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Discussion Guide

Ordinary Girls: A Memoir

By Jaquira Díaz

In this searing memoir, Jaquira Díaz writes fiercely and eloquently of her challenging girlhood and triumphant coming of age.
While growing up in housing projects in Puerto Rico and Miami Beach, Díaz found herself caught between extremes. As her family split apart and her mother battled schizophrenia, she was supported by the love of her friends. As she longed for a family and home, her life was upended by violence. As she celebrated her Puerto Rican culture, she couldn’t find support for her burgeoning sexual identity. From her own struggles with depression and sexual assault to Puerto Rico’s history of colonialism, every page of Ordinary Girls vibrates with music and lyricism. Díaz writes with raw and refreshing honesty, triumphantly mapping a way out of despair toward love and hope to become her version of the girl she always wanted to be.
Reminiscent of Tara Westover’s Educated, Kiese Laymon’s Heavy, Mary Karr’s The Liars’ Club, and Terese Marie Mailhot’s Heart Berries, Jaquira Díaz’s memoir provides a vivid portrait of a life lived in (and beyond) the borders of Puerto Rico and its complicated history—and reads as electrically as a novel.


Discussion Questions

Use these discussion questions to guide your next book club meeting.

Often, the parts of our lives that are exception- ally traumatic tend to impress themselves most on our memories. On page 15, Jaquira Díaz says she is both “determined to remember” and “prohibido olvidar (forbidden to forget).” Do you find yourself more capable of remembering the exceedingly bad times in your life? What about the exceedingly good? Why is Jaquira forbidden to forget?
Most of the memoir is centralized in the spaces where Díaz is with her family and the friends that become like family to her. When she joins the navy, Díaz, and the story itself, is uprooted from this sense of place. In what ways, and why, was this time a turning point for her? What new difficulties did her time in the navy present?
Think about the image of the mouse that Jaquira and Anthony encounter in Abuela’s house. Why does Jaquira say she is “part mon- ster, part mouse”? What does she mean by this? Does she think her act is forgivable? Do you?

This recommended reading and discussion guide are shared and sponsored with Algonquin.