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Ordinary Girls

4.03  ·  Rating details ·  2,359 ratings  ·  438 reviews
“There is more life packed on each page of Ordinary Girls than some lives hold in a lifetime.” —Julia Alvarez

Ordinary Girls is a fierce, beautiful, and unflinching memoir from a wildly talented debut author. While growing up in housing projects in Puerto Rico and Miami Beach, Jaquira Díaz found herself caught between extremes: as her family split apart and her mother batt
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published October 29th 2019 by Algonquin Books
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Popular Answered Questions
Maine I think it's implied, not stated, first that the taunting about her relationship with Eliza undermined her initial feeling of being part of a team and…moreI think it's implied, not stated, first that the taunting about her relationship with Eliza undermined her initial feeling of being part of a team and then in a larger way that her pattern of running away took over (she several times describes herself as being like her father in this way). I would assume also that although life in the military helped her in a lot of ways she also had to deny too much of herself to have it work for very long.(less)
A Musing Pilgrim Hi,

It depends on the context. As a verb - to hurry about. Slang is heroin. Hope that helps.


It depends on the context. As a verb - to hurry about. Slang is heroin. Hope that helps.


Community Reviews

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Average rating 4.03  · 
Rating details
 ·  2,359 ratings  ·  438 reviews

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Diane S ☔
Dec 08, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 5000-2019
After finishing this book, I felt as if my emotions had been run through a shredder. Some people live such sad lives. From Puerto Rico, her parents fighting all the way, Jaquira, her two siblings try to make a new life in Miami. Everything, however, goes wrong. Her parents split, her mother turns to drugs and men, and then is diagnosed with schizophrenia. As you can imagine, things quickly go from bad to worse, with two young girls left with the responsibility for their own survival.

This is by n
Apr 01, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoirs
“We were the girls who strolled onto blacktop on long summer days, dribbling past the boys on the court. We were the girls on the merry-go-round, laughing and laughing and letting the world spin while holding on for our lives. The girls on swings, throwing our heads back, the wind in our hair. We were the loudmouths, the troublemakers, the practical jokers. We were the party girls, hitting the clubs in booty shorts and high-top Jordans, smoking blunts on the beach. We were the wild girls who lov ...more
Dec 01, 2019 rated it liked it
Recommended to Paula by: Publisher
Ordinary Girls is a debut memoir about living poor, making bad choices, and pulling oneself out of the culture of violence, drugs, and crime. Jaquira Diaz discusses her young family life in Puerto Rico and their try for a better world by moving to Miami Beach. With a history of a mentally disabled mother, sexual assault, depression, and finding her own sexuality, Diaz portrays the difficulty of a hard life and what it takes to try to make it better.

A fascinating memoir.

3 out of 5 stars

Apr 29, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2020
A vivid memoir sketching the author's coming of age as a writer and woman, after a youth marked by neglect, displacement, and violence, spent first in her working-class Puerto Rican hometown and then in Miami Beach, Florida. The first two thirds of this are electric. Díaz seamlessly embeds bits of cultural and social history about PR into her account of her childhood, and she has a real talent for capturing the nuances of her bonds with her father, siblings, grandmothers, and mother, who struggl ...more
4.5 Stars

”The five of us were the kind of poor you could feel in your bones, in your teeth, in your stomach. Empty-refrigerator poor. Sleeping-on-the-floor-until-somebody-threw-out-a-sofabed poor. Stirring-sugar-into-water-and-calling-it-lemonade poor. And then we’d take off again, like runaways. One apartment, and then another, and then another, never staying long enough to put up a picture, leaving while the place still smelled like the people who lived there before us.”

They spent her earl
Elyse  Walters
Sep 05, 2019 rated it liked it
Ordinary Girls by Jaquira Diaz is a memoir about her childhood and adolescence in Puerto Rico and Miami Beach.

Jaquira didn’t have a cozy protective life. At a young age, Jaquira suffered from depression - attempting suicide for the first time at age 11.
As a sometimes runaway street kid with repeated juvenile crimes - she was a high school drop out.
Being, black, female, gay, and poor....Jaquira was very different from her white mother who suffered with mental illness and addiction.

Growing up,
Jennifer ~ TarHeelReader
Oct 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Jaquira Diaz writes from her heart, and this is her story to tell. The best kind of nonfiction reads as fiction, and Ordinary Girls is just that.

Jaquira Diaz grows up in the housing projects of Puerto Rico and Miami. Her family is broken, and her mother is diagnosed with schizophrenia. Jaquira is seeking stability and some semblance of family. For comfort, she has the immense love her friends.

