Read American Chica: Two Worlds, One Childhood by Marie Arana Online


In her father’s Peruvian family, Marie Arana was taught to be a proper lady, yet in 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 hIn her father’s Peruvian family, Marie Arana was taught to be a proper lady, yet in 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 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.”Here are two vastly different landscapes: Peru—earthquake-prone, charged with ghosts of history and mythology—and the sprawling prairie lands of Wyoming. In these rich terrains resides a colorful cast of family members who bring Arana’s historia to life...her proud grandfather who one day simply stopped coming down the stairs; her dazzling grandmother, “clicking through the house as if she were making her way onstage.” But most important are Arana’s parents: he a brilliant engineer, she a gifted 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....

Title : American Chica: Two Worlds, One Childhood
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780385319638
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 320 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

American Chica: Two Worlds, One Childhood Reviews

  • Diane Barnes
    2019-04-19 12:31

    This is one of the best memoirs of a childhood that I've read. It's not only her story, but about her parent's mixed marriage and their struggle to make it work, her love and acceptance of both her countries, America and Peru, and her determination to bridge those gaps and become her own best self. Brilliantly written with humor and honesty and historical research, it's a great read for anyone who loves memoir.

  • LC Curtis
    2019-04-26 10:34

    American Chica is not How the Garcia Girls Lost their Accents nor is Marie Arana another Julia Alvarez. More’s the pity. That said, I’m an easy grader and mostly love to read anything that is not macabre, fantasy, or sci-fi. I find biculturalism and bilingualism irresistible topics and personally fascinating b/c of my own bicultural-bilingual experiences. So what in my humble opinion is not to like about American Chica? ¡Nada en absoluto! I flew through the book devouring every detail and was totally blown away by the breadth of Marie Arana’s English vocabulary. ¡Tambien, celosa! I do wonder why Arana was so intrigued w/ her mother’s love/married life. Why did Arana refrain from divulging anything about hers that must have been influenced by what she observed as daughter of her parents, a missing piece of the story w/ no clues offered. And did Marie Arana in the end usurp her mother’s first name? I need to go back to clarify my confusion w/ names and also make a list of English terms to look up in the dictionary. Happily, I understood most all phrases the author included en espanol.

  • Phil
    2019-05-06 09:33

    My wife had set this book aside after barely starting it, and out of curiosity, I picked it up. Then I could hardly put it down. You can read a summary elsewhere. Memoirs, autobiographies, and biographies are my favorite types of reading. But when you read a memoir that has all of the elements of a gripping novel--well, that's the best. This story of Marie Arana's childhood is like that. Parts seem so fantastic that they must be fiction or fantasy, but they really were part of her life. Since the writer has not only a great story to tell but a background career as a book critic for the Washington Post and publishing editor, she knew how to produce a spellbinder. This book will appeal to anyone fascinated by intercultural dynamics and, of course, to anyone who likes the books I like!

  • Margie
    2019-05-06 08:49

    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 in the U.S. Although both of my parents are from the same country, I identified greatly with the author's feeling of not belonging in either country, always an "other." In Colombia, I am a foreigner; in the U.S., I am a minority. I am too "Americanized" for my family, having adopted values of American culture: independence, belief in equality, and a non-traditional approach to gender, family, and marriage. I liked how the author tied things together in the final chapter, even though it seemed a bit rushed compared to other chapters. Overall, I think it's a good book for readers who have experienced being "outsiders" in one place or another.

  • Jeanette
    2019-05-02 10:39

    It is well written and thoughtful. I'm not sure its primarily memoir. Parts of it are clearly memoir. But great tracts of this are chapters of historical genealogy for her extended ancestry/ family and connective Peruvian history and politico. Far more than would define only her own self-identity and cultural nuance. It held delicate and exact moldings of her parents' personalities, their emotional style, their intellect, their talents and their influence upon their children. Those were the best parts for me. Other than her self-identity toward being a bridge, this book didn't, IMHO- get to Marie half as well. I almost gave it two stars but couldn't because of the organizational skill. It gives almost no answers or clues to culture clash. Lots of us have parents from different continents or different cultural traditions, or different religions from each other. Mine were different on all three. Maybe I should write a memoir! But then, I like looking forward more than backward. This was rated so highly, I must say I was slightly disappointed in the pensive backwards negativity coupled with a strange kind of acceptance of inherited guilt. But not guilty enough to negate the Northwestern tuition or two continent lifestyle, I'd guess.

