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“There is more life packed on each page of Ordinary Girls than some lives hold in a lifetime.” —Julia Alvarez
In this searing memoir, Jaquira Díaz writes fiercely and eloquently of her challenging girlhood and triumphant coming of age.
While growing up in housing projects in Puerto Rico and Miami Beach, Díaz found herself caught between extremes. As her family split apart and her mother battled schizophrenia, she was supported by the love of her friends. As she longed for a family and home, her life was upended by violence. As she celebrated her Puerto Rican culture, she couldn’t find support for her burgeoning sexual identity. From her own struggles with depression and sexual assault to Puerto Rico’s history of colonialism, every page of Ordinary Girls vibrates with music and lyricism. Díaz writes with raw and refreshing honesty, triumphantly mapping a way out of despair toward love and hope, to become her version of the girl she always wanted to be.
Reminiscent of Tara Westover’s Educated, Kiese Laymon’s Heavy, Mary Karr’s The Liars’ Club, and Terese Marie Mailhot’s Heart Berries, Jaquira Díaz’s memoir provides a vivid portrait of a life lived in (and beyond) the borders of Puerto Rico and its complicated history—and reads as electrically as a novel.
About the Author
Jaquira Díaz was born in Puerto Rico. Her work has been published in Rolling Stone, the Guardian, Longreads, the Fader, and T: The New York Times Style Magazine, and included in The Best American Essays 2016. She is the recipient of two Pushcart Prizes, an Elizabeth George Foundation grant, and fellowships from the MacDowell Colony, the Kenyon Review, and the Wisconsin Institute for Creative Writing. She lives in Miami Beach with her partner, the writer Lars Horn.
“In her debut memoir, Jaquira Díaz mines her experiences growing up in Puerto Rico and Miami, grappling with traumas both personal and international, and over time converts them into something approaching hope and self-assurance. For years, Díaz has dazzled in shorter formats—stories, essays, etc.—and her entrée into longer lengths is very welcome.”
—The Millions(Most Anticipated: The Great Second-Half 2019 Book Preview)
“[A] compelling debut. A must-read memoir on vulnerability, courage, and everything in between from a standout writer.”
—Library Journal, starred review
“A candid and compelling memoir . . . Díaz's strength lies in how she can enliven the places she inhabits . . . While the story of a typical displaced girl's life could have been tragic, Díaz takes charge, changes her trajectory, and tells a tale of an individual who ultimately triumphs. Teens may relate to Díaz's adolescent struggles, including sexual curiosity, while being moved by her resilience.”
“[A] strong debut . . . gripping . . . Díaz’s empowering book wonderfully portrays the female struggle and the patterns of family dysfunction.”
“Inventive . . . the literary bells and whistles give her story a broader interest than many memoirs . . . This book isn't just about the author's quest for self-determination; it's also about Puerto Rico's. An unusually creative memoir of a bicultural life.”
“A powerful memoir, heart-wrenching, inspiring, thoroughly engrossing, reminiscent of Mary Karr’s The Liar’s Club, Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, and more recently Tara Westover’s Educated. Through one family’s story, we learn about challenges of poverty, migration, uprootedness, addiction, sexism, racism--but also about the triumphant, spirited storyteller who survives to tell the tale. Jaquira Díaz is our contemporary Scheherazade, telling stories to keep herself alive and whole, and us her readers mesmerized and wanting more. And we get it: there is more life packed on each page of Ordinary Girls than some lives hold in a lifetime.”
—Julia Alvarez, author of In the Time of the Butterflies
“Jaquira Díaz writes about ordinary girls living extraordinary lives. And Díaz is no ordinary observer. She is a wondrous survivor, a woman who has claimed her own voice, a writer who writes for those who have no voice, for the black and brown girls 'who never saw themselves in books.' Jaquira Díaz writes about them with love. How extraordinary is that!”
—Sandra Cisneros, author of The House on Mango Street
“A life story of astonishing honesty and beauty and power, a memoir of breath and rhythm and blood-red struggle, a book for everyone who has ever felt homesick inside their own skin, and for those who, like Díaz, sing the marvelous song of themselves at top volume.”
—Karen Russell, author of Orange World
“Jaquira Díaz is an unstoppable force. Her writing is alive with power. I stand in awe of what she brings us. The future is here.”
—Luís Alberto Urrea, author of The House of Broken Angels
“Díaz blazes a bold path from the depths of the heart and guts of girls up through their fiercely beautiful throats into unstoppable song. Ordinary Girls risks dipping into family fractures, identity traumas, and the strained lines between cultures with language so fierce in places I bit my tongue, so tender in places I felt humming in my skin. Sometimes the repressed, oppressed girl, against all odds, goes back to get her own body and voice. This book will save lives.”
—Lidia Yuknavitch, author of The Book of Joan