Ordinary Girls (Hardcover)

A Memoir

By Jaquira Díaz

Algonquin Books, 9781616209131, 336pp.

Publication Date: October 29, 2019

Other Editions of This Title:
Compact Disc (10/29/2019)

List Price: 26.95*
* Individual store prices may vary.


One of the Most Anticipated Books of 2019 According to Time * Bustle * Electric Literature * Publishers Weekly * The Millions * The Week * Good Housekeeping

“There is more life packed on each page of Ordinary Girls than some lives hold in a lifetime.” —Julia Alvarez 

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.

About the Author

Jaquira Díaz was born in Puerto Rico. Her work has been published in Rolling Stone, the GuardianLongreads, the Fader, and T: The New York Times Style Magazine, and included in The Best American Essays 2016. She is the recipient of two Pushcart Prizes, an Elizabeth George Foundation grant, and fellowships from the MacDowell Colony, the Kenyon Review, and the Wisconsin Institute for Creative Writing. She lives in Miami Beach with her partner, the writer Lars Horn.

Praise For Ordinary Girls: A Memoir

“[Ordinary Girls] belongs on your must-read lists. Díaz is a masterful writer . . . Writing with refreshing honesty, she talks about despair, depression, love, and hope with such vibrancy that her vivid portrayal will stay with you long after the final page.”
O: The Oprah Magazine

“Every once in a while, a truly electric debut memoir comes along, and this fall, Ordinary Girls is it. It’s the story of an ordinary girl; it’s the story of all of the extraordinary girls. Díaz is a skilled writer; the depth of layering is strong, from the details to the larger structures of identity, white supremacy, colonialism, and brown, queer, and femme resilience and resistance.”

“Díaz does not flinch with the hard-hitting details of growing up in communities that deserve our wholehearted attention. She complicates how we imagine girlhood and offers a beautiful memoir written with so much love, compassion and intelligence. This book is a necessary read at a time where the system and the media is so often working against the survival of women of color. This book burns in the memory and makes one feel all the feelings. A triumph!"
Bustle (Angie Cruz, author of Dominicana)

“A dynamic examination of the power of persistence.”
Time (Most Anticipated Books of Fall 2019)

“Outstanding. A powerful and lyrical coming-of-age story, Ordinary Girls is a candid illustration of shame, despair and violence as well as joy and triumph. Against a Puerto Rican backdrop, this debut is compassionate, brave and forgiving.”
 —Ms. Magazine

“At once heartbreaking and throbbing with life in a rich portrait that's anything but ordinary.”
Good Housekeeping (The 50 Best Books of 2019 to Add to Your Reading List)

“There’s a certain ferocity throughout the entirety of Ordinary Girls. For some of the book, it’s humming like a hardworking engine—concealed under the hood, always present—but then there are moments when it combusts, bursting from the page in such a way that you, as a reader, have to pause and take a breath. Ordinary Girls is an electrifying, deftly-paced debut.”

“Diaz’s resilience and writing abilities are far from ordinary; she’s an emissary from an experience that many young women have. Listen.”

“A whirlwind memoir. Like Maya Angalou’s seminal 1969 memoir I know Why the Caged Bird Sings before it, Ordinary Girls, is brutally honest in a way that few books dare to be.”

“Striking. Díaz’s story is absolutely breathtaking.”
—NBC Latino

“A fierce, unflinching account of ordinary girls leading extraordinary lives.”
Poets & Writers
“Every so often you discover a voice that just floors you—or rather, feels like it can bulldoze something in your very soul. This fall, that voice belongs to Jaquira Díaz.”
The Week (25 Books to Read in the Second Half of 2019)

“In her debut memoir, Jaquira Díaz mines her experiences growing up in Puerto Rico and Miami, grappling with traumas both personal and international, and over time converts them into something approaching hope and self-assurance. For years, Díaz has dazzled in shorter formats—stories, essays, etc.—and her entrée into longer lengths is very welcome.”
The Millions(Most Anticipated: The Great Second-Half 2019 Book Preview)

“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.”

