Marie Arana's memoir, American Chica - Two Worlds, One Childhood, guides the reader through two cultures, Peruvian and American, in the mid-twentieth century. Seen through the eyes of five year old Marie, life in Peru is perplexing, comforting, and exciting, all at the same time. Raised by her American mother and Peruvian father, young Marie is wrapped in what seems to outsiders as an intrusive South American familial culture. Her American family seems cold in comparison. Wise and powerful life lessons all seem to originate in Peru, while harsh realities come from the homogenized life of 1950's America.
Ms. Arana's story is compelling, her settings rich and colorful. The clash of ethnicity, belief systems, and social mores raise this memoir from a simple coming-of-age tale to an intricate tapestry, full of experiences that were woven into her very being. The reader is drawn into Peruvian life and a bit repelled by American life, which helps explain Marie's difficulty straddling the two worlds she was raised in. I highly recommend American Chica.