I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter

I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter Study Guide

Welcome to the LitCharts study guide on Erika L. Sánchez's I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter. Created by the original team behind SparkNotes, LitCharts are the world's best literature guides.

Brief Biography of Erika L. Sánchez

Born and raised in Cicero, Illinois, a working-class suburb of Chicago, after her parents immigrated from Mexico to America, Erika L. Sánchez was feisty and bookish as a child. After graduating Phi Beta Kappa and Magna Cum Laude from the University of Illinois at Chicago, Sánchez received a Fulbright Scholarship to study and write poetry in Madrid, Spain. Following her time there, Sánchez earned an MFA in creative writing from the University of New Mexico, and went on to publish her first book of poetry, Lessons on Expulsion, in 2017. Later that same year her young adult debut, I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter, premiered to great critical acclaim, and became a finalist for the National Book Award for young people’s literature.
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Historical Context of I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter

I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter is set in modern-day Chicago, and through Julia’s biting and adroit point of view, it explores many issues facing not just the city of Chicago, but those experienced by immigrant families as well. The unfair conditions undocumented immigrants in the U.S. are forced to experience—poverty, labor exploitation, and living in constant fear of discovery and deportation—are a part of Julia and her family’s daily lives. Julia’s parents crossed the border illegally, at the mercy of predatory coyotes who, Julia learns, raped her mother while holding a gun to her father’s head. Julia’s friend Lorena, too, daily feels the impact of the violence and cruelty at the border: her father did not make it across after getting lost in the desert with his coyote and their group. When Julia travels to Mexico to visit her family, she witnesses the violence of the narcos, or bosses and dealers with tied to the drug trade, and understands for the first time how much her parents have sacrificed in order to give her a better life.

Other Books Related to I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter

Julia, an avid and discerning reader, would rather get lost in the worlds of The Catcher in the Rye or Adventures of Huckleberry Finn than experience her own painful and impoverished life on the south side of Chicago. Books are a major symbol throughout the novel, and Julia devours novels, plays, and philosophical texts with wild abandon as a way of seeing the world beyond her small neighborhood. Julia’s own story bears echoes of other great contemporary titles—Ned Vizzini’s It’s Kind of a Funny Story also features a depressed and suicidal protagonist, while Reyna Grande’s The Distance Between Us, a memoir, focuses on the ways in which the traumas and scars of immigration threaten to split apart a young woman’s family.
Key Facts about I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter
  • Full Title: I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter
  • When Written: 2010s
  • When Published: 2017
  • Literary Period: Contemporary
  • Genre: Young adult literature; coming-of-age tale
  • Setting: Chicago, IL
  • Climax: Overwhelmed by grief in the wake of her sister Olga’s death, consumed by poverty, and entrapped by her strict parents’ impossible rules, Julia Reyes—the novel’s narrator and protagonist—attempts suicide by slitting her wrist, but fails.
  • Antagonist: In many ways, Julia’s deceased, saintlike sister Olga—whose example Julia is failing to live up to every day—is the antagonist. Though it’s also possible to argue that societal factors around the treatment of immigrants.
  • Point of View: First-person

Extra Credit for I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter

Set for the Screen. I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter has been optioned for the screen by Anonymous Content, the same company that produced teen megahit 13 Reasons Why.

Feisty Idols. While Julia looks up to heroes of fiction like the adventurous Huck Finn and the irreverent Holden Caufield, Erika L. Sánchez herself looked up to Lisa Simpson as a young girl.