Jaquira shares her own personal battles with mental health and healing from sexual assault. The history
Amy Imogene Reads
5 stars

"For the girls they were, for the girl I was, for girls everywhere who are just like we used to be. For the black and brown girls. For the girls on the merry-go-round making the world spin. For the wild girls and the party girls, the loudmouths and troublemakers. For the girls who are angry and lost. For the girls who never saw themselves in books. For the girls who love other girls, sometimes in secret. For the girls who believe in monsters. For the girls on the edge who are ready to
There are some people's lives that once you hear their story, you wonder how could it be that they survived. Their story is so harrowing, so filled with tragedy and a life that is tarnished, agonizing, and traumatic, that it's a wonder how they rose to face the next day. Is there the intervention of God, is there a will to survive, or is it simply that the dice were rolled and it was decided they would live?

Jaquira Diaz for all intents and purposes had a hell of an upbringing, that is if you ter
Mar 22, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This is a book about legitimate life battles, a memoir of a rebel not because she did whatever she wanted and bucked society’s preconceived notions of what a poor Puerto Rican girl should be but rather because she spiraled down the worst of paths and pushed through it all: addiction, self hatred, dysfunctional family, and poverty, even seeking out the dark hope of a successful suicide. How achingly painful does life have to be for a young girl to believe killing herself is a respite rather than ...more
Jan 10, 2020 rated it really liked it
An exceptional autobiography that seems even more relevant as days of the White Majority inundate our heads, intrude upon our dreams...

"Ordinary Girls" seems like a lucky tome containing a turbulent life that was able to see the light of day. Here is a fighter--Jaquira seems to get away with visiting Hades and making a successful ascension to the surface. I relate--having lived in Southeast FL for two years. I too remember trysts at the lifeguards stations; and trips to Aventura mall; and sketch
Aug 27, 2019 rated it liked it

This is a memoir of Jaquira Diaz’s very rough years growing up in Puerto Rico and Miami. Her mother and her maternal grandmother are both diagnosed as being schizophrenic and are active drug and alcohol addicts for most of their lives. Her mother is madly in love with her father, but he is not faithful to her (or to most any of the women he is with) and so they fight bitterly and do not live together. Her abuela, her father’s mother, is the one steady adult in her early life. She has a brothe
Mar 22, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: netgalley
Ordinary Girls is a pretty raw memoir but I thought it was really worth reading. Jaquira Diaz was born in Puerto Rico to a Latino father and a white mother. Her mother and maternal grandmother were both schizophrenic and addicts. Her father has his own issues. Her paternal grandmother was a lifeline. From a very early age, Diaz lived an edgy messy life, first in Puerto Rico and then in Miami. Her memoir is not linear. She narrates experiences, feelings and observations, more or less in chronolog ...more
Jul 26, 2019 rated it really liked it
“We were not the girls they wanted us to be. What kind of girl, they loved to say. What kind of girl, even as they took what we gave, took what we tried to hold on to. Our voices. Our bodies. We were trying to live, but the world was doing its best to kill us.”

I could not put this memoir down. Jaquira Diaz has lived many lives and experienced more tragedy than most of us could fathom. What struck me most about her memoir was how it’s punctuated with the murder of children, particularly the case
Oct 30, 2019 marked it as didn-t-finish
After completing 30% of this book, I found that the book and I are simply not well matched. Jacquira Diaz has quite a story to tell of her childhood and young adult life in Puerto Rico and Miami, with an unstable family life, a mentally unstable mother, and her own history of lashing out followed by ultimate success. But for me the story as written was just too disjointed to keep my focus and interest. So I will move on to other books.
aPriL does feral sometimes
'Ordinary Girls', a memoir by Jaquira Diaz is extraordinary and powerful. Today the author is a writer, essayist, and journalist. Her work has been published in prominent periodicals. She has a MFA from the University of South Florida.

But about forty years ago, give or take a year or two, she was a juvenile delinquent, a wild child living mostly on the streets from El Caserío Padre Rivera government housing projects on Puerto Rico and later in Miami. She was someone who intentionally picked fig
Aug 02, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
When, as a child, Jaquira Diaz thinks, “There comes a time when we realize that our parents cannot protect us as much as we want them to, or need them to. There comes a time when we realize that we must save ourselves,” you know things are bad. Jaquira Diaz by her own admission was out of control. Her life was a never ending cycle of indifferent (or worse) parenting, street fights, abuse, drugs, arrests, alcohol, skipping school—all are detailed in this coming of age memoir. There are also frien ...more
Jul 13, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Ordinary Girls was a stunning and beautiful, sometimes heartbreaking memoir by Jaquira Diaz growing up in the projects in Puerto Rico and Miami Beach, Florida. Diaz's father is black and his mother created a safe and nurturing place for her family, her beloved abuela, as opposed to her white mother and her grandmother Mercy, both in the throes of mental illness and drug addiction much of their lives. Diaz talks about her love of books coming from her Papi as a young child, because of his love of ...more
Jul 22, 2019 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this memoir. Jaquira Díaz had an interesting life—first as a child in Puerto Rico and then as a teen in Miami. ORDINARY GIRLS is about relationships—mother/daughter, father/daughter, sister/sister and brother, and friends. These relationships have a lot to do with who Ms. Díaz eventually becomes. It was easy to empathize with the author when she described her life. I was impressed with how well connected she stayed with people and places from her past.

