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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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There are currently 21 member reviews
for Ordinary Girls
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  • Doris K. (Mountain Iron, MN)
    Ordinary Girls
    This was a difficult book to read. The story is almost unbelievable. To realize the author could overcome all the negative influences in her life is difficult to comprehend. Also it was hard to follow as she jumped from one time period to another without clues as to where she was. So many Spanish words were used without explanation it was easy to lose track of what was happening.
    I know very little of the history of Puerto Rico. The details she wrote about such as how poorly these citizens have been treated by the United States government made me want to learn more about it. This is a sign of a good book.The descriptions of the people and the area are very well done.
    Because of my earlier comments I could only give this book four stars. I will be very careful to whom I will recommend it.
  • Carole A. (Denver, CO)
    More universal than you would think!
    It usually takes the first sentence or few to draw me into a book. This was not the case with Ordinary Girls and normally would have closed the book and moved on. Since I had committed to read and review I kept going.

    Lucky me for being compulsive and keeping promises. Diaz did draw me into her life which, like many lives, contained the good, the bad and the ugly. Her journey to seek out positive support and love and the grit that helped her survive and to overcome multiple road blocks placed in her way should be an inspiration for many.

    While centered on the brown and black communities these battles for survival are not isolated in these communities. "Ordinary Girls" is a perfect fit for book clubs of all ages and will provide a lot of materials for discussion down many avenues. It is a book written from the heart of inner strength and belief in one's self.

    Coincidentally I was reading the short story "Sweetness" by he late Toni Morrison. Morrison expressed some of the same color distinction battles and minority/disadvantaged struggles. Perhaps Diaz will be the woman strong enough to carry the banner and continue the message.

    My recommendation is to skim past the first few lines and read the book alone or with your book club or just share!
  • Sandra C. (Rensselaer, NY)
    It was eyeopening to hear about the life the author led and how she turned it around. The average person has no idea of what the poor have to deal with on a daily basis. Part of the time I was embarrassed by the way this country treats the poor, folks from other countries, and the mentally ill. However the theme of community ran through the book. No matter the circumstances most people want to belong to a group of some sort.
  • 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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