American Chica

American Chica

by Marie Arana
     
 

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From her father's genteel Peruvian family, Marie Arana was taught to be a proper lady, yet from her mother's American family she learned to shoot a gun, break a horse, and snap a chicken's neck for dinner.

Arana shuttled easily between these deeply separate cultures for years. But only when she immigrated with her family to the United States did she come to…  See more details below

Overview

From her father's genteel Peruvian family, Marie Arana was taught to be a proper lady, yet from her mother's American family she learned to shoot a gun, break a horse, and snap a chicken's neck for dinner.

Arana shuttled easily between these deeply separate cultures for years. But only when she immigrated with her family to the United States did she come to understand that she was a hybrid American, an individual whose cultural identity was split in half. Coming to terms with this split is at the heart of this graceful, beautifully realized portrait of a child who "was a north-south collision, a New World fusion. An American chica."

Through Arana's eyes the reader will discover not only the diverse, earthquake-prone terrain of Peru, charged with ghosts of history and mythology, but also the vast prairie lands of Wyoming, "grave-slab flat," and hemmed by mountains.

In these landscapes resides a fierce and colorful cast of family members who bring her historia vividly to life, among them Arana's proud paternal grandfather, Victor Manuel Arana Sobrevilla, who one day simply stopped coming down the stairs; her dazzling maternal grandmother, Rosa Cisneros y Cisneros, "clicking through the house as if she were making her way onstage"; Grandpa Doc, her maternal grandfather, who, by example, taught her about the constancy of love.

But most important are Arana's parents, Jorge and Marie. He a brilliant engineer, she a talented musician. For more than half a century these two passionate, strong-willed people struggled to overcome the bicultural tensions in their marriage and, finally, to prevail.

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Editorial Reviews

Criticas
In this 2002 award-winning memoir, Washington Post Book World editor Arana explores her experience growing up in Peru and the United States, and comes to terms with her hybrid identity. Remembering her idyllic childhood years, she takes readers from Lima and the Peruvian countryside to her first encounters with the colorful cast of relatives who live in the prairie lands of Wyoming. When she is 14, her family immigrates to the United States. No longer having the privilege of entering one world or the other as she pleases, Arana must accept and recognize her American heritage. Circumstance leads her to trace her lineage back to an infamous uncle, who turned a profitable rubber business in the Amazon into a virtual human slaughterhouse, and Arana reveals the legacy of shame surrounding her surname. In the end, she realizes that love is the underlining force bridging her two cultures, as well as her Peruvian father and American mother's bicultural tensions. Arana successfully conveys her coming of age, providing rich details and similes of the two worlds. Luna's translation flows smoothly and reflects Arana's background. She leaves words like "bowling" or "teepee" in their original English, showing the American influence Arana experienced while growing up in Lima. At the same time, Luna also leaves some Quechua (the language of the Incas, which remains vital in Peru) terms intact qosqo, chaki, songo, and apu, for instance to emphasize Arana's Peruvian side. At times, though, Luna translates some English expressions literally into Spanish, and this can be misleading. For example, "Mother, can Margarita come to my birthday party? I like her very, very much" becomes "Mother, puede venirMargarita a mi fiesta de cumpleanos? Ella me gusta mucho, mucho." This only occurs a few times, though, and overall, the translation reads well. This debut novel deserves a place in the Latina literature collections of public and academic libraries and bookstores. Ana C. Paez, Brooklyn, NY Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781400001996
Publisher:
Random House Information Group
Publication date:
08/19/2003
Edition description:
Spanish Language Edition
Pages:
352
Product dimensions:
5.20(w) x 7.94(h) x 0.74(d)

Meet the Author

Marie Arana is the editor of The Washington Post Book World and has done feature writing for The Post. She has served on the board of directors of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists and the National Book Critics Circle. She lives in Washington, D.C.

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