  • Carol
    2019-04-28 05:31

    I grew up in the inner suburbs of Washington , DC. with many bicultural friends. While I myself was not, I often wished I could fit seamlessly into two cultures (as I supposed my friends did). Marie Arana, born of a Peruvian father and an American mother, captures both the richness and the difficulties of being bicultural, and moving between two continents. She has written a gripping memoir that reads much like a novel, without ever being self-indulgent. Her writing style is detached, as if she is looking back at her childhood through the veil of the present, where she woke up to find herself an adult. I found myself wanting to know more about the adult Marie Arana, her development, her personal life, and her thoughts of the world.

  • Angela Smith
    2019-05-15 04:39

    The author writes about growing up in America and Peru and how she had to almost have a dual personality to adjust to the differences of the 2. I could relate, because I grew up traveling between 2 cultures as well, even though it wasn't as drastic as hers was. A really interesting book.

  • Anne
    2019-04-21 07:39

    poetical and lyricalfascinating history of perucompelling narrativecomplex family story and historywow!

  • Rosie Delacruz
    2019-04-28 08:48

    Being Peruvian-born and American-raised, I was hoping to connect with Ms. Arana's memoir. However, there was something about her writing style that seemed to require the ingestion of hallucinatory drugs in order to understand what she was saying. I was expecting something a bit easier to digest. For now, the book has returned to the public library shelf.

  • michella cumpa barreto
    2019-05-07 07:31

    Una historia familiar, un amor unido por un puente.

  • TPK
    2019-05-17 04:41

    (reposted from my blog)This was a pure and simple impulse read. I happened to be scanning the biography section of the library, saw this book, read the back blurb and took it away with me.American Chica is a wonderful read; Arana was trained as a journalist, and her beautifully detailed descriptions and carefully-chosen similes point out the many ways in which her parents' trans-continental marriage and her privileged upbringing in Peru, then the dramatic change to middle-class surroundings in the United States, have molded her present being. She writes evocatively of being a kind of living bridge, a hybrid child, both Peruvian and American, and yet neither at the same time; how she and her brother were able to claim both sides of their heritage, yet were not fully accepted into Peruvian society and were rejected as "foreigners" by Americans.Though I believe America is continually becoming more tolerant of difference, less concerned with where you came from and more interested in who you are, I can see there are still many biases and prejudices simmering beneath the surface. I see it in the official immigration laws and allowances -- the way, for instance, we allow unlimited numbers of Canadians and northern Europeans to immigrate each year, but impose caps and limits on the number of darker-skinned southern Europeans, Mexicans, and Central and South Americans who may legally cross our borders. I see it in the soft racism of lowered expectations, the understanding that "those people" are somehow less intelligent and should not be held to the same standard as "our people," whatever that might mean. Arana, who grew up in the 1950s and early 1960s, saw these biases in full flower -- she writes of how, during her first trip to the United States, she saw segregated restrooms in St. Louis, labeled "white" and "colored," and how she looked down at her own brown knees and wondered how anyone could ever think of her as white. (Yet she used the "white" restroom because her white mother took it for granted that since she was white, her children would be too. Not everyone Arana met in America felt the same way, though.)There are some decidedly uncomfortable vignettes in this book, including one disturbing scene where a family friend attempts to molest Arana; nearly every story, however, is connected to every other, reflecting and reinforcing the author's belief that everything which happens is for a purpose, and that all things are connected beneath the surface. And Arana's prose is both symbolically rich and resonant in its fine description. I have a hard time understanding those who have complained that the author's life is not noteworthy enough to merit an autobiography; any life, whether noteworthy or obscure, is worth reading about if the details are inherently interesting -- a bonus if they are told with a wealth of the right kind of description and an eye for connection, both of which Arana displays in spades. It's well worth the read, in my opinion.

