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Ordinary Girls

4.20  ·  Rating details ·  121 ratings  ·  60 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
Expected publication: October 29th 2019 by Algonquin Books
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Average rating 4.20  · 
Rating details
 ·  121 ratings  ·  60 reviews

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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/>
Elyse (retired from reviewing/semi hiatus) Walters
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.
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
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 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 of Lá
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 w
Sep 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
My review of "Ordinary Girls" by Jaquira Diaz

A memoir that is an "in your face" memoir. Ms. Diaz pulls you in right from the very first page. She talks about "finding ourselves, even as we are losing the people we love, how we are not defined by the worst thing we've ever done". An extraordinary statement in the eyes of this reader.

Her story is about survival, battling addictions, mental illness and deplorable situations of abuse and neglect at the hands of those who are
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 place. As she grows up,
May 31, 2019 rated it it was amazing
The front cover features a quote from Julia Alvarez which says "There is more life on each of Ordinary Girls than some lives hold in a lifetime" and there is not a quote more accurate about this book. Jaquira Diaz does a phenomenal job jumping tenses and timelines to beautifully narrate her life from past to present while integrating her struggles with her family, depression, and sexual assault.
Jul 03, 2019 rated it really liked it
Solid 4 stars for this stirring memoir. It was riveting, and I read it in a day. I liked the author's style of writing: it was almost like stream of consciousness. The only criticism I have is that the nonlinear style sometimes threw me off a little bit. I felt like I needed a timeline to follow along.

I am thankful to Ms. Diaz for her courage in sharing her life growing up with a schizophrenic, addicted mother, physically and emotionally absent father, and abusive brother. I appreciate that wha
Sep 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoir
I received an ARC from the publisher; this did not influence my review.

Ordinary Girls is Diaz's colorful memoir of growing up in Puerto Rico and Miami. It is written with disarming frankness despite the multitude of challenges that she endured growing up: violence, abuse and neglect, poverty, frequent moves, a parent with mental illness, racism, homophobia, gangs, rape, drug abuse and addiction, dropping out of school, running away from home, and multiple suicide attempts. Diaz write
Jul 20, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: pre-pub
Ordinary Girls by Jaquira Díaz

A story of survival, redemption, and the power of female friendship.

From her childhood in Puerto Rico through her perilous teen years as a runaway in Miami to her ultimate success as a writer, Díaz takes us along on the tumultuous journey that has been her life. Her maternal grandmother, Abuela, provided stability and love amid the family chaos of violence, drugs, and mental illness. Her Mami offered only a terrifying picture of what her futu
I devoured this memoir in essays. I wish this book had existed when I was a teenage girl. I'm glad it exists now, for those other girls. So, so, so good. This is why we need to break open the publishing gates for different stories, different writers, for writers of color.

(Received the ARC at the library where I work. Comes out later this month.)
Elissa Sweet
Apr 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Ordinary Girls is the rare type of memoir that stuck with me long after I stopped reading, phrases and moments coming back to me at random times throughout my day. It's gorgeous and heartbreaking, hopeful and devastating, created by an author at the top of her craft. Jaquira Díaz's fascinating story takes us from her childhood in the projects of Puerto Rico, where we witness her mother's increasing schizophrenia and drug addiction, to Díaz's teenage years in Miami, filled with fights, runaway at ...more
Sep 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Jaquira Díaz is a debut author with an incredible story. She grew up in the housing projects in Puerto Rico and Miami Beach, and had what would euphemistically be called a “rough life.” Díaz is unflinchingly honest in her experiences with depression, her mother’s descent into drug use accompanied by the onset of schizophrenia, sexual assault, violence, racism, and the legacy of colonialism in Puerto Rico, including its current status with the United States. She does not spare herself from judgem ...more
Aug 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Opinions are my own.

This book is going directly onto my Best Memoirs shelf, which is also my Favorite Books shelf including T Kira Madden’s, Melissa Febos’, and Alexander Chee’s memoirs, because WOW. Whatever stigma there is around memoir can be obliterated by these four writers alone (and many others). This is definitely one of my top reads of the year.

ORDINARY GIRLS does this thing that I really admi
Oct 15, 2019 rated it liked it
I received an ARC of this from LibraryThing. I rated it 3.5 stars there. Here is my review:

