There are some people’s lives that once you hear their story, you wonder how could it be that they survived. Their story is so harrowing, so filled with tragedy and a life that is tarnished, agonizing, and traumatic, that it’s a wonder how they rose to face the next day. Is there the intervention of God, is there a will to survive, or is it simply that the dice were rolled and it was decided they would live?
“We were happy once.”
Jaquira Diaz for all intents and purposes had a hell of an upbringing, that is if you term it as an upbringing. Born in Puerto Rico, into poverty, her mother, eventually diagnosed as a schizophrenic, and an absentee father, made for a painful and terrifying childhood. They were poor, dirt poor, and so Jacqui became a kid from the streets.
”The five of us were the kind of poor you could feel in your bones, in your teeth, in your stomach. Empty-refrigerator poor. Sleeping-on-the-floor-until-somebody-threw-out-a-sofabed poor. Stirring-sugar-into-water-and-calling-it-lemonade poor. And then we’d take off again, like runaways. One apartment, and then another, and then another, never staying long enough to put up a picture, leaving while the place still smelled like the people who lived there before us.”
At the age where other young girls were playing with dolls, Jaquira ran with the wild crowd, and why not for there was no one who seemed to care what she did or where she went. She was tortured by her brother who at one point punched her so hard that she had auditory problems that would persist always. Her mother was for lack of a better word was insane, sometimes taking her medication, but often she was on the streets prostituting herself for a drink, a drug, a cigarette, searching for the acclaim she felt belonged to her. Her father was a womanizer, who couldn’t seem to be bothered to try and care for his children as he should. The one member of Jaquira’s family who seemed to “give a dam” was her grandmother but even that care was fleeting and lacking.
Even when the family moved to Miami, Jaquira’s life was in turmoil as she bounced from a place with her mentally ill mother, to her father who seemed to drift in and out of her life like a breeze blowing through, not seeming to care about the fate of his daughter. She would wind up in flop houses, on the beach or in a jail cell. She was to all a lost cause, a piece of dirt rolling though life, and one that eventually would be swept away.
Jaquira was wild, the drinking, the drugs, the sex, the quest for the next thrill, the next dare, the next time she would land in jail seemed to be her fate. This life was one we read about in the news. Her destiny seemed to be death at a young age, and a life ever so wasted. She was tormented by so many devils, never seeming to be able to climb above as the streets kept her pulled into the gutter and guaranteeing a young demise. How could she turn this all around and become an author? She was a child who at best attended school randomly, a throw away kid, not worth the time or even the effort to try and straighten out. Yet there were some who tried over the years that Jacqui ran on the side of danger and mayhem. There were friends, but many of them also were catastrophes in the making. With so much stacked against her, Jaquira seemed doomed and yet she had a talent and that talent was writing and as she pulled herself up and found the meaning of school and an education, she achieved what most would have thought impossible.
This was a harrowing memoir, one that had disaster written all over it, and yet the words and the stories seemed authentic. Many memoirs have that questionable element, but to me, this one seemed like the real deal. As I read the pages, my mind kept wondering how the heck did this girl survive? It is a testament to the human spirit and of course to Jaquira herself that she was able to journey onto a road where her dignity, her mind, her heart, and of course her writing has been allowed to trek. he only thing I sometimes found was that the telling was choppy, lending at times the reader to lose exactly where in Jaquira’s life we were reading of.
I definitely recommend this story to those who are looking for a convincing and creditable story of a life that many would have thought was ended before it even started.
Thank you to Jacquira Diaz, Debra Linn, Rachel Gryder, First Readers Club, and Algonquin Books for forwarding a copy of this book to me. This book is due to be published on October 29,2019.