  • Vamos a Leer
    2019-04-25 04:25

    Amongst many other things, Marie Arana, author of American Chica: Two Worlds, One Childhood, is a brilliant storyteller. American Chica, her memoir, tells the story of a childhood, growing up with a Peruvian engineer and aristocrat for a father and an American musician as a mother. She begins with slowly discussing and dissecting her family structure: her perfect sister and her adventurous brother, her two parents who seem, at times, so different from each other, and her role. In the end, it’s not only a beautiful narrative of her background, it’s also a telling tale of the lineage of a family and the connection of two different cultures that offer distinctly divergent ideas of what it means to be “American.”Wendy Gimbel, author of the New York Times book review for American Chica, stated: “One of the many reasons the reader can’t put this memoir down is the author’s impressive command of her craft. “Storytelling,” the critic Walter Benjamin once wrote, “sinks the thing into the life of the storyteller, in order to bring it out of him again. Thus traces of the storyteller cling to the story the way handprints of the potter cling to the dry vessel.” Arana has left her own imprint on her material, while at the same time displaying virtuosity in the storyteller’s traditional gifts: sparseness, clarity and a passion for allegory.”For me, this was so true, Arana has crafted a beautiful memoir, one which allows the reader glimpses into an abundance of elements in a young woman’s life: Family structure, cultural differences, United States imperialism and its economic interests in Latin America, social inequality and class struggles in Latin America, and the list goes on.I really appreciated this book, mainly because of the honest way Arana approached her past and how she unfolded the complicated relationship of her parents – analyzing the history both from the perspective of her childhood and as an adult looking back. I also really enjoyed the way she looked at herself as both distinctly Peruvian and distinctly North American, and how those two separate cultures came together to give her a new and distinct persona as a woman from Las Americas. She really approaches the question of identity well, making this memoir an eye-opening way to look at the intersection of behaviors, cultural practices, and complicated experiences for people divided by two cultures. In the end, it seems Arana has been able to navigate the multiple cultures from which she comes and uses them to better understand. We learn much from reading the story of her struggles, failures, successes and endless inquiry.For our complete review and additional resources, please check out our Vamos a Leer blog at

  • Rem
    2019-05-14 07:54

    I originally started this book thinking (for some reason) that the author was Puerto Rican as I am currently studying the migration of Puerto Ricans to America for a project. So I was a bit surprised to read that this author is actually from a Peruvian-American family. However I am already entranced by the beginnings of her life. Her style, her story, is very similar to the memoir I just read called When I Was Puerto Rican by Esmeralda Santiago, as well as writings by Sandra Cisneros, Rita Moreno: A Memoir (Rita Moreno's 2012 memoir), the poet Ana Castillo, and Places Left Unfinished at the Time of Creation by John P. Santos. I feel like, although I was born here in America (and come from a younger generation), I have so much in common with these Americans, whether they were born here or in Latin America, and whether or not they are male or female. Many of their struggles and hardships were the very same that my Mexican family had to endure and continue still at this very time."The mother of a Latin male is the mother of a Latin male no matter what her class or education...A Latin macho must be gradually nurtured, sedulously cultivated, carefully doesn't fall to the father or some other hombre to shape him...In the mundo Latino, the task falls to the mother." Pg. 65"Love, seduction, amor proprio: these things are taught to men by women in Latin America. It is the mothers who do the teaching. And, in the tutelage, a fabric is maintained. The myth of the Latin man is all about love making. About libido...A love of the feminine is a mother's legacy of her son. Boys learn to use it. Father's understand its importance. A Latino is admired for revering his mother...He is allowed few vanities few men on earth enjoy. But a bargain is struck in the process: a man is bound fast by women, tied back to family, held tight by obligation. It is the core of the Latin soul." Pg. 66"Because of the public schools?" said Papi, scratching his head with wonder. To him, the notion of building a life around children was alien, bizarre, inexplicable. In Peru, it had been the other way around: children built lives around their parents. The elders defined the world." Pg. 259

  • Ivy
    2019-04-28 05:43

    Marie Arana writes an engaging memoir of her childhood growing up in her father's Peru and, later, her mother's United States. Life is a happy one for little "Marizi". She comes from an old, affluent family of European descent which includes a house full of servants and every privilege granted to a family of status. A typical child, Marizi is very fond of role playing, drama, getting into mischief and learning a thing or two from the servants. Life centers around her mother and father--the dashing Peruvian engineer and her mother, the beautiful, mysterious American. But not everything is perfect in Marizi's world. Every now and then she is subject to the reverse racism of being half-foreign. Nevermind that she is a native of Peru. Yet, when she moves to New Jersey with her mother, she is subject to racism from those who see her as an intuder--a Spic, a wetback, a person who doesn't belong. Nevermind that she is as American as those who insult her for being different.That sense of belonging sets the tone of this memoir. How well-adjusted is a child who is constantly told that she is different? She is half Peruvian, half North-American. She carries the richness of both cultures and speaks two languages. The conclusion Ms. Arana draws of being made to feel insincere because she is neither one thing nor another is a very powerful one, which only someone who is the offspring of parents of different nationalities can understand. Ms. Arana tells her story with prose that draws you in. Sometimes, though, the embellishment of words are over the top and the pace of the novel seems to slow towards the end. Yet, she recounts the story of her childhood with the heart-felt affection of one sharing her most special memories.

