Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 333
This is a memoir of Arana’s childhood growing up between the US and Peru. American Chica: Two Worlds, One Childhood is the story of one little girl navigating two drastically different cultures and customs. The story starts with young Arana in her family’s home in Peru. Her parents also sit at the base of the cultural divide. As much as Arana considers her own experience as a child between two worlds, she is intrigued by how her own parents came to terms with these differences. The chapters bounce between her firsthand experiences of the past and her reflections on them. The first chapter is titled “Ghost.” Here she considers her Mother’s struggles with Peruvian culture. Her Mother was born in Wyoming and had a great appreciation for American progress and forward thinking. She struggled with Peru’s historical appreciation. Even more so, she disbelieved and disliked Peru’s strong belief in ghosts. Arana then delves into the ghosts of her parent’s past. For example, her Mother had been married twice before meeting and marrying her father. Their marriage was rocky ever since, but they survived and loved one another deeply.
Arana turns to consider her father’s side of the family. Her relatives in Peru have a long, winding history. One relative was a well-respected public official, while another was known for enslaving Indigenous peoples. Arana reflects on the ways in which family history impact us today with ever-changing meaning. Her parents lived between the countries and were both generally unhappy wherever they ended up. In Peru, her mother felt confined. In America, her father would leave to travel frequently. She ends by wrapping up the unconventional nature of her family. They were each stuck between two worlds, but were constantly adapting. Her parents survived by developing their own new meaning of marriage. She as a child survived by making her own identity. She is not the perfect Peruvian or perfect American. However, she is content in the in-between.
Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1784
In the epigraph to American Chica: Two Worlds, One Childhood, the Chilean poet Pablo Neruda is quoted as saying that he has “half my soul at sea and half my soul on land.” The passage continues, “With these two halves of soul, I see the world.” These lines not only state the subject of Marie Arana’s memoir but also suggest her purpose in writing the book. American Chica is about divisions and connections, both external and internal. It is also about the author’s pilgrimage into the past, undertaken when, as a middle-aged adult, she realized that she must come to terms with her own divided soul.
American Chica begins in Peru. Before dawn, four-year-old Marie Arana is awakened by shouts and laughter; from her window, she can see her beautiful, blonde, American mother and her handsome, dark-haired Peruvian father, who have just arrived with their friends. Her parents are young, happy, and deeply in love. Oddly, Arana has no recollection of a much more dramatic event that had taken place just three days before, an earthquake measuring 7.8 on the Richter scale. However, she soon senses that, as she puts it, like Peru itself, “my parents’ marriage was shot through with fissures.” In her prologue, Arana thus poses one of the questions with which her search began: Were her parents ever able to resolve their cultural differences, and if so, how?
Even though American Chica begins with what was evidently one of the author’s earliest memories, the book does not proceed chronologically. The prologue ends with a present-day episode, and the ten chapters that follow move back and forth through time, as their topical headings dictate. Even the epilogue is not so much a conclusion...
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