So today we're proud to announce to be a part of a blog tour for the 2015 Morris YA debut author award. There were so many awesome finalists but this one really appealed to us because it fits under our "diverse" protagonist requirement. Not only is the main protagonist Latina(Mexican American), she's also overweight. Intersectionality isn't always something I see a lot in books, so when I learn that a protagonist is hmm...let's say gay and black, or latino and disabled, I rush to learn more about the book as intersectionality is so important to us!
Gabi, A Girl in Pieces by Isabel Quintero
Gabi, a Girl in Pieces follows Gabriella or Gabi Hernandez, a fat girl of Mexican descent dealing with a drug addicted father, an old fashioned mother, friends dealing with both pregnancy and homosexuality and a very unhealthy relationship with food.
The story is told in somewhat of a diary format, which i didn't dislike but It would have been awesome to see some things happen in more of a present time. The events were relayed after they happened( kind of like Justine Larbiester's Liar) so sometimes it felt to me as though I didn't get a sense of how she was feeling in the moment. Just the aftermath. But I think that's what made this book different than the other YA books out right now, is that it didn't follow the "typical"formula of storytelling. I will say that I liked her voice. She was funny, maybe sometimes immature but she's young and at times I'm immature so i totally related with her on that aspect.
Gabi had a whole ton of stuff on her plate. Her mom was...somewhat strict. Very old school Latina, which I can draw from my background and confirm that the older generation of Latinas are very much like that. "Ojos abiertos, piernas cerradas." Eyes open, legs closed. That was pretty much Gabi's mom's answer to being a "good girl". My grandmother says similar things even though I'm a little older than Gabi is, but to read it makes it real to me. This is something my friends who were not Latina just did not understand growing up. I thank the stars my mom wasn't always so hard on me, but I was 2 years older than Gabi when I started dating, so it did influence how I dated in the beginning stages. I was so glad to see Gabi deal with her sexuality the way she did. That made me really proud!
Dealing with her drug addicted father really hit home for me. Being from a lower socio-economic background, drugs was something that affected a lot of people, including my parents. Nowhere in a YA book have I seen this addressed in any manner so this story just made me feel less alone about it. I wish there would have been stories like this when I was an actual teenager, I may not have been so ashamed of talking about it. Living in a poor neighborhood but going to a school with all white kids, it was like no one really understood me, so books like this are so crucial. We need to see our own experiences on the pages of books. Luckily, this book was the one that did it for me!
About Gabi's weight and issues with not being "brown"enough. Gabi was a fat girl and there aren't that many books out there at the moment that feature plus sized Women of color, that was the main thing that really drew me to the book. Gabby was somewhat of a comfort eater. She found any excuse to eat yummy things and I'll admit sometimes it made my mouth water XD Being someone who's struggled with my weight my whole life, in Latino culture, food is a lot of what brings families together and how people bond. I liked how the point of the story wasn't for Gabi to lose weight and be skinny. That's a bit of a cliche in stories featuring plus sized heroines, so I'm glad it was kind of just avoided altogether. Now let's talk a little about her not looking "Mexican" enough. This is something I've struggled with most of my life being a Black Latina. Gabby felt as though because she was a white Latina, people were always surprised to learn that she spoke spanish and was indeed Mexican. Wow, that really surprised me. Especially because growing up, Spanish language TV only really highlights talent that appear "European". In novelas, the news, movies. If you looked at Spanish language TV your whole life, you would think that that's what all Latino people look like. In fact, I've given up on a lot of Latin programs because the representation for Afro-latinos is just not there. So it definitely gave me something to think about. I always thought of it as something Black Latinos mainly struggled with. It was definitely a learning experience to realize that the "blanquitas"struggle with that too!
Sometimes I felt confused with some of the spanish used. I'm Cuban-American so sometimes the slang caught me off guard because there are words in the spanish language we use differently. It wasn't actually a big deal. All it took was a google search to learn how Mexican Americans use certain words and voila, I was back in the mix! It's actually funny because I was watching East Los High, a teen drama that features a lot of Mexican American characters at the same time as this book, so I just imagined them with similar accents and attitudes. Great show by the way! Especially if you liked this book!
To sum up my feelings on this book, I really enjoyed reading from this particular POV. Also, I liked that Gabi told this honest story about her life the way she saw it. She had love interests, she had problems, she had solutions. She dealt with many topics many Women of color in books don't get to tell and that just alone is a reason to pick up the book!
If you'd like to follow the rest of the Morris YA debut author tour, check out CincoPuntoPress here.
Also if you're interested in winning any of these books, Lucy @ Reading Date is giving away 5 of the finalists books, INCLUDING Gabi, a Girl in pieces. So why don't you jump over there and try to win one! She's also including Scar Boys by Len Vlahos, which Guin reviewed Monday via part of the blog tour! Both are highly recommended!
Photo Source: The Reading Date