Dirty Girls Social Club

Dirty Girls Social Club

4.0 148
by Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez

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In this irrepressible, can't-put-it-down novel of six friends-each one an unforgettable woman in her late twenties-you'll meet:

--Lauren, the "caliente" columnist for the local Boston paper whose love live has recently led her to her boyfriend's closet...to catch him in the act with someone else
--Sara, the perfect wife and mother who's got it all but who

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In this irrepressible, can't-put-it-down novel of six friends-each one an unforgettable woman in her late twenties-you'll meet:

--Lauren, the "caliente" columnist for the local Boston paper whose love live has recently led her to her boyfriend's closet...to catch him in the act with someone else
--Sara, the perfect wife and mother who's got it all but who is paying a high price
--Amber, raised a Valley girl without a word of Spanish but who is becoming a huge rock en espanol star
--Elizabeth, the stunning black Latina whose TV anchor job conflicts with her intensely private personal life
--Rebecca, hyper-in-command in the world of her glossy magazine, Ella, but totally at sea when it comes to men
--Usnavys, fabulous and larger than life, whose agenda to land the kind of man who can keep her in Manolos almost prevents her finding true love

Editorial Reviews

Miami Herald
"The feel of a night out with the girls...charming...undeniably fun."
New York
"This lively debut novel...reads like the Hispanic version of Waiting to Exhale."
"...a heartfelt, fast-moving, and often funny page-turner."
"Marked by fast-paced dialogue and a pop-culture sensibility, this engaging novel, each section of which is written from a different woman''s perspective, carries an unmistakable message."
Rocky Mountain News
"...in the end, it's the complex, finely drawn characters who make the book work."
Pioneer Press
"The writing is strong, fluid, and sometimes laugh-out loud funny."
"This season's most scrumptious book...a summer must."
"Those who liked The Joy Luck Club or The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood will enjoy The Dirty Girls Social Club...It is heartfelt, fast-moving, and often funny."
The Miami Herald
"Dirty Girls sets out to prove Latina can mean anything-black, white, rich, poor, Spanish-speaking, not Spanish-speaking."
San Antonio Express-News
"Valdes-Rodriguez's compelling characters are enhanced by their racial identities but not at all inaccesible to the non-Hispanic...an enjoyable read."
Jennifer Crusie
"...a fresh spin on the best-of-friends novel that's funny, touching, and exhilarating. A winner!"
Latina magazine
"...the summer's must-have beach book."
Publishers Weekly
Valdes-Rodriguez's debut novel delivers on the promise of its sexy title, offering six lively, irreverent characters: the sucias ("dirty girls" in Spanish), who have been friends since college and get together twice a year to catch up. The book opens at just such a meeting, six years after they've graduated from Boston University, and takes us through an eventful year in their late 20-something lives. This diverse group of women defies stereotypes. There's reserved, conservative Rebecca, founder and editor of a magazine for Latina women, whose marriage to a preppy, Marxist theory-spouting academic is on the rocks; Sara, a full-time mom in Brookline, from a rich Cuban-Jewish family and married to an abusive husband; Usnavys, ambitious and entertainingly materialistic, who's an executive with United Way; Amber, a struggling singer and guitarist; Elizabeth, host of a Boston morning TV show and a born-again Christian; and Lauren, a feisty, hard-drinking newspaper columnist, half Cuban and "half white trash." The book addresses serious questions-prejudice, the difficulty of winning respect from Latino men-but balances them with enough budding (and dying) romances and descriptions of clothing and decor to satisfy any chick lit fan. The lively, humorous writing is peppered with Spanglish and attitude (watching Usnavys approach their meeting place, Lauren says, "Look at her. She just slid up to the curb out front in her silver BMW sedan.... She's on her cell phone. Wait, take two: She's on her itsy-bitsy cell phone. It gets smaller every time I see her. Or maybe she gets bigger, I can't tell. Girl loves her food.") This is a fun, irresistible debut. Agent, Leslie Daniels. (May 13) Forecast: Major early buzz-a bidding war; film rights sold to Sony-was clearly merited. Expect this first novel to sell strongly, particularly among urban Latinas. 12-city author tour. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Lauren, Rebecca, Elizabeth, Sara, Amber, and Usnavys ("oohs-nah'vees"), or the sucias (dirty girls), as they call themselves, have been friends for the past decade, since their days at Boston University. They're all Latina, but they're as varied as the culture itself, representing different shapes, sizes, religions, ethnicities, and skin tones. Their approach to being Latina is diverse, too, ranging from denial to cultural confusion to ultra-militancy. As close as sisters, these young women meet every six months in Boston and discuss their problems and their triumphs, but it is their unspoken secrets that add the edge to their relationships. Former Boston Globe journalist Valdes-Rodriguez has written an incredible first novel, told in six distinct voices and points of view. As each of the women speaks, the lives of the others unfold just a little bit more. The early buzz on this book already has the media calling Valdes-Rodriguez "the Latina Terry McMillan," but this is truly a universal friendship book, crossing cultural lines as the characters advise, comfort, and support each other. Highly recommended for popular fiction collections of all sizes. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 1/03.]-Shelley Mosley, Glendale P.L., AZ Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A journalist employs the conceit of female friendship in a predictable but affecting debut that takes a long, hard, and funny look at life in the US for Latina women. Here come the sucias (translation: dirty girls)! Six irreverent, successful, determined, in-your-face chicas who joined forces in college and continue to get together twice a year in Boston to compare notes on life and love. It's their tenth anniversary, and they run the gamut from magazine founder and editor to not-so-happy Miami housewife and mother of two; from bulimic to large and loving it. The sucias are loyal friends, but they all have secrets-a laundry list of universal female issues with an ethnic twist that they'll reveal to the reader and slowly to each other. They're all different in background, style, attitude, color, sexual proclivity, ambition, and fluency in Spanish. They take turns speaking, in rotating chapters, and we follow them through their relationships with each other (they aren't all equally friendly), their relationships with men (married, cheating, abusive, unsavory), their upbringings (prim Catholic New Mexico pilgrim, Cuban gentry, dirt-poor in Columbia), their careers (TV anchor, newspaper reporter, rock singer), and their reactions to stereotyping. "If Hollywood pretends we all look like Penelope Cruz and J.Lo, the Latin media pretends we are all like a Swedish exchange student or Pamela Anderson," says Lauren Fernandez, the Boston Gazette's first and only Hispanic columnist, hired by her white-shoe Harvard-educated boss, Chuck Spring," to connect to the Latina people or whatever." An upscale telenovela with well-drawn, charmingly flawed characters from an author who explodes some myths (whilecementing others). The aforementioned J.Lo is reportedly involved in development talks. Surprised? Film rights to Laura Ziskin/Columbia; author tour. Agent: Leslie Daniels/Joy Harris Literary Agency

