Book Review: Just Like Us: The True Story Of Four Mexican Girls Coming Of Age In America by Helen Thorpe

Book: Just Like Us: The True Story Of Four Mexican Girls Coming Of Age In America by Helen Thorpe

Published September 2009 by Scribner|400 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the hardcover from the library

Series: None

Genre: Adult Non-Fiction

Written by a gifted journalist, a powerful account of four young Mexican women coming of age in Denver—two of whom have legal documentation, two of whom who don’t— and the challenges they face as they attempt to pursue the American dream.

Just  Like  Us takes readers on a compelling journey with four  young  Mexican-American  women  who  have  lived in  the  U.S.  since  childhood.  Exploring  not  only  the women’s personal life stories, this book also delves deep into an American subculture and the complex and controversial politics that surround the issue of immigration.

The story opens on the eve of the girls’ senior prom in Denver, Colorado. All four of the girls have grown up in the United States, all four want to make it into college and succeed, but only two have immigration papers. Meanwhile, after a Mexican immigrant shoots and kills a local police officer, Colorado becomes the place where national argu- ments over immigration rage most fiercely. As the girls’ lives play out against this backdrop of intense debate over whether they have any right to live here, readers will gain remarkable insight into both the power players and the most vulnerable members of society as they grapple with understanding one of the most complicated social issues of our times.

Moving, timely, and passionately told, Just Like Us is a riveting story about girlhood, friendship, identity, and survival.

I really liked Just Like Us.  We see 4 girls who are very much affected by immigration policies- 2 are legal citizens, and 2 are undocumented.  It highlights how hard it is to become a citizen, and how hard it is to come here legally. It doesn’t go into a lot of depth the entire process, but you get a glimpse of what it’s like to be undocumented, and how difficult it is to become a citizen.

All 4 girls were in limbo, and they all have one foot in each world.  I felt for them, because they never asked to come. They worked so hard in school, because they wanted better opportunities and didn’t want to end up being stuck, like their parents, even though it was a possibility.

There is a lot how to become a legal citizen that I don’t know, and it’s because I never had to think about it.  I doubt I’d be willing to do some of the jobs they (and their parents) took just to get by.

I also felt like the author was very sympathetic towards the girls.  It’s hard not to be, and she spent a lot of time with them, so it makes sense.  She does try to show all of the different sides of immigration, but it did feel uneven to a certain extent.  Almost everything relating to those opposing illegal immigration felt very technical and not emotional.  It did get bogged down in the legislative stuff.  It was a huge force for all four girls, and I understand why it comes up, but part of me wishes the book had completely focused on the girls.

They had a lot of opportunities, and there is no doubt these girls are hardworking and intelligent and deserve every bit of success they get.  But I wonder if maybe some of the opportunities the girls had are because of Thorpe’s involvement in their lives.

It was hard to get into at first, because it wasn’t linear at first, but once everything is set up, it settles is, and has a definite timeline.  Not only that, but once they get to college, we only see 3 of the girls, since one of them went off to college in California, and we don’t hear much about her once they all finish high school.  I get they were all best friends, and that she went her own way after high school, but I almost wish we didn’t learn more about her, because we got almost no updates after high school.

It did give a face to what it’s like to be an illegal immigrant, and that it’s so much more complicated than I thought it would be.  Their families were so willing to do whatever they could to survive, and the girls in particular wanted to change the world.  Their story made it personal.

3 stars.  I liked it, but I wish we saw all 4 girls through college, instead of 3 of them.  I do wonder how they’re doing, and how much their lives have changed since the book came out.

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