Academic journal article English Journal

Gabi, A Girl in Pieces

Academic journal article English Journal

Gabi, A Girl in Pieces

Article excerpt

Gabi, A Girl in Pieces Isabel Quintero. El Paso, TX: Cinco Puntos, 2014. 284 pages. $17.95. Grades 10 and up. ISBN 978-1-935955-94-8. William C. Morris Award for a first-time YA author, SLJ Best Book, Booklist Editor's Choice, NYT Best book, YALSA Best 100.

On the first page, readers learn that Gabi-short for Gabriela-is named after her grandmother "who-coincidentally," Gabi explains, "didn't want to meet me when I was born because my mother was not married and was therefore living in sin" (7). Her grandmother's reaction to learning that Gabi's mother was pregnant was to beat her, even though she was 25 years old. Gabi, who is almost ready to graduate from a California high school, explains that this sad story, which she has heard over and over again, forms the basis of her "sexual education," which might also be summarized as Ojos abiertos, piernas cerradas, that is, "Eyes open, legs closed" (7). Quintero frequently relies on Spanish words or phrases, which she sometimes translates, but with the simpler ones she leaves it to readers to figure out from the context.

Readers know that Gabi is smart and ambitious because she has already been accepted to the University of California at Berkeley. She wants desperately to have an honest discussion about friendship and sex with her mother, but she doesn't dare to approach the subject because she's sure that her mother will think that Gabi is bad, or what would be even worse, that she's trying to be "White."

I smiled at this, because here in the Southwest where in the 1950s I attended Phoenix Union High School, my mother, along with the mothers of my friends, would question us about "looking Mexican" if we wore jewelry the least bit gaudy or hiked up a skirt or pulled down a neckline so as to show a little more skin. Gabi is self-deprecating, but readers appreciate her candor and her quick wit as when she describes what happened when her friend Sylvester told his parents that he was gay. "His mom took a telenovela approach" and "tried to slit her wrists," which made Gabi laugh because if she had really meant to kill herself, surely she would have picked up a real knife instead of a butter knife (22).

We need to talk with readers of books set in minority cultures about the fact that no one book can represent a whole culture, and also that readers need to think beyond the most obvious stereotypes in the book. …

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