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Product Details

St. Martin's Press
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5.50(w) x 8.20(h) x 0.90(d)

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Chapter One

Twice a year, every year, the sucias show up. Me, Elizabeth, Sara, Rebecca, Usnavys, and Amber. We can be anywhere in the world—and, being sucias, we travel a lot—but we get on a plane, train, whatever, and get back to Boston for a night of food, drink (my specialty), chisme y charla. (That's gossip and chat, y'all.)

We've done this for six years, ever since we graduated from Boston University and promised each other to meet twice a year, every year, for the rest of our lives. Yeah, it's a big commitment. But you know how melodramatic college girls can get. And, hey, so far we've done it, you know? So far, most of us have not missed a single meeting of the Buena Sucia Social Club. And that, my friends, is because we sucias are responsible and committed, which is way more than I can say for most of the men I've known and Ed the bigheaded Texican in particular.

I'll get to that in a minute.

I'm here waiting for them now, slouched in an orange plastic window booth seat at El Caballito restaurant, a Jamaica Plain dive that serves Puerto Rican food but calls it "Cuban" in hopes of attracting a more upscale clientele. It hasn't worked. The only other customers tonight are three young tigres with fade haircuts, baggy jeans, plaid Hilfiger shirts, gold hoops flashing on their earlobes. They speak slangy Spanish and keep checking their beepers. I try not to stare, but they catch my eyes a couple of times. I look away, examine my newly French-manicured acrylic nail tips. My hands fascinate me because they look so feminine and together. With one finger I trace the outline of a cartoon map of Cuba printed on the paper placemat. I linger briefly on the dot representing Havana, try to picture my dad as a schoolboy with shorts and a tiny gold watch, looking north across the sea to his future.

