American Chica: Two Worlds, One Childhood

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Dial Press, 2001 - Biography & Autobiography - 309 pages
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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User Review  - mssbluejay - LibraryThing

This memoir was filled with interesting stories, history, and poignant observations about the adventures and difficulties of having a mixed background. I was the first person in my family to be born ... Read full review

AMERICAN CHICA: Two Worlds, One Childhood

User Review  - Kirkus

Expressive memoirs of a Peruvian-American girlhood, by the editor of the Washington Post Book World.Arana, daughter of a Peruvian father and an American mother, sees herself as a hybrid, a fusion of ... Read full review


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About the author (2001)

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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