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A vibrant and absorbing novel of six friends—each an unforgettable Latina in her late twenties—and the complications and triumphs in their lives
As soon as it was written, The Dirty Girls Social Club began turning heads. The Chicago Tribune reported that the book "set off a bidding frenzy" among publishers. The Associated Press reported that "even people running the copy machines at major publishing houses just had to read The Dirty Girls ...
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A vibrant and absorbing novel of six friends—each an unforgettable Latina in her late twenties—and the complications and triumphs in their lives
As soon as it was written, The Dirty Girls Social Club began turning heads. The Chicago Tribune reported that the book "set off a bidding frenzy" among publishers. The Associated Press reported that "even people running the copy machines at major publishing houses just had to read The Dirty Girls Social Club."
It’s no wonder the media is all in a whirl. In this heartfelt and absorbing novel, Valdes-Rodriguez opens up the lives of six upwardly mobile Latina friends in their late 20’s. These women, who come from widely varied backgrounds, meet at Boston University and, after graduating, reunite every six months to share their stories. Facing the complications and pressures of everyday lives, the Social Club offers a chance to meet regularly, dish, dine, and help each other over the bumpy course of life and love.
Filled with humor, drama, and the redemptive power of friendship, The Dirty Girls Social Club promises to be one of the most talked-about books of the year.
Also available in a Spanish-language edition.
- Miami Herald
"This lively debut novel...reads like the Hispanic version of Waiting to Exhale."
- New York
"As a guilty pleasure it ranks somewhere between Valrhona chocolate and Jimmy Choo shoes-I simply could not put it down."
- Whitney Otto, author of How to Make an American Quilt
"...the summer's must-have beach book."
- Latina magazine
"...a fresh spin on the best-of-friends novel that's funny, touching, and exhilarating. A winner!"
- Jennifer Crusie
"The Latina community has a rich new voice and Valdez-Rodriguez is it."
- Jeffrey Kluger, coauthor of Lost Moon: The Perilous Voyage of Apollo 13
"Dirty Girls sets out to prove Latina can mean anything-black, white, rich, poor, Spanish-speaking, not Spanish-speaking."
- The Miami Herald
"...Valdes-Rodriguez has written an incredible first novel, told in six distinct voices and points of view."
- Library Journal
"...in the end, it's the complex, finely drawn characters who make the book work."
- Rocky Mountain News
"...a heartfelt, fast-moving, and often funny page-turner."
"This season's most scrumptious book...a summer must."
"Those who liked The Joy Luck Club or
iThe Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood will enjoy The Dirty Girls Social Club...It is heartfelt, fast-moving, and often funny."
"(an) affecting debut that takes a long, hard, and funny look at life in the U.S. for Latina women...an upscale telenovela with well-drawn, charmingly flawed characters from an author who explodes some myths."
- Kirkus Reviews
"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."
"The writing is strong, fluid, and sometimes laugh-out loud funny."
- Pioneer Press
"Valdes-Rodriguez' compelling characters are enhanced by their racial identities but not at all inaccesible to the non-Hispanic...an enjoyable read."
- San Antonio Express-News
"Valdes-Rodriguez' novel delivers on the promise of its sexy title (with a) diverse group of women that defies stereotypes. The book addresses serious questions-prejudice, the difficulty of winning respect from Latino men-but balances them with enough romances...to satisfy any chick lit fan. This is a fun, irresistible debut."
- Publishers Weekly
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, even 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 with 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, what 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.
Excerpted from The Dirty Girls Social Club by alisa valdes-rodriguez Copyright © 2003 by Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez
Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
1. Lauren spends much of her time feeling inadequate and like an imposter. What do you think these feelings are rooted in?
2. How do you think Rebecca's husband was raised to view Latinos? How does this impact their marriage? Is his disappointment in her fair, in your opinion?
3. Elizabeth is the only foreign-born of the sucias and yet she spends the least amount of time thinking about her Latin identity. There are two big reasons for this. What do you think they are?
4. Elizabeth does not seem to think her secret and her religion are at odds with one another? Why not? Do you agree?
5. Sara seems to feel some responsibility for what is happening in her home life. Do you agree that she is partly to blame? Why, or why not?
6. How could it be that Sara's home life and the image her friends have of her could be so different? Why do you think she hid the truth for so long?
7. Why does Gato finally stray in his relationship with Amber? How does Amber react? By contrast, how do you think Lauren might have reacted in the same situation?
8. Why does Usnavys think she needs to find a rich man? What in her past makes her believe this? How does this belief impact her happiness?