  • Dana Nucera
    2019-05-11 06:49

    This is a great little memoir. Arana does a great job of discribing her childhoood as if it happened yesterday. The history of Peru is very interesing. I would have liked more detail about America. The cultural details are fascinating. A good read.

  • Jeff
    2019-05-15 08:28

    It's autobiography, so in a sense you're stuck -- her life was what it was. I would have liked a slightly different emphasis. Most of her attention was given to her time in Peru, in Cartavo and Lima, and then an extended visit to her mother's family in Wyoming. The time after she returned to USA just was given a few pages at the end -- sort of a "oh, I became an American girl, but kept some of the Peruvian stuff too". I was left thinking that somehow it was a little more complicated than that. Also, there were a great many threads opened up introducing different characters, and there was very little closure of those. Some of them got a sentence or two at the end, but many did not even get that much. Still, these are minor criticisms of an otherwise interesting childhood autobiography.Oh, I'm an American married to a Peruvian, and our daughter experiences some of the "two worlds, one childhood" in her own way as well. That's why I picked this up, after reading a review of Marie Arana's biography of Bolivar and finding this more interesting.

  • Cleo
    2019-05-19 04:41

    Though Marie Arana is Peruvian, not Chilean, her writing style really reminded me a lot of Isabel Allende's. American Chica is a memoir, but it's not a straightforward memoir; she meanders between her own experiences and investigating her family. A big focus of American Chica is Arana's identity. Her father is a Peruvian, and here mother an American, and she's not sure whether she's South American or a "gringa." Through different phases of her life, she alternates between the two. In Peru, she's expected to be a proper lady, but in her mother's American family in Wyoming she learns to shoot a gun, break a horse, and kill a chicken for dinner, two very different worlds. American Chica is mainly about coming to terms with the fact the she is a "hybrid" American with two different cultural identities. But I think my favorite parts of the book were the parts about her family, both her immediate family and her more distant relatives. Also, the descriptions of life in Peru were really great.My blog is located at

  • Jenny Yates
    2019-04-21 09:34

    I really liked this memoir. The author looks with humorous detachment at herself, the result of a tricky union between a man from Peru and a woman from the US. Arana’s mother lived in Peru for years, but was never all that comfortable there, and her father was woefully homesick whenever he lived away from his homeland. They were more attached to their own cultures than to each other, but still they managed to raise three children together. Arana, the youngest, saw herself as a hybrid early on. She tells her life story with great wit and vitality, especially the early years in Peru. She also includes the political and social context, with intimate details that bring it alive. But mostly it’s a story about identity, and how one can be fiercely attached to two different identities at the same time.

  • Carole
    2019-05-16 04:39

    Well written recounting of her confusion and difficulties as the offspring of a tempestuous marriage of a Peruvian father and American mother. Both families have something to hide. Each parent's difficulty in adjusting to or understanding the culture and expectations of the other results in lurches back and forth between the refined traditions of Peruvian family life and the rude practicality of the American West. Arana effectively brings in the mysticism and superstitions of the Peruvian experience in a way that is often beautiful and inspiring. Her American experiences are comically recounted, but the stresses of the parents' marital conflicts are an underlying dark current. The book was a finalist for the National Book Award. Arana is married to Washington Post book critic Jonathan Yardley.

  • Cathie
    2019-04-21 09:42

    first person POVmemoirMarie, the youngest of three children, was born around 1949 (she never really tells us her birth date). Her Peruvian father went to MIT to get a master's in engineering during WWII and met his future wife there. The kids grew up in Peru as part of a large extended family while her father worked for a big American company there. Around the time she was 10 her mother had enough and they moved to New Jersey. Where her mother had "wilted" in Peru she thrived back in the U.S. But her father did not do well and spent much of his time working abroad. This is the story of Marie's childhood, spent between two cultures, and her parents' unconventional marriage. Lyrical language. Loved it!

