Friday, August 3, 2012

American Chica, Marie Arana

Many people live the double life of having parents from different countries, and even alternately living in the different countries.  In American Chica Marie Arana (called Marisi throughout the book which deals with mainly her pre-teen years) looks back with ultra vivid descriptions of her father's Peru; he was from one of the elite families, an engineer in a very traditional social position.  Her mother was an American with a partly secret past, part of which is discovered when the family goes to Wyoming as the American grandmother is dying.  Three months in quintessential cowboy ranch country severely dislocates the very strong headed child and her brother, George.  An older sister, Vicky, is such a bookworm she hardly plays a role in the memoir.

The two cultures couldn't be more different. The parents' love for one another is strong enough to withstand the differences, even when they spend months apart.  Arana is editor of the Washington Post Book supplement, an extremely literate woman with a vocabulary and writing style that few native American writers can equal.  I think writers for whom English was not the first or primary language often write more self-consciously than native speakers.  There is such a richness of crafted sentences I sometimes wanted to shout "enough already".  Yes, sometimes you can write just too darned well.

The blurb likened Arana to Isabel Allende, one of my favorite bi-cultural writers.  Allende is from Chile but she does not seem dislocated and her writing style is easy unself-conscious American.  I prefer Allende.


Rick said...

Great recommendation, June. I'll get a copy.


I have not read Allende -- will look her up -- barbara