When I finally look up, one of the young men stares me down. What's his problem? Doesn't he know how gross I am? I turn my eyes toward the cars inching through the snow on Centre Street. The flakes twinkle in the yellow glow of headlights. Another dreary Boston evening. I hate November. Got dark at about four this afternoon, been spitting ice ever since. As if the wood paneling on the walls and the old buzzing refrigerator in the corner of the small restaurant weren't depressing enough, my sighing keeps fogging up the window. It's hot in here. Humid, too. The air smells of cheap men's cologne and fried pork. Someone in the kitchen sings off-key to a popular salsa song while dishes crash and clang. I strain to understand the lyrics, hoping they'll match the peppy rhythm and lift me out of my funk. When I realize they're about a love gone so wrong the guy wants to kill his lover or himself, I stop trying. Like I need to be reminded.

I chug my warm bottle of Presidente beer, burp silently. I'm so tired I can feel my pulse in my eyeballs. They sting under dry contact lenses every time I blink. I didn't sleep last night, or the night before, and I was too tired to take the contacts out. I forgot to feed the cat, too. Oops. She's fat; she'll survive. It's Ed, of course. The thought of him makes my heart seize up and my forehead get lumpy. You can tell what stage I'm at in my doomed relationships by the state of my fingernails. Good nails: bad relationship, keeping up appearances. Ugly nails: happy Lauren letting herself go. You can also tell by how fat I am. When happy, I keep food down and stay around a size ten. When sad, I vomit like a Roman emperor and shrink to a six.

My lavender size eight Bebe pants, wool and low on the hips, are baggy tonight. If I move in my seat I can feel the space in them, rubbing. Ed, the bigheaded Texican, is a speechwriter (read: professional liar) for the mayor of New York. He is also my long-distance fiancé. According to his voicemail at work (I busted into it, I cannot tell a lie) he appears to be messing around with a chick named Lola. I joke not. Lola.

What is that? And where's that waitress? I need another beer.

I'll tell you what it is. It's the universe demonstrating once more how much it hates me. I'm serious. I've had a crappy life, crappy childhood, crappy everything you can think of, and now, 0even though I've made something not crappy of my professional life, all the aforementioned crap keeps coming back in the form of smarmy, good-looking dudes who treat me like, you guessed it, crap. I don't pick them, exactly. They find me, with that whacked radar they share. Attention, attention, ahead, to the right, tragic chick at the bar, sort of pretty, downing gin and tonics, weeping to self just stuck finger down throat in bathroom-screw her. Over. Yes, screw her over.

As a result, I'm the kind of woman who will search a man's wallet and pockets and kick his ass if he does me wrong. I would stop this unacceptable behavior except I almost always find evidence of his wrongdoing-a receipt from the dinner he had at the dimly-lit Italian bistro when he said he was watching the Cowboys with his buddies, a scrap of napkin from a deli with the cashier's phone number scrawled in the bubbly blue letters of uneducated, easy women. He always does something sneaky, no matter who he is. It comes with the territory of loving the unlovable disaster of me.

Yes, I have a therapist. No, it hasn't helped.

There's no way a therapist can solve the crisis of chronic, mother-sanctioned infidelity among Latin men. It's not just a stereotype. I wish. Know what my Cuban grandma in Union City says when I tell her my man is cheating? "Bueno, fight harder for him, mi vida." How's a therapist gonna help me with that? Your man cheats, these traditional women who are supposed to be, like, your allies—they blame you. "Well," abuelita asks in raspy, heavily accented English, sucking on her Virginia Slims, "have you gained weight? Do you make sure you look good when you see him, or do you show up in those blue jeans? How's your hair? Not short again, I hope. Are you fat again?"