“Jaquira Díaz’s Ordinary Girls is more than a memoir. It is an awe-inspiring, middle-finger-waving rejection of the cult and culture of shame that pervades Latinx communities . . . an unflinching yet compassionate dissection of the pain, love, and violence that cast Díaz’s life in equal parts light and shadow . . . a love letter to the girls who have been stigmatized and silenced and hurt and left behind, to those of us whose families are both a source of incredible joy and immense pain, to all of us who contemplated dying more times than we could count and came back up for air at the last possible second . . . a homecoming for those of us who miss our pátria, a mirror for those of us looking for our ancestors . . . a history of Puerto Rico that trickles into the present, right up until the devastating aftermath of Hurricane María. And perhaps most importantly, Ordinary Girls is a reminder to keep surviving in whatever way we know how, so that we can one day write ourselves out of despair and into the people we could be—without shame.”
Women’s Review of Books

“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.”

“More so than many, Ordinary Girls will be treasured and studied not just for its testimony of survival, but also its stunning and refreshingly consistent strength of style. Every page shimmers with assuredness and the strength of somebody who has survived to tell this story but also knows that survival is a daily process. Ordinary Girls is a fierce, beautiful, uncompromising memoir about survival, motherhood, love, forgiveness, and identity. It's harrowing with a purpose.”

“[A] compelling debut. A must-read memoir on vulnerability, courage, and everything in between from a standout writer.”
Library Journal, starred review

“In this vibrant and passionate debut, [Díaz] describes how she found a way to not only survive, but thrive.”

“A candid and compelling memoir . . . Díaz's strength lies in how she can enliven the places she inhabits . . . While the story of a typical displaced girl's life could have been tragic, Díaz takes charge, changes her trajectory, and tells a tale of an individual who ultimately triumphs. Teens may relate to Díaz's adolescent struggles, including sexual curiosity, while being moved by her resilience.”

“[A] strong debut . . . gripping . . . Díaz’s empowering book wonderfully portrays the female struggle and the patterns of family dysfunction.”
Publishers Weekly

“Inventive . . . the literary bells and whistles give her story a broader interest than many memoirs . . . This book isn't just about the author's quest for self-determination; it's also about Puerto Rico's. An unusually creative memoir of a bicultural life.”
—Kirkus Reviews

“A powerful memoir, heart-wrenching, inspiring, thoroughly engrossing, reminiscent of Mary Karr’s The Liar’s Club, Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, and more recently Tara Westover’s Educated. Through one family’s story, we learn about challenges of poverty, migration, uprootedness, addiction, sexism, racism--but also about the triumphant, spirited storyteller who survives to tell the tale. Jaquira Díaz is our contemporary Scheherazade, telling stories to keep herself alive and whole, and us her readers mesmerized and wanting more. And we get it: there is more life packed on each page of Ordinary Girls than some lives hold in a lifetime.”
—Julia Alvarez, author of In the Time of the Butterflies

“Jaquira Díaz writes about ordinary girls living extraordinary lives. And Díaz is no ordinary observer. She is a wondrous survivor, a woman who has claimed her own voice, a writer who writes for those who have no voice, for the black and brown girls 'who never saw themselves in books.' Jaquira Díaz writes about them with love. How extraordinary is that!”    
—Sandra Cisneros, author of The House on Mango Street

“A life story of astonishing honesty and beauty and power, a memoir of breath and rhythm and blood-red struggle, a book for everyone who has ever felt homesick inside their own skin, and for those who, like Díaz, sing the marvelous song of themselves at top volume.”
—Karen Russell, author of Orange World

“Jaquira Díaz is an unstoppable force. Her writing is alive with power. I stand in awe of what she brings us. The future is here.” 
Luís Alberto Urrea, author of The House of Broken Angels

“Díaz blazes a bold path from the depths of the heart and guts of girls up through their fiercely beautiful throats into unstoppable song. Ordinary Girls risks dipping into family fractures, identity traumas, and the strained lines between cultures with language so fierce in places I bit my tongue, so tender in places I felt humming in my skin. Sometimes the repressed, oppressed girl, against all odds, goes back to get her own body and voice. This book will save lives.”
Lidia Yuknavitch, author of The Book of Joan