Q&A with Erika Sánchez, Author of I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter

The New York Times bestselling novel and National Book Award finalist I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika Sánchez is seriously upping our shelf game with its oh-so-relatable main character, and honest yet funny story line.

We had the chance to sit down with author Erika Sánchez to ask her all about her inspiration, what it means to be a “perfect Mexican daughter,” and why she wanted to write this important book.

 

1. The characters in I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter are so relatable. Are they based on people in your life? 

Some of them are, but it’s impossible to say what is “true” and what isn’t, or draw exact parallels between characters and real people. Many are a fictionalized hodgepodge of people and experiences. Friends and family may see snippets of themselves.

2. Do you see yourself in Julia? Did you grow up around any perfect Mexican daughters? How has that image shaped your life or the lives of other women you know? 

Like Julia, I was a troubled and sarcastic kid, but I joke that she’s smarter and funnier than I ever was. She’s also experienced more trauma than I have. But undoubtedly, there are pieces of myself in Julia. I didn’t grow up with an Olga of my own, but I was very aware of what was expected of me, and that I failed on every level. I never wanted to be perfect. Lots of Mexican American girls grow up feeling like they don’t live up to their family’s expectations.

3. Why did you want to write a YA book? 

It was important for me that the book be geared toward young people because I didn’t have a story like this when I was growing up.

4. What was it like writing for Cosmo for Latinas? Is it anything like the show The Bold Type?

Writing for Cosmo for Latinas was really fun, even though I was a freelance writer and wasn’t physically in the office. I enjoyed doing research on sex and encouraging women to embrace their sexuality. One thing I didn’t enjoy was being called the Latina Carrie Bradshaw. Lol. I’m a better writer!

5. Do you have any unique writing habits? What is your process like?

I pace around my apartment listening to Philip Glass. Sometimes I get jittery and short of breath. It’s very much a physical experience for me. I don’t keep cookies at home because I would eat them all! Also, I have an antler on my desk.

6. Who is your all-time favorite author? 

If we’re talking fiction, Toni Morrison.

7. What was your most embarrassing moment as a teen?

Goodness, how do I pick just one? Life itself felt like an embarrassment. I used to cut my own hair, and once I really messed up my bob by shaving the back with my dad’s clippers. It looked awful and it was right before the homecoming dance.

8. What is your favorite show to binge-watch?

Shameless. It takes place near my old neighborhood in Chicago.

9. What is a fun fact about you that your readers might not know? 

I’m currently teaching creative writing at Princeton, and I love it!

What question would you ask your favorite author? Tag us @GetUnderlined!