"As Ana walked down the hall to her office, flipping through the pages of Your Quince magazine, something wilted inside her. The young girls in the magazine looked like women, not girls. Sí, her little girl was becoming a woman. She knew Carmen would grow up one day, but with all the drama and Carmen working to send her poor mother to an early grave, Ana still found herself thinking, 'How did it happen so soon?'" - Damas, Dramas, and Ana Ruiz by Belinda Acosta
First of all, to understand the events in Damas, Dramas, and Ana Ruiz, you need to know what the word quinceañera means. It's a celebration or coming-of-age party held on a girl's fifteenth birthday that typically begins with a religious ceremony. And it is apparently a good way for mothers and daughters to bond. At least, that is what Ana Ruiz hopes will happen as she tries to plan her daughter Carmen's quinceañera. Ever since Ana separated from her husband, Esteban, she's not been able to connect with Carmen. Rather, Carmen blames Ana completely for the separation and refuses to hold any sort of meaningful conversation with her mother. Ana's son, Diego and her niece, Bianca try to help smooth things over between mother and daughter, but despite the quinceañera planning, their relationship remains strained. Ana wants to tell her daughter the truth about Esteban, but she doesn't want to break daddy's girl's heart.
While Ana struggles to regain her daughter's love, she also struggles to regain confidence in herself. She has always been the strong one. She was the first girl in her family to go to college, and she managed to raise two kids at the same time. Yet, her separation from Esteban completely shattered her life. She doesn't know if she should try to reconcile or move on. To complicate matters further, a handsome and suave artist named Carlos Montalvo enters her work life. Over the course of planning the quinceañera, both Carmen and Ana grow up in their own separate ways.
When I picked up my copy of the book Damas, Dramas, and Ana Ruiz, I was caught off guard. "Como se dice?" -- Umm, let me ask my translator, i.e. computer. Most of the book is written in English with a few Spanish terms effortlessly thrown in every so often to spice things up. While you can understand the story perfectly fine without knowing a bit of Spanish, I found it helpful to refer to my translator every once and awhile. That said, I'm glad I stepped outside my normal reading sphere because I learned about another culture and their traditions. Traditions like quinceañeras.
Using subtle humor and an almost narrative writing style at times, Acosta manages to successfully portray a strained parent/child relationship in her book, just as the colorful cover suggests. (Though I don't think Carmen's quinceañera dress was red?) There are a lot of tense situations and many situations where it is evident that the characters deeply love one another. This would make an appropriate YA cross-over book, especially for those interested in bilingual reads. Acosta's depictions of strained parent/child relationships are realistic, as are her portrayals of the strong emotions and resulting family stress that occurs when parents separate. At times I got frustrated at Ana because she refused to level with her daughter and discuss facts. However, as a parent I can also understand how she would wish to shield her child from all things ugly. Acosta succeeds in writing an appealing and touching book that explores the relationship between a mother and a teenage daughter.
Damas, Dramas, and Ana Ruiz by Belinda Acosta. Grand Central Publishing (August 2009); 336 pages; ISBN 9780446540513
Book Source: Review copy provided for free by Hachette Book Group
Belinda Acosta - Author Website
Hachette Early Birds Blog Tours List of all the participating bloggers in Damas, Dramas, and Ana Ruiz August Blog Tour
SpanglishBaby post on Quinceañeras (includes info about Verizon Wireless Quinceañera party giveaway worth $45,000)
Win a copy! This review is part of Hachette Early Birds Blog Tours, and Hachette Book Group has kindly offered to giveaway (3) copies of Damas, Dramas, and Ana Ruiz to 3 Brimful Curiosities readers. 3 COPIES!
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