds, One Childhood

American Chica: Two Worlds, One Childhood

Written by Marie Arana
Published by Bantam Dell
ISBN: 978-0385319638
Age level: Adult

Amongst many other things, Marie Arana, author of American Chica: Two Worlds, One Childhood, is a brilliant storyteller. American Chica, her memoir, tells the story of a childhood, growing up with a Peruvian engineer and aristocrat for a father and an American musician as a mother. She begins with slowly discussing and dissecting her family structure: her perfect sister and her adventurous brother, her two parents who seem, at times, so different from each other, and her role. In the end, it’s not only a beautiful narrative of her background, it’s also a telling tale of the lineage of a family and the connection of two different cultures that offer distinctly divergent ideas of what it means to be “American.”

Wendy Gimbel, author of the New York Times book review for American Chica, stated:

“One of the many reasons the reader can’t put this memoir down is the author’s impressive command of her craft. “Storytelling,” the critic Walter Benjamin once wrote, “sinks the thing into the life of the storyteller, in order to bring it out of him again. Thus traces of the storyteller cling to the story the way handprints of the potter cling to the dry vessel.” Arana has left her own imprint on her material, while at the same time displaying virtuosity in the storyteller’s traditional gifts: sparseness, clarity and a passion for allegory.”

For me, this was so true, Arana has crafted a beautiful memoir, one which allows the reader glimpses into an abundance of elements in a young woman’s life: Family structure, cultural differences, United States imperialism and its economic interests in Latin America, social inequality and class struggles in Latin America, and the list goes on.

I really appreciated this book, mainly because of the honest way Arana approached her past and how she unfolded the complicated relationship of her parents – analyzing the history both from the perspective of her childhood and as an adult looking back. I also really enjoyed the way she looked at herself as both distinctly Peruvian and distinctly North American, and how those two separate cultures came together to give her a new and distinct persona as a woman from Las Americas. She really approaches the question of identity well, making this memoir an eye-opening way to look at the intersection of behaviors, cultural practices, and complicated experiences for people divided by two cultures. In the end, it seems Arana has been able to navigate the multiple cultures from which she comes and uses them to better understand. We learn much from reading the story of her struggles, failures, successes and endless inquiry.

For more information on Marie Arana and American Chica please visit the links below:

Marie Arana’s official author website

New York Times Book Review of American Chica

New York Times excerpt of American Chica

Kirkus Review of American Chica

Library of Congress blog “Inquiring Minds”: An Interview with Marie Arana

As always, thank you for reading. I hope you have enjoyed the posts and I know you will enjoy American Chica: Two Worlds, One Childhood by Marie Arana.

Nos vemos, compañer@s,


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s