BETTER THAN ME
Patricia L. Brooks, Reviewer
May 5, 2019
Veronica was considerably more than simply a Mexican immigrant. She was, to be sure, a crackerjack youngest daughter of her self-sacrificing mother and wise grandmother. She was a fierce leader as a young woman fighting against her naysayers both in Mexico and later after crossing to the United States.
A girl in search of herself leaves her childhood village, a close-knit agricultural community, for a nearby US ‘border town’ where she moves between her high school 30 miles away and Lukeville, the place she calls home with her mother.
Her complicated status, though sometimes over looked, was well understood by an occasional mentor or teacher. Veronica resurrected her saga of a remarkable young woman with persistence honed early on by her battle to learn English, to conquer her dialect and to be accepted for who she was as a new US Citizen.
She fights against low gender expectations as well as those forced on a Mexican immigrant. But she perseveres. Her dramatic struggles to understand her mother’s decisions, her grandmother’s grief and the abandonment of her father and mother at a critical time in her young life bring into focus what she wants out of life.
As a young woman who begins her life in the US speaking no English, she comes to terms with her role as a front-runner as she stands up to bullying. This is a biography of three strong Latina women, both living in Mexico and immigrating to the US, while supporting each other and learning from their lives.
The research by Quihuis is thorough and ably places Veronica in the context of her times so the reader feels apart of the story. This intriguing account of the women endangering their lives for a better life, generation after generation is on display with Veronica in a starring role. Nothing seems to interfere with her desire to make more of her life.
By a variety of means, Quihuis shows us well the path to naturalization for this extraordinary woman, her mother and her family. Clearly this was a young woman on a mission.
Although at times, a decided lack of opportunity prevails, she is the real deal, always chasing a makeover that takes her forward to naturalization and the freedom she desires for herself.
Quihuis meditates on life and family relationships, horrific loss and sadness. He reveals abuse of the immigration system and offers a new view on justice. The book explores race and gender and disillusionment in working class America. Quihuis has become a powerful voice as a Latina writer.
Born into poverty, Veronica re-evaluates her relationship to her country after her move to the US. While Quihuis cleverly alternates the narration of three generations of Mexican women with their earlier lives and their current predicament.
Veronica sees her sister’s fairytale marriage open many doors for her and her mother too, both physically and psychologically. She knows the family curses of poverty and grief and is determined to beat the struggle. By discounting her US life’s connection to her homeland’s past and present, she encounters new friends in the US and a new way of living she could never have anticipated.
Although at times I wanted a more in depth look at this life, I knew it could not be told if a younger audience was going to read this book. But do not be mistaken, this is a compelling true story of pride and determination. It is a story I recommend to young adults, and older adults, and especially to those who want to understand the struggle of the Mexicans desiring for a better life against incredible odds.