My therapist, a non-Latina with elegant scarves, thinks my problems stem from stuff like my dad's "narcissistically self-absorbed personality disorder," her diagnosis for the way he relates everything in life to himself, Fidel Castro, and Cuba. She's never been to Miami. If she had, she'd understand that all Cuban exiles older than forty-five do the same thing Papi does. To the exiles, there is no country more fascinating and important than Cuba, a Caribbean island p0with a population of eleven million. That's about two million less than live in New York City. Cuba is also the mecca to which all older exiles still seem to think they will return "once that son of a bitch Castro falls." Mass delusion, I tell you. When your family lives a lie that big, living with men who lie is easy. When I explain it all to my therapist, she suggests I give myself a "Cubadectomy" and get on with my American life. Not a bad idea, really. But like the children of most Cuban exiles I know, I can't figure out how. Cuba is the oozing recurrent tumor we inherit from our fathers.

Right now, I think maybe a fling with one of the pretty-boy gangsters across the room might do the trick. Look how they eat with their fingers, the garlicky oil dripping from the shrimp into their sexy goatees. That's passion, an emotion Ed the stiff chuckler couldn't recognize to save his life. I could do one of them for revenge, you know? Either that, or I could eat cheese fries and donuts, get bulemic until the whites of my eyes turn the red of a heartache. Or I could go to my small apartment and slurp too many homemade screwdrivers, hide under my white goosedown comforter and cry while that intense Mexican singer Ana Gabriel-the one with the Chinese mom?—wails on my Bose about the love she has for her guitar.

I need a night with my sucias, y'all. Where are those girls?

Tonight is special, too, because this (drumroll, please) is the tenth anniversary of the very first time the sucias got together. We were all freshman journalism and communications students at Boston University, drunk off peach and blueberry girly beer (hey, at least it wasn't Zima) bought with our fake driver's licenses, playing pool at that dark, smoky Gillians club where everyone used to go, dancing to a throbbing Suzanne Vega "Luka" remix until the bouncers threw us out on our sorry and naive culitos. We clicked that night. Or cliqued, rather. Oh, and puked. Almost forgot that part.

Our Reporting 101 professor with the dyed-black comb-over told us it was the first time so many Latinas had enrolled in the communications program at once. He bared filmy yellow fangs as he said it, a "smile," but trembled in his too-tight tweed blazer. We scared him, and people like him, as all things "minority" will—especially in Boston. (I might get to that in a minute.) Anyway, our collective power of intimidation in this increasingly Spanglish, Goya-beanified town was enough to make us instant and permanent best friends. Still is.

A lot of you probably don't speak Spanish, and so don't know what the hell a "sucia" is. That's okay. No, really. Some of us sucias can't speak Spanish, either—but don't tell my editors at the Boston Gazette, where I am increasingly certain I was hired only to be a red-hot-'n'-spicy clichéd chili pepper-ish cross between Charo and Lois Lane, and where, thank God, they still haven't figured out what a fraud I am.

I'm a pretty good journalist. I'm just not a good Latina, at least not the way they expect. This afternoon an editor stopped by my desk and asked me where she might go to buy Mexican jumping beans for her son's birthday party. Even if I were a Mexican-American (and here's a hint: I want to wax Frida Kahlo's furry caterpillar unibrow and I'm thoroughly uninterested in anything with the words "boxer" and "East L.A." in it) I wouldn't have known something that stupid.

You might have imagined by now-thanks to TV and Hollywood-that a sucia is something beautiful and curvy and foreign, something really super Latina, you know, like the mysterious name of a tortured-looking, bloody-haired Catholic saint, or a treasured recipe from a short, fat, wrinkled old abuelita who works erotic magic with chocolate and all her secret herbs and spices while the mariachis wail, Salma Hayek flutters castanets, and Antonio Banderas romps a white snarfling horse through the cactus with, like, I don't know what, a winged pig or some crap in his embroidered knapsack, and all of it directed by Gregory Nava and produced by Edward James Olmos. Get freaking over it, lames. It's, like, so not.

Sucia means "dirty girl." Usnavys came up with it. "Buena sucia" is actually pretty offensive to most Spanish-speaking people, akin to "big smelly 'ho." So Buena Sucia Social Club is, how do you say, irreverent. Right? And obnoxious. It's a pun, too, see, taken from the name of those old-as-dirt Cuban musicians who record with Ry Cooder and star in German documentaries, who every non-Latino I know thinks I am genetically predisposed to like. (I'm not.) We're clever and, like, hip when it comes to pop culture, we sucias. Okay, fine. Maybe it's stupid. Maybe we're stupid. But we think it's funny, okay? Well, Rebecca doesn't, but she's about as funny as Hitler's hemorrhoids. (You didn't hear that from me.)

