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Ordinary Girls

A Memoir

by Jaquira Díaz

Ordinary Girls by Jaquira Díaz X
Ordinary Girls by Jaquira Díaz
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  • Published Oct 2019
    336 pages
    Genre: Biography/Memoir

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  • Kathryn W. (Weatherly, PA)
    Compelling read
    Diaz writes with a fierce honesty that can be overwhelming at times as her childhood and young adult life were difficult to the extreme. While this is a memoir it almost reads like a novel in part due to the detail with which she tells her story. I also found it very interesting that she wove bits of Puerto Rican history throughout her story giving the reader a sense of who the people of Puerto Rico are. At times tragic and heartbreaking it is also a story of survival and the power of friendship.
  • Dotty S. (Bloomington, IN)
    Powerful memoir
    I was fascinated to read about this woman's life growing up first in Puerto Rico and then in Miami. I knew very little about the area in Miami where Jaquira Diaz and her family lived. The Miami I knew of was the place of extremely wealthy, the place where rich people spend the winter - I knew absolutely nothing about the poverty and hardships of her community.

    I thought that she was amazingly strong to have gone through all that she did, and still remain positive and hopeful. Her home life was truly horrific. Her Grandmother was the only true parent and role model. She never wavered in her love and support for Jaqui and all her children and grandchildren.

    It's a powerful illustration of poverty and the extreme lack of services for the poor, especially poor people of color.
  • Melissa S. (Rowland, NC)
    Overcoming Soul-Deep Disappointment
    In Ordinary Girls, Jaquira Diaz delivers both a soul torturing and to your core inspirational memoir that leaves the reader wondering how in the hell she lives long enough to finish college, much less create a productive, meaningful, and successful life. Diaz's childhood and young adulthood are so riddled with heartache, abuse, and guttural disappointment, I many times forget I am reading nonfiction. I find myself over and over again questioning, "How can this be real? How can one person endure so much emotional torture (from everyone, including herself)?" Once I accept Diaz's reality, I am able to see the beauty in the relationships of Diaz's life. What makes this memoir so very relatable is the fact that even though we may not have lived in the slums of Miami with a drug-addicted mentally ill mother, we have all been hurt by family members. Much like Jeannette Walls in The Glass Castle, I see a woman who, after enduring a life of pain, sorrow, and immense family disappointment, decides to rise, take up her cross and show the world what a survivor looks like, and in the end, come to peace with everything.

    Diaz's mission to give voice to the people whom society never allowed is achieved only through baring her soul and sharing all the harrowing details of growing up with parents who succumb to their own demons and almost take their children with them. My belief in the human spirit and that little "something" deep within us that so very rarely gets tapped, is renewed again and again with this memoir. Just when I think Diaz is going to kill herself or someone else, she rises from the ashes of one screwed up life and propels herself further than anyone ever believed she could.
  • RebeccaR (Western USA)
    An Intense Look at the Effect of Poverty
    Although ORDINARY GIRLS is a memoir, it is also an intense bird's-eye view of poverty and its particularly devastating effects upon females in America. For readers who liked the YA novel The Hate U Give, there's no doubt you will like Jaquira Diaz's memoir. However, for readers who might have been disappointed in The Hate U Give or who never read it because YA is not a genre you cross over to, do not let this "for fans of" type comparison prevent you from reading ORDINARY GIRLS. Diaz's book reads like a novel but does not spare any gritty details or romanticize poverty. There are no cliche we-were-poor-but happy scenes here. Young Jaqui's debilitating hunger and exposure to pedophiles openly preying on unsupervised children help the reader understand just how bad urban poverty can be. Interestingly, the author does not condemn any one person or sector of society for her horrible childhood or her horrible life choices. When the book wraps up with references to well-televised moments in Puerto Rico after 2017's Hurricane Maria, it is a vivid reminder that these 319 pages deal with real people.
  • Patti H. (Williston, VT)
    My review of "Ordinary Girls" by Jaquira Diaz
    A memoir that is an "in your face" memoir. Ms. Diaz pulls you in right from the very first page. She talks about "finding ourselves, even as we are losing the people we love, how we are not defined by the worst thing we've ever done". An extraordinary statement in the eyes of this reader.

    Her story is about survival, battling addictions, mental illness and deplorable situations of abuse and neglect at the hands of those who are meant to protect her. Ms. Diaz is strong, willful, defiant, yet caring and compassionate. When she loves, she loves with every part of her being......her friends, "abeula", Alaina, Mami and Papi. Her love is fierce and unremitting.

    This is the memoir of all memoirs. Ms. Diaz tells us exactly as it is, as it should be and as it isn't. Comparable to none, Ms. Diaz is at the top of her league. Writing for all the "girls" and those who have no "voice", she is an undeniably, remarkable, empowering woman. She is the "voice" for all those who dare not speak. Perhaps now they will........
  • Maryanne (Chapel Hill, NC)
    Breakout from Poverty
    Poverty is the underlying challenge of Jaquira Diaz's broken childhood – a childhood that is plagued with parental neglect and addiction, verbal and physical abuse, rejection, hunger, and utter chaos. Living in public housing projects in Puerto Rico and Miami Beach, Diaz relates her struggles with unrepressed anger, depression, suicide, and sexual identity while clinging to a core group of troubled girlfriends like herself. Many will compare this book to Tara Westover's "Educated", because both women relate an escape story from abusive families, but their journeys are very different. Once Westover fled from her parents' isolated home in Idaho, her memoir reflects a fairly linear, forward journey with some minor bumps. In contrast, Diaz's escape mirrors her convoluted route, but her omission of the detailed process along with her disjointed, non-linear writing style make it difficult to follow. Nevertheless, Diaz's story is not to be missed.
  • Carolyn D. (Chico, CA)
    Not an ordinary girl!
    I am of two minds about this book.

    Jaquira Diaz does not blink. She is not interested in your comfort zone. She is telling her story as she lived it – in the moment. She wants you to understand the how of Puerto Rican culture and history informed her life. By any measure, the author's early life is troubled, chaotic, bizarre. Not an easy read.

    However, the structure of the book was a problem for me. The book reads like a string of pieces that were published elsewhere and the same events are repeated over and over. The book started to crawl with this repetition. The non-linear writing is an interesting approach to a chaotic life but not completely successful. After her descriptions in great detail of her youth and her service in the military, the book goes into warp speed to get to the end without the why's of her decision to go back to school and her journey to a more satisfied life.

    I recommend the book because it is powerful, Diaz voice is worth reading, and the issues she raises are important and timely. It is a bumpy ride, but it pays off ... mostly.
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