I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter

by

Erika L. Sánchez

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Food and Hunger Symbol Analysis

Food and Hunger Symbol Icon

Throughout I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter, the teenage protagonist Julia Reyes struggles with an insatiable appetite for food. Because her family is poor—and because her parents are distracted by their overwhelming grief in the wake of their eldest daughter Olga’s death—there’s rarely anything in the house for Julia to eat. Julia’s ravenous hunger, and the food she consumes which never seems to sate it, become, throughout the novel, a symbol of Julia’s desire to escape her circumstances, make her mark on the world beyond her hometown, and live the life of plenty she’s been dreaming of for years. Conversely, just as Julia’s desire for and love of food represents her desire for more than she has, actual food symbolizes the ways in which Julia is being held back from happiness and satisfaction by the circumstances of her unhappy present: her parents’ poverty, the ways in which she feels strangled by her family’s Mexican culture, and her insecurities about her body, her sense of style, and her femininity more generally. Food doesn’t ever allow Julia an escape—even after eating a large meal she often still feels hungry, and this constant ache is symbolic of her boundless ambition and deep restlessness, and of the larger ways in which society has made her feel constantly deprived.

Food and Hunger Quotes in I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter

The I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter quotes below all refer to the symbol of Food and Hunger. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Secrets and Lies Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Knopf edition of I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter published in 2017.
Chapter 10 Quotes

“Sometimes it’s like you think you’re too good for every­thing. You’re too hard on people.” Lorena doesn’t make eye contact.

“That’s because I am too good for everything! You think this is what I want? This sucks. This sucks so hard, I can’t take it sometimes.” I swing my arms, gesturing toward I don’t know what. I’m so angry my ears feel as if they’re on fire.

Related Characters: Julia Reyes (speaker), Lorena (speaker), Juanga
Related Symbols: Food and Hunger
Page Number: 129
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation long mobile
Chapter 15 Quotes

I walk toward the ice-skating rink as the sky begins to darken. I wish I had a few dollars for a cup of hot chocolate, but I barely have enough to get back on the bus. I’m tired of being broke. I’m tired of feeling like the rest of the world always gets to decide what I can do. I know I should go back home, but I can’t seem to move. I can’t keep going like this anymore. What is the point of living if I can’t ever get what I want?

Related Characters: Julia Reyes (speaker)
Related Symbols: Food and Hunger
Page Number: 210
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile
Chapter 29 Quotes

How can I leave them like this? How can I just live my life and leave them behind? What kind of person does that? Will I ever forgive myself?

“We love you, Julia. We love you so much,” Amá says, and presses some money into my hand. “Para si se te antoja algo,” she says, in case I crave something when I get to New York. “Remember you can come back whenever you want.”

Related Characters: Julia Reyes (speaker), Amá/Amparo Montenegro Reyes (speaker), Apá/Rafael Reyes
Related Symbols: Food and Hunger
Page Number: 338
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile
Get the entire I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter LitChart as a printable PDF.
I am not your perfect mexican daughter.pdf.medium

Food and Hunger Symbol Timeline in I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter

