Las hijas de Juan shatters the silence surrounding experiences of incest within a working-class Mexican American family. Both a feminist memoir and a hopeful meditation on healing, it is Josie Méndez-Negrete’s story of how she and her siblings and mother survived years of violence and sexual abuse at the hands of her father.
Méndez-Negrete was born in Mexico, in the state of Zacatecas. She recalls a joyous childhood growing up in the midst of Tabasco, a vibrant town filled with extended family. Her father, though, had dreams of acquiring wealth in el norte. He worked sun-up to sun-down in the fields of south Texas. Returning home to Mexico, his pockets full of dollars, he spent evenings drinking and womanizing.
When Méndez-Negrete was eleven, her father moved the family to the United States, where they eventually settled in California’s Santa Clara Valley. There her father began molesting his daughters, viciously beating them and their mother. Within the impoverished immigrant family, the abuse continued for years, until a family friend brought it to the attention of child welfare authorities. Méndez-Negrete’s father was tried, convicted, and imprisoned.
Las hijas de Juan is told chronologically, from the time Méndez-Negrete was a child until she was a young adult trying, along with the rest of her family, to come to terms with her father’s brutal legacy. It is a harrowing story of abuse and shame compounded by cultural and linguistic isolation and a system of patriarchy that devalues the experiences of women and girls. At the same time, Las hijas de Juan is an inspiring tale, filled with strong women and hard-won solace found in traditional Mexican cooking, songs, and storytelling.
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"To tell this story took an inordinate amount of courage; to have survived it makes me marvel at the power of the human spirit. As a reader, one feels deeply grateful for the privilege of being granted into its confidence. Josie Méndez-Negrete writes that the healing is not in the telling, but perhaps it resides in us, the listeners. May this story, then, travel far."—Sandra Cisneros
"Las hijas de Juan breaks new ground in the literature of Chicano/a autobiography by taking on the shameful issue of paternal incest at the same time that it demonstrates the process of healing through speaking, writing, and remembering. This book is the genuine song of the survivor, and the narrator’s personal story is also a political reality of the Chicano/a and Latino/a community, an ugly beast fed on silence that must be both contained and confronted. More than anything, Las hijas de Juan shows us the imperative need to speak the secrets that, unfortunately, bind and damage so many mujeres in our communities."—Alicia Gaspar de Alba, Latino Studies
"[Las hijas de Juan] is the childhood story of courage and resistance to patriarchy too frightening to be imagined and too hurtful to be forgotten."—Norma L. Cárdenas, Journal of Latinos and Education
"Las hijas de Juan is a searching and searingly honest portrayal of struggle, survival, and corage! This is a woman’s story that has lessons for the entire community."—Louis Gerard Mendoza, author of Historia: The Literary Making of Chicana and Chicano HistoryFrom the Back Cover:
""Las hijas de Juan" is a searching and searingly honest portrayal of struggle, survival, and "corage"! This is a woman's story that has lessons for the entire community."--Louis Gerard Mendoza, author of "Historia: The Literary Making of Chicana and Chicano History"
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