My only issue with the book
I am not sure how to talk about this book. Jaquira Diaz can write, that is for sure. She is very talented at setting a scene and adding details to create a sense of immediacy. But I found so much of this memoir upsetting that I almost wished she wasn't so good at making it feel like you are right there. Extreme parental neglect, emotional and physical abuse at the hands of parents, rape, drug use, suicide attempts, mental illness. It was a very hard book for me to read. I found myself dreading g ...more
Jaquira Diaz’s memoir Ordinary Girls is beautifully written, strong, raw and deeply honest.

I really struggled to write a review for this book because it was so all encompassing and left me emotionally raw. I could not put into words how reading of Diaz’s life affected me and how upsetting to read the mother and daughter relationship.

Starting in Puerto Rico and moving to the US, Diaz’s walks us through her family dynamic which is filled with “things we don’t talk about”, trauma, abuse, mental i
Sam Sattler
Aug 19, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: memoir
That Jaquira Díaz is a survivor cannot be argued. The odds that Díaz would be able to turn her life around as dramatically as she seems to have done had to have been pretty heavily stacked against her when she was growing up in housing projects in Puerto Rico and Miami Beach. Compounding Díaz’s problems, her mother battled schizophrenia all her life, her maternal grandmother was mentally unstable, and Díaz herself had to battle depression so bad that it led to multiple suicide attempts on her pa ...more
Lolly K Dandeneau
Aug 05, 2019 rated it really liked it
via my blog:
'And the girls I ran with? Half of them I was secretly in love with. Street girls, who were escaping their own lives, trading the chaos of home for the chaos of the streets.'

In Jaquira Díaz’s memoir, Ordinary Girls, readers dig into the influences that shape the life of a young juvenile delinquent. She is more than that, she is first a confused, lonely, little girl who lives with a mother whose mental illness is spiraling into a deeper, darker
Oct 19, 2019 rated it it was ok
I didn't think this was very good. Diaz' story is super compelling - growing up in Puerto Rico and immigrating to Miami as a child, a dangerously mentally ill mother, a violent brother. and struggles with her own depression. I think she'd have been better served by writing about the same material in a long-form essay and not a book. The book is very repetitive and after a while, everything begins to run together. something about the order of the telling also flattened out the inherent drama of t ...more
Jenny (Reading Envy)
I found the audio of this memoir in hoopla - Jaquira Díaz shares the story of her childhood in Puerto Rico and Miami Beach, struggling with less than present parents and a lot of challenges.
Yesenia Juarez
Oct 23, 2020 rated it really liked it
This is the story of what I wanted to be as a teenager. Good story, thank you Jaquira for sharing your story.
Oct 21, 2019 rated it really liked it
3.5-4*: A bit difficult to follow, and I wanted to know more about how she got from young adulthood to where she is now. I did marvel her strength and resilience in this very compelling narrative.
Feb 24, 2020 rated it it was amazing
4.5 stars only because it jumped around a bit.

A must read memoir.
Sarah Prendergast (lifeandbookswithme)
Jaquira has lived a life that is not for the weak of heart. Born in Puerto Rico and raised in the projects, she experiences poverty and turmoil at home. Her parents' unstable relationship leads to frequent fights that create multiple unstable living situations, as they are constantly evicted and shipped from house to house. Her abuela helps to raise her and appreciate her heritage as a partially black woman from Puerto Rico. Her family moves to Miami in search of a better life when she is a chil ...more
Alison Hardtmann
Jan 26, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: my-library
This is a memoir by journalist Jaquira Diáz, about her childhood in Puerto Rico, through her school years in Miami and into her adulthood as she negotiates her way as the daughter of estranged parents, bouncing back and forth between her absent father and her mentally ill and drug addicted mother. Despite her bleak situation, this is very much not a misery memoir. Diáz is not interested in garnering sympathy and she leans hard into how members of her family supported her when they could and espe ...more
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Jaquira Díaz was born in Puerto Rico and raised in Miami. She is the author of Ordinary Girls: A Memoir, winner of a Whiting Award, a Florida Book Awards Gold Medal, and a Lambda Literary Awards finalist. Ordinary Girls was a Summer/Fall 2019 Indies Introduce Selection, a Fall 2019 Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers Notable Selection, a November 2019 Indie Next Pick, and a Library Reads Oct ...more

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