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
“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.
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?
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.”