The timeline below shows where the symbol Food and Hunger appears in I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 2
Restlessness and Ambition Theme Icon
Family, Immigrant Cultural Identity, and the Self Theme Icon
Poverty and Entrapment Theme Icon
...into particularly bad shape over the last couple of weeks, and there is hardly any food in the house. Julia tries to cook for herself, but can’t even make beans right—she’s... (full context)
Restlessness and Ambition Theme Icon
Family, Immigrant Cultural Identity, and the Self Theme Icon
Poverty and Entrapment Theme Icon
One afternoon, Julia peeks into her mother’s room and asks if she’s planning on eating or taking a shower. Amá yells at Julia for being “suddenly concerned with cleanliness,” remarking... (full context)
Chapter 3
Restlessness and Ambition Theme Icon
Family, Immigrant Cultural Identity, and the Self Theme Icon
Poverty and Entrapment Theme Icon
...Julia to wake up early and help out in the kitchen, where Amá is making tortillas. Julia begrudgingly begins helping, but struggles to form the dough into circles and even burns... (full context)
Restlessness and Ambition Theme Icon
Poverty and Entrapment Theme Icon
Julia is hungry and stops at a diner. She only has eight dollars in her pocket, and though... (full context)
Restlessness and Ambition Theme Icon
Poverty and Entrapment Theme Icon
...looks forward to the day when she can run around Paris looking at art and eating cheese until she bursts. (full context)
Chapter 4
Secrets and Lies Theme Icon
At Angie’s house, Julia is welcomed inside by Angie’s mother, Doña Ramona, who is cooking some spicy food. Julia’s mouth and eyes water at the smell. Julia sits down in... (full context)
Secrets and Lies Theme Icon
Restlessness and Ambition Theme Icon
Family, Immigrant Cultural Identity, and the Self Theme Icon
...of the room, and though Doña Ramona offers that she can stay and have some food, she ducks her tear-stained face and heads for the front door. (full context)
Chapter 5
Secrets and Lies Theme Icon
Restlessness and Ambition Theme Icon
Poverty and Entrapment Theme Icon
...of nacho chips drenched in hot sauce. Even after finishing the whole thing, Julia remains starving. Even though Apá works in a candy factory, junk food is forbidden in the Reyes... (full context)
Chapter 6
Secrets and Lies Theme Icon
Family, Immigrant Cultural Identity, and the Self Theme Icon
...it, she was twelve, and she bit him—hard. After Julia gorges herself on some party food, one of her aunts, Tía Milagros—a mean gossip—congratulates her on being such a good eater.... (full context)
Chapter 7
Secrets and Lies Theme Icon
Restlessness and Ambition Theme Icon
Family, Immigrant Cultural Identity, and the Self Theme Icon
Poverty and Entrapment Theme Icon
...take a look at it, but Amá replies that Julia, who can’t even “make a tortilla,” is not ready for “grown-up” things. Furious, Julia complains about never being able to get... (full context)
Chapter 9
Secrets and Lies Theme Icon
Poverty and Entrapment Theme Icon
...When Amá comes home, she tells Julia she’s looking poorly, and asks if she’s been eating junk in secret. She tells Julia that she can’t be looking sallow for her quincé—she... (full context)
Chapter 10
Secrets and Lies Theme Icon
Restlessness and Ambition Theme Icon
...Julia apologizes, and the three of them walk a little farther before sitting down to eat their packed lunches. (full context)
Restlessness and Ambition Theme Icon
Poverty and Entrapment Theme Icon
As Juanga, Lorena, and Julia eat, Juanga begins talking about sex, and Lorena teases Julia for being a virgin. Julia is... (full context)
Chapter 12
Restlessness and Ambition Theme Icon
Family, Immigrant Cultural Identity, and the Self Theme Icon
Poverty and Entrapment Theme Icon
...been forced to take waltz classes though she’s hopeless at dancing, and dreads the “bland food” and “odious music” which will be part of her celebration, as they’re hallmarks of all... (full context)
Secrets and Lies Theme Icon
Restlessness and Ambition Theme Icon
Poverty and Entrapment Theme Icon
...neighborhood, Julia orders two slices for herself. When Lorena asks if she’s seriously going to eat them both, Julia admits that she would’ve ordered three if she didn’t think doing so... (full context)
Chapter 13
Secrets and Lies Theme Icon
Restlessness and Ambition Theme Icon
Family, Immigrant Cultural Identity, and the Self Theme Icon
...and Apá. Julia sits down at her table and gorges herself on a piece of cake. (full context)
Chapter 14
Secrets and Lies Theme Icon
Restlessness and Ambition Theme Icon
Family, Immigrant Cultural Identity, and the Self Theme Icon
Poverty and Entrapment Theme Icon
...to Amá about a field trip to the Cultural Center downtown. As Julia approaches the restaurant where she’s meeting Connor and sees him standing outside, her legs turn to rubber—she wonders... (full context)
Chapter 15
Secrets and Lies Theme Icon
Restlessness and Ambition Theme Icon