9. The sucias, like many groups of friends, seem to end up in sets of two. Who do you think these pairs are, and why do you think they are drawn more to each other than to any of the other friends?
10. The sucias are all Latinas, but they are also of different races, religions and backgrounds. How does this compare to images of Latinas you see in the U.S. media?
Posted September 12, 2012
Why are so many people so dirty these days??? You who enjoyed it are SICK. TOTALLY SICK!!!!!! UR SO DIRTY!!!!! I would give it minus 1,000,000,000 stars. HORRIBLE!!! DO NOT READ!!!
1 out of 4 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted May 17, 2015
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 pgsWas this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 5, 2014
Posted December 4, 2012
Posted December 6, 2011
Posted September 13, 2011
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...Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted August 13, 2011
...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 :)Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted May 7, 2011
Posted November 17, 2009
Awesome, I think everyone can associate with these characters. We know someone fitting these profiles. Connected with each one and felt deeply. page turner. Could not wait to find out what happens next....
0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted August 8, 2009
In this book you are thrown into the lives of these six wonderful Latina women who despite being as different as people can be come together as friends. These sucias as they affectionately call themselves face hardships in their profession, in love, and just the struggle of trying to fit in to the label of a Latina in American culture. This book is written like I talk with most of my friends loud, with a sense of humor and without any kind of filter it's probably why I love it so much. You laugh with these women, your heart breaks with them, you cheer for them and sometimes like a true friend you want to shake some sense into them. This is an incredible book that every Latina needs to read. No matter how you grew up you can relate to so much in this book.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted June 9, 2009
I loved this book. I read it last summer and recommended it to my sister and she enjoyed it too... She even tried to keep my copy. I suggest not to read the sequel it was a bit of a let down ending, I expected more from it because the first one was well written. If your looking for a quick entertaining read pick it up. It is not something to take to heart and compare it to your life as a Hispanic, its just something entertaining.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
I finished the book, because I never leave a book unfinished. A lot of the things that are said in the book are stereotypes and the dialogues are not believable. I am Puerto Rican and I felt insulted the way we are portrayed in this story. When the Half Puerto Rican-half Dominican character was described (Usnavys) I almost stopped reading. It was stereotipical and a generalization. The name of the character it's not even a Puerto Rican name. What happened with the research on this book?Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted March 25, 2009
I like reading chic lit every so often, and this book definitely was worth the read! I like that the characters have realistic personalities, lifestyles, problems, emotions and careers. I'm "pushing 30" so it was nice to read about women close to my age. The book is witty and a page turner and great to read and then pass on to all your sucia chicks!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
This is the first novel I've read by this author and it was addicting. Being Hispanic it was fun reading a book with Hispanic characters. The story was exciting and never boring plus I couldn't wait to see what drama one of the girls would get into next. Great read. Great book!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted September 1, 2008
This is on of the best books I've read, The way rodriguez writes and being a hispanic woman I can relate to the characters.Could't put the book down.Can't wait to get Dirty Girls on Top!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted October 3, 2007
i love the way rodriguez writes! the characters seem so real and modern. i highly recommend this book and her other book 'make him look good'...she's my new favorite author!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted April 17, 2007
Alisa pours all of her thoughts onto the pages of this great book. I've recommended it to loads of people and I'm going to read it every year! I love the way she uses the chapters of the book as different views from the characters.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 26, 2007
This is such a great book. It will make you feel proud of being a woman, and if you are Latina you will feel even more proud not only of being a woman, but a Latin woman. It teaches about frienship, love, pride, courage, and much more. This book will bring so many emotions and a good laugh. I enjoyed every word of it.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted June 6, 2006
I just started reading this book and already dislike it. I am really trying to get into it. I am about 45% into the book and just bored. I came here to check others reviews again and see that some liked it and some didnt. I plan to finish the book but I am disappointed. Some of the books I read and loved are Bodega Dreams and Latina's Bible. Two books I truly couldn't put down!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted May 5, 2006
I enjoyed reading this book. It brought to life what we as Latinas see everyday. I also appreciate the FACT that the author exposes the sentiment that we black/colored (dark-skinned/African-descent)Latinas are REALLY Latinas. As for one of the reviewer's comments about eating in the ghetto? TRUE Latinas will go home where the real food is!!! I make well over 100k a year and i drive a (new) BMW, and I get together with my friends and go where the real food is...the food Mami used to cook! I have been called a SPIC and yes, professionals do get fired for stupidity when they are REPORTED! Anyways, I hope any girl (or guy) who enjoy reading good books will pick this one up!!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.