I received an ARC of this book, so it's possible my biggest complaint has been corrected in the final copy. The complaint? The repeated use of Spanish phrases without translation. Ex: chancaletas means sandals. This is just not a word a non-Spanish speaker knows. The use of "Spanglish" became very annoying. A few footnotes translating the Spanish words in the text would have helped. I hope this
Aug 22, 2019 rated it really liked it
I received an ARC of Ordinary Girls from Algonquins Books' LibraryThing Giveaway. Thank you.
Jaquira (Jaqui) Diaz is an extraordinary woman. She was born in Puerto Rico, in a bi-racial family. Her mother's mother seemed to hate that she looked black, and had no maternal qualities at all, and was an addict. Her Father's mother was the only positive adult influence in her life offering her calm love. Her mother was self absorbed and later suffered from Schizophrenia and drug addiction, her father
Rebekah Gonzalez
Aug 28, 2019 rated it liked it
Every so often I get in the mood to read memoirs. I am especially interested in coming-of-age stories, so this one immediately appealed to me when I read the synopsis. I did enjoy the book, especially the parts that took place in Puerto Rico, but I found that Díaz jumps around too much in the chronology for my personal taste. As a reader I found myself getting frustrated by the tangents she would go on in the midst of telling a story. I find that a lot memoirs take place in snapshots of a life; ...more
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
Emmanuelle Works
Jul 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Some of the most powerful writing I've ever read, of a life, lives, most people can barely fathom. The depth of suffering and resilience that human beings will endure is both horrifying, and humbling. It's easy to wonder about the humanity of those who live what look like unbearable lives. It would be easier to believe they just don't feel as much, as deeply. But, of course, that's a lie. What allows them to not just keep going, but occasionally even succeed later is the strength of their love f ...more
Kathleen Gray
Oct 20, 2019 rated it really liked it
I always find it difficult to review memoirs because it feels as though you are judging someone's life. In this case, Jacqui has been judged enough, mostly by herself. This is a raw coming of age memoir set in Puerto Rico and Miami. Nothing in her early life would make anyone think that Diaz would be where she is today. There's alcoholism, mental illness, abuse, self loathing, and terrible neighborhoods. There's realizing you are gay and learning to live your truth when others hate it. Some chap ...more
We know going in that Jaquira Diaz survives her very turbulent childhood and teen years. That doesn’t lessen the gut-punch as she relates some of the day-to-day experiences in Puerto Rico and later Miami Beach with her mentally ill, substance-abusing white mother, her often emotionally detached black father, and her later relationships. However, this is not an “I escaped terrible circumstances” story. The strength of this memoir is in Diaz’s energy, her love for the tough, in-your-face girls she ...more
Deb Ristow
Jun 30, 2019 rated it liked it
I received Ordinary Girls, A Memoir from the Goodreads Giveaway program. This is the story of Jaquira Diaz, struggling to survive in the projects in Puerto Rico and Miami Beach. Diaz tells the story of her struggles with living in a split family, a mother struggling with mental health and a father that she rarely sees. She shares a story of poverty and sexual assault at an early age along with the bonds of friendship that gets her through her daily life.

Ordinary Girls was a captivating read- on
Jun 29, 2019 rated it it was ok
I won this book on Goodreads. This book is occasionally laced with Spanish words and phrases, fortunately my Spanish is not too bad but some readers will need to look up these words and phrases to translate them correctly. This memoir is about the struggles of growing up in Puerto Rico and later on in Miami, Florida as a child and young teen going through different types of abuses, hardships with her mother who suffers from mental illnesses and drug usage and the author getting into trouble in s ...more
Aida Fonollera
Ordinary Girls by Jaquira Diaz
This is an advance copy I got from the library. A personal memoir and all the women around her: her two grandmothers,their sisters, her mother, her sister, friends and neighbors, father and brother. It is her story of how these people influenced her life, from juvenile detention, to jail, to addiction to army training, to college to being a writer and a political activist. As an advance copy, the book was interesting in that it caught my attention and I read i
A fascinating but triggering memoir, Ordinary Girls carries the reader through a lifetime full of trauma, adventure, and even history. With a fascination for people featured on the news and knowing their stories beyond the snippets given, Díaz shows us more lives than just her own, though hers is full already.

I would recommend this book to those who love to live through the story of another, those lovers of memoirs and those who are not easily triggered. Ordinary Girls immerses you in mental i
Aug 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is a book I’ve been waiting for since her article “Girlhood: On Not Finding Yourself in Books” was published. Diaz’s razor-sharp language cuts through the the truth of each experience. Details about her childhood, moving, her family and the tension between them reveal moments so relatable to readers that share any parts of her identity. Diaz discusses race and colorism within her family in a way that’s so important and honest; unpacking the shame that we internalize over generations. Diaz’s ...more
Oct 18, 2019 rated it liked it
A visceral and heartbreaking account of what life was like growing up poor, brown, and female in Puerto Rico and Miami. Every page is full of tragedy, friendship, love, and loss, and Díaz's prose is colloquial and effortless. I do think, however, that the structure of the memoir is a bit all over the place. In many of the essays, certain moments and facts overlap, which causes some of the information to be redundant and unnecessary. The essays, and the sections within the essays, jump from diffe ...more
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Jaquira Díaz is the author of ORDINARY GIRLS, a memoir, and I AM DELIBERATE, a novel, both forthcoming from Algonquin Books. She’s the recipient of two Pushcart Prizes, an Elizabeth George Foundation Grant, and fellowships from the Wisconsin Institute for Creative Writing, Kenyon Review, and The MacDowell Colony. Her work appears in The Best American Essays, Rolling Stone, The Guardian, The FADER, ...more
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