All Ana Ruiz wanted was to have a traditional quinceañera for her daughter, Carmen. She wanted a nice way to mark this milestone year in her daughter's life. But Carmen was not interested in celebrating. Hurt and bitter over her father Esteban's departure, she blamed Ana for destroying their happy family, as did everyone else. A good man is hard to find, especially at your age Ana was told. Why not forgive his one indiscretion? Despite everything, Ana didn't want to tarnish Carmen's childlike devotion to her beloved father. But Ana knows that growing up sometimes means facing hard truths. In the end, Ana discovers that if she's going to teach Carmen anything about what it means to be a woman, it will take more than simply a fancy party to do it...
I remember about 10-15 years ago, there had been an episode of that old PBS program Wonderworks that dealt with the story of a young Mexican-American girl and her quincenera. I had never heard of this celebration before so I was fascinated with the culture and the representation of what it meant. Ever since then, I've been eager to learn more. This book gives a wonderful insider's look to what goes behind the scenes of the makings of a quincenera. People seem to think it's a Hispanic version of a sweet 16 party, when in reality it involves so much more. I really liked the scene when Ana goes to the quincenera convention at the civic center and is pretty much bombarded with all types of vendors and sellers. It was almost like being at a wedding trade show. The relationship between Anna and Carmen is one that is familiar to those of all cultures. You have a mother who's trying to show the daughter that she loves her and will do anything for her. Meanwhile though the daughter constantly blames the mother for her parents' divorce and is blind to the faults of her father. My favorite character would have to be Ana's son. He's not in the book that much but he has the most compassionate personality and is the most understanding. He is protective of his mother and tries to defend her to his sister. He knows the truth about his father but due to his sister blaming their mother, he can't get her to see the light.
The author writes in "Spanglish" a mixture of English and Spanish and doesn't offer any translation for any unknown words. Thanks to my 9 years of Spanish from high school and college (I'm still not fluent though!), I was able to read without major problems. However for someone unfamiliar to the language, while it is possible to read the story without missing any major plot lines, it can be a bit difficult to pick up on little details. Perhaps maybe a glossary in the back of the book for translation might benefit the next book.
Overall, I did enjoy reading this book very much. It gave a great insight into the Hispanic culture as well as giving a good mother-daughter story. If you're looking for a multi-cultural book with a dash of chick lit as well, this is the perfect book for you. I will be looking forward to reading the next book in the series!
Damas, Dramas, and Ana Ruiz by Belinda Acosta is published by Grand Central Publishing (2009)
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