Family, Immigrant Cultural Identity, and the Self Theme Icon
Poverty and Entrapment Theme Icon
...and Connor takes her to a fancy organic grocery store to pick out some special chocolate.  (full context)
Restlessness and Ambition Theme Icon
Family, Immigrant Cultural Identity, and the Self Theme Icon
Poverty and Entrapment Theme Icon
Connor answers the door and invites Julia in, telling her she smells like Mexican food. Julia is “mortified,” but laughs anyway. Connor shows her around the house, and Julia takes... (full context)
Restlessness and Ambition Theme Icon
Poverty and Entrapment Theme Icon
...back to her apartment, her parents aren’t home, and she’s grateful for the privacy. She’s starving, even though she and Connor ate lunch, and she rifles through the pantry and fridge... (full context)
Chapter 16
Secrets and Lies Theme Icon
Restlessness and Ambition Theme Icon
Family, Immigrant Cultural Identity, and the Self Theme Icon
Poverty and Entrapment Theme Icon
...and cold, but needs some time to herself. In Millennium Park, she walks around the amphitheater and the ice-skating rink. She wishes she could go for a skate or buy some... (full context)
Chapter 17
Restlessness and Ambition Theme Icon
Poverty and Entrapment Theme Icon
...replies that she simply reached a boiling point when she came home from the park hungry and couldn’t find any food to eat. (full context)
Chapter 18
Secrets and Lies Theme Icon
Restlessness and Ambition Theme Icon
...her outpatient program, Julia’s instructor Ashley asks Julia how she’s feeling. Julia says she’s feeling “snacky.” The other members of Julia’s program—the emotional Erin, the beautiful Tasha, the self-harm-scarred Luis, and... (full context)
Chapter 19
Restlessness and Ambition Theme Icon
Family, Immigrant Cultural Identity, and the Self Theme Icon
...little before it’s time for her to go back to the States. Julia wolfs her food and asks for seconds, which she eats as her many relatives pepper her with questions... (full context)
Secrets and Lies Theme Icon
Family, Immigrant Cultural Identity, and the Self Theme Icon
The next day, Mamá Jacinta teaches Julia how to cook menudo, a rich dish made from tripe. Though Julia hates Amá’s cooking lessons at home,... (full context)
Chapter 21
Restlessness and Ambition Theme Icon
Family, Immigrant Cultural Identity, and the Self Theme Icon
...will. She is “weird[ed]” out by the strangeness of the human body. After the pig meat has been used to make delicious chicarrones, Julia wolfs them down. (full context)
Chapter 23
Secrets and Lies Theme Icon
Restlessness and Ambition Theme Icon
Family, Immigrant Cultural Identity, and the Self Theme Icon
Poverty and Entrapment Theme Icon
Back in Chicago, Amá picks Julia up from the airport and takes her to a restaurant in Chinatown. Julia can barely remember the last time she and her mother ate together... (full context)
Secrets and Lies Theme Icon
...and she says she’s missed him, too. He invites her to meet him at the bookstore the following afternoon, and she says she will, determined to find a way there. (full context)
Secrets and Lies Theme Icon
Family, Immigrant Cultural Identity, and the Self Theme Icon
...group that night. As the two of them arrive, Julia gorges herself on coffee and cookies, and then sits down in a circle with her mother and the rest of the... (full context)
Chapter 24
Secrets and Lies Theme Icon
Family, Immigrant Cultural Identity, and the Self Theme Icon
Julia heads to Wicker Park to meet up with Connor at the bookstore. They don’t hug or kiss as they see one another again for the first time,... (full context)
Chapter 25
Secrets and Lies Theme Icon
Restlessness and Ambition Theme Icon
Poverty and Entrapment Theme Icon
...hundred dollars in cash from José Luis. The two girls head downtown to a fancy seafood restaurant overlooking the Chicago River, and gorge themselves on a platter of seafood as they... (full context)
Chapter 26
Secrets and Lies Theme Icon
Restlessness and Ambition Theme Icon
...gets a coffee, Julia decides to take advantage of the free meal and orders a grilled cheese . (full context)
Chapter 27
Restlessness and Ambition Theme Icon
Family, Immigrant Cultural Identity, and the Self Theme Icon
...York. One sunny May afternoon, she attends an outdoor fair with Connor. As they share food and listen to music, she asks him what is going to happen to the two... (full context)
Chapter 28
Family, Immigrant Cultural Identity, and the Self Theme Icon
...pregnant, and Julia finally cuts her mother off—acknowledging that she’d rather learn how to make tortillas than continue talking about sex. Amá laughs heartily. (full context)
Chapter 29
Secrets and Lies Theme Icon
Restlessness and Ambition Theme Icon
Family, Immigrant Cultural Identity, and the Self Theme Icon
Poverty and Entrapment Theme Icon
...to school. Amá hands her some money, telling her it’s in case she starts to “crave something when [she gets] to New York.” Julia begins weeping, and then opens her backpack.... (full context)