  • Abraham Yoo
    2019-05-05 11:42

    I think this book can be considered valuable nonfiction book to read. While I was reading, I found myself sharing the experiences living in United States with the author since I have been shared two cultural aspects like what she did. The book tells how the author struggles to fit herself into societies. I liked how she struggles; she tries to understand her family's root. I think she could move forward since she committed to face the truth. One thing that I had trouble with this book was the fact that the author used Spanish when she recalls quotations that were spoken Spanish. I liked how she brought the mood of the language, but I had to look up the words whenever she used Spanish. Other than using Spanish, the book went smoothly.

  • AnnaNotABanana
    2019-05-19 07:45

    Disclaimers: -This was a book that I got for class but then was never required to read due to the teacher being sick for a few days.-That also being said, I never really gravitated towards this kind of book. The modern fiction kind if you will.This book was extremely interesting and I felt expanded my idea of what it means to be a Latin American turning state side and often goes between these two worlds. I also felt it shattered a few misconceptions I had about the culture and then after shattering them expanded them in whole new ways. If you liked the book Carmelo then you might also like this one. I felt that both have similar feels and are good reads to recommend to everyone.

  • Lisa
    2019-05-10 04:55

    This book was on my to-read list, and then I saw it in a box by the curb while taking the pups for a walk around the neighborhood. Yea. Beautifully written, set in the context of the political, cultural, and personal aspects of bridging (her concluding central image) two very disparate cultural identities, this memoir hits all of the sweet spots for an excellent read and a profound exploration. I, too, "bridge" two cultures, and while my memory isn't as keen as Arana's, and my childhood was not as profoundly divided, I resonated with so much of what she chronicles. Thank you to the book donor who put this volume in my path.

  • Kelly
    2019-05-13 11:48

    I didn't like American Chica: Two Worlds, One Childhood, although it was critically acclaimed. For one, I take issue with a book being labeled a memoir when it has incredibly detailed accounts of events that happened when the author was four years old. When I was four, my preschool took a field trip to a dairy farm and we sat in a circle and drank chocolate milk. That's all I remember about being four. Secondly, nothing that happened in the author's childhood was interesting enough to justify writing a book.

  • Jennifer
    2019-05-15 04:46

    I found this book in the book room at school when I was looking for some non-fiction to read. I'm fascinated by South American (I'd love to travel there someday), so I brought the book home to read. I mostly read American Chica before bed, but it really isn't a before bed kind of book. I think the book got short shrift from me due to this. Plus it got put down for a while when I got into the Twilight series. Still, I found Marie Arana's expriences of growing up in two cultures an interesting read, and I learned a little bit more about South America in the process.

  • Fran
    2019-04-19 04:38

    Entertaining memoir about the author's childhood, her family and her confusion over her bicultural identity. Her mother is an American, descended from the Adams family, and her father from an upper class Peruvian family. Arana spent her early years in Peru before moving to the U.S. The book not only describes her family history, her parents marriage, living in Peru during the political turmoil after World War II, and her immigration to the U.S., but also is filled with anecdotes of her escapades and many colorful people who influenced her.

  • Nancy Hartney
    2019-05-12 04:40

    Moving from one country to another is never easy. Living between two cultures is even more difficult. Arana's description of her time in Peru and in the U.S. is poetic and moving. I initially picked this book up solely for the language but found myself entralled by the story of a young woman coming of age and growing into her roots. I'd recommend this for children of bi-racial parents as well as for those considering crossing cultures.

  • Katrina
    2019-04-19 09:37

    wow, this book helped me gain some serious insight into my own relationship, and some of the "in-law" disconnects. there were definitely some scary "ah ha!" type of moments. but it definitely helps you appreciate the cultural gaps between our country and some others, without necessarily advocating one way vs. the other. it also helped prepare me for the potential reality i could face should i choose to (one very very very far off day) raise children abroad.

  • Renee
    2019-05-02 06:36

    The author's story of growing up in Peru with her Peruvian father and American mother and the advantages (but mostly) complications of living in two vastly different worlds. Although Arana spends a needed amount of time on her parents' turbulent marriage, her real focus is the way cultures define, limit and enrich us.I enjoyed the author's rich descriptions of her countries, and her extended family and was pleasantly surprised when the book did not end as I anticipated it would.

  • Denise
    2019-05-14 08:38

    Figuring out who you are is hard enough for someone who grows up from a conventional childhood. Arana is trying to make sense of Peruvian animism, Wyoming cowboys, New York privilege, Catholicism, engineering, prejudice, ballet, death, secrets, language, navels. That she manages to integrate it all is evidence for the theory that genetic crosses make stronger descendants, or maybe that it takes a lot of talent and education to build a lasting bridge.