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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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  • Publishes in USA 
    Oct 29, 2019
    336 pages
    Genre: Biography/Memoir

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  • 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........
  • Dorinne D. (Wickenburg, AZ)

    Ordinary Girls with Extraordinary Lives
    This memoir by Jaquira Diaz gives us an intimate look into life in Puerto Rico and Miami Beach for Latinas. Not an easy life by any means, with a dysfunctional mother and a disinterested father, Jaqui grows up fending for herself in every way imaginable, and to a middle class American like myself, in many ways unimaginable. The fact that suicide is regarded as a solution to her situation, one which she thinks about a lot and almost succeeds in accomplishing, but never quite making it the end of life, is commonplace. The best part of this story, for me, is the fact in spite of all the odds against her success, Jaqui ends up getting her GED, eventually going to college and getting her Masters Degree, and becomes a successful freelance writer. Another highlight is the childhood relationships that Jaqui manages to keep going throughout her life - the love she and her friends have for each other, even through all their trials and tribulations. This book should be an inspiration for us all, whether or not we have suffered the deprivations and humiliations of the "ordinary girls" in the story. It shows that, no matter what your struggles in life are, you can overcome them with a strong will and determination, or as my mother would tell me: Mind over matter will always win in the end!
  • Amy S. (Tucson, AZ)

    What A Ride!
    Diaz offers a gut wrenchingly honest and unapologetic look at her life, the people, and the places that shaped her. Her title implies that the way she and her friends lived was "ordinary", or perhaps more common than we think. "All those people, they just didn't get that there was no way in hell we could care about homework, or getting to school on time- -or at all- -when our parents were on drugs or getting stabbed, and we were getting arrested or jumped or worse." When WILL we get it?

    Diaz's memoir reads somewhat frantically - I could feel the beat of the music she danced to, the fists pounding against her, the heart racing fear she experienced, the alcohol flowing down her throat... I felt myself bobbing up and down as I read about the highs and lows in her life.

    I wished she hadn't glossed over the moments of sheer strength and perseverance she found deep inside her to escape the cycle of addiction, violence, and mental illness because her achievements, in light of all she faced, are anything but ordinary.
  • Kathleen K. (York, ME)

    Colorful Memoir
    Ordinary Girls is Diaz's colorful memoir of growing up in Puerto Rico and Miami. It is written with disarming frankness despite the multitude of challenges that she endured growing up: violence, abuse and neglect, poverty, frequent moves, a parent with mental illness, racism, homophobia, gangs, rape, drug abuse and addiction, dropping out of school, running away from home, and multiple suicide attempts. Diaz writes about the important people and settings of her young life with vibrancy and doesn't shy away from portraying herself honestly, even when it isn't in a positive light.

    The memoir begins in a linear fashion, but as it progresses it switches to a more thematic organization. The end, in particular, feels fragmented and rushed as it quickly shifts between several places and points in history. Diaz attempts to tie in Puerto Rico's colonial history with current events in Miami, along with her own life and visits back and forth between the U.S. and P.R. At times, it is difficult to keep track of Diaz's age and situation as she rapidly shifts between time periods throughout the book (sometimes she attempts to tie loose ends together about a person or place and will try to explain 'a year before....' and 'six years later' but 'before this happened...') creating confusion. There were also times that the level of detail seemed inappropriate - there are sexual encounters described in excruciating detail yet major aspects of her marriage are glossed over.

    Despite some confusion and disorganization, Ordinary Girls is a fascinating look into a difficult life.
  • Linda V. (Independence, KY)

    passionate but distracted
    In the vein of Nicolasa Mohr and other Puerto Rican writers, Jacquira weaves her story with the history and culture of Puerto Rico. She tells the story of a confused girl who grows up to be a confused and angry young woman. Then there is a disconnect. We move from her time in the army and then off to her being involved in a literacy program and her return to Puerto Rico and some salient Puerto Rican history. It is almost as if she got tired of telling her life story and decided to come to the present quickly. This is quite a shame because the beginning of her memoir has a nice pace and intensity. I would have liked to have heard of how she got into college (again) and worked her way towards becoming a writer. That would have been a more powerful message of her journey and success and who she is as a woman now.
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