I check my Movado watch, a gift from three boyfriends ago. The watch has a blank face, like mine when the man who gave it to me told me he was going back to his ex. Ed thinks I shouldn't wear it anymore, says it upsets him. But I'm, like, dude, if you bought me anything halfway decent I'd throw it out. It's a nice watch. Reliable. Predictable. Not like Ed. I'm still early, according to it. I don't need to get so nervous, then. All I need is another beer to calm my nerves. Where's that waitress?

They'll be here in a few minutes. I'm always early. It's the reporter training-come late, lose the story. Lose the story, risk having some envious and mediocre white guy in the newsroom accuse you of not deserving your job. She's Latina, all she has to do is shake her butt and she gets what she wants around here. One of them actually said that once, loud, so I could hear. He was in charge of compiling the TV listings, and hadn't written an original sentence in about fifty-seven years. He was sure his fate was due to affirmative action, especially after the editor in chief of the paper had me and four other "minorities" (read: coloreds) stand up during a company briefing in the auditorium, just so he could say, "Take a good look at the faces of the future of the Gazette." I think he felt quite politically correct at that moment, as all those blue and green eyes turned to me in-what was it?—in horror.

Here's how my job interview went: You're a Latina? How . . . neat. You must speak Spanish, then? When you've got $15.32 in your bank account and student loans coming due in a month, s20what do you say to a question like that, even when the answer is no? Do you say, "Hey, I noticed your last name is Gadreau, you must speak French then?" Nah. You play along. I wanted that gig so bad I would have tried speaking Mandarin. With a name like Lauren Fernández, they figured Spanish was part of the package. But that's the American disease as I see it: rampant, illogical stereotyping. We would not be America without it.

I admit I didn't tell them I was half white trash, born and raised in New Orleans. My mom's people are bayou swamp monsters with oil under their fingernails and a rusty olive-green washing machine in front of the doublewide, the kind of people you see on Cops, where the guy is skinny as a week-dead kitten, covered with swastika tattoos and crying because the police blew up his meth lab.

Those are my people. Them, and New Jersey Cubans with shiny white shoes.

Because of all of this and more that I won't bore you with right now, I have molded myself into a chronic overachiever, and have focused my entire existence on a singular goal: succeed at life—meaning work, friends, and family—in spite of it all. Wherever possible, I dress as though I sprang from a completely different and much more normal set of circumstances. Nothing thrills me more than when people who don't know me assume I'm from a typical, moneyed Cuban family in Miami.

Copyright © 2003 Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez

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Dirty Girls Social Club 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 147 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
If you are a sex and the city fan, as most women are, you will not be able to put this book down. Let this be the first alisa valdez-rodriguez book you read, then definately follow up with Dirty Girls on top, the sequel, and the book to come in about two more weeks ahhh so so so exciting. I have read every single book by valdez and have not regretted one. They are inspiring and empowering to women everywhere. Too bad the tv show portrayed latina women as sex-crazed fiesty w/o a brain, unlike the book. but stay tuned...
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Loved this book! Wish they would have made a series for it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Started out slow and it was hard to get into, probably because Lauren was my least favorite sucia and it started with her. It turned out to be a fun read. I will read the next book. 324 pgs
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Every women has a story each reaches the point or plan that they must reach. Its a story you want to read if there aren't any good chismes.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
I read it various times because it was so good!I was in my teenage years when I read it, but I never forgot about this book! I plan to read it again!
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Jessica Aleksandrowicz More than 1 year ago
...So this reading experience was a learning experience for me a little as well! I think this book teaches a lot about the diffent kinds of love, the good and the bad, and it was so funny and so sad and so perfect. Love it. This writer is gold :)
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Vicky McPherson More than 1 year ago
I couldn't put the book down the first time I read iy. I couldn't wait to read the others. It's reafy for a movie deal!
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