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Literary Analysis: I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter

Erika L. Sánchez’s “I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter” explores identity, family, and cultural expectations via the main character’s development. First-generation American, rebellious Julia Reyes, who lives in Chicago, laments the tragic passing of her older sister Olga. The essay will evaluate Julia’s complex emotional and cultural journey and approach. The novel explores familial dynamics, cultural expectations, and self-discovery through Julia’s perspective. “I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter” follows a young woman searching for her identity in this situation.

Character Analysis

Protagonist: Julia Reyes

The main character, Julia Reyes, is a complex and disobedient young woman. With her fiery attitude, she opposes society. Smart, self-reliant, and passionate about learning and exploration, Julia. She finds it difficult to live up to her family’s standards of a “perfect Mexican daughter” and feels constrained by their customs. Throughout the book, Julia’s self-discovery is motivated by her quest for independence, self-expression, and social freedom.

Julia disagrees with her relatives, especially her parents, who are adamant about upholding traditional Mexican values. Their demands that Julia conforms to social mores and play out gender roles conflict with her aspirations for independence and originality. Because of this disagreement, Julia and her parents frequently fight, which strains the family unit. Julia also has to contend with social pressures to live up to stereotypes of Mexican girls that are supported by her neighborhood. These conflicts draw attention to Julia’s attempt to balance her aspirations with society’s expectations of her.

The events Julia encounters throughout the book influence her development and result in significant self-discovery; after the death of Olga, Julia’s life changes. As Julia unearths Olga’s secrets, she understands her sister and herself. After reading Olga’s writings and learning about her sister’s secret life, Julia doubts her identity and cultural norms. These insights prompt Julia to examine herself, push her boundaries, and accept who she is.

Supporting Characters

Olga Reyes:

Olga, Julia’s deceased sister, has a big impact on Julia’s life even if she isn’t there. In her parent’s eyes, Olga is the ideal Mexican daughter, and Julia is pressured to live up to Olga’s idealized perfection. In coping with her sadness at Olga’s passing, Julia must also figure out who she is without her sister (Sánchez). Julia’s development and self-understanding are accelerated by Olga’s presence in the form of journals and untold stories.

Julia’s Parents:

Julia’s parents represent conventional Mexican ideals and beliefs. Julia is under great pressure from their cultural conformity and conservatism. While her father prioritizes obedience and conformity to social norms, her mother expects her to adhere to traditional gender roles (Sánchez). Julia’s disagreements with her parents are caused by her refusal to fit in, which causes strained relationships and a never-ending struggle for independence.


Connor, Julia’s partner, molds her. Contrary to her family, Connor supports Julia’s aspirations. He gives her the freedom to follow her interests. Through her friendship with Connor, Julia learns about life outside of her culture and family, encouraging her to develop and accept herself.

Theme Analysis


The author explores Julia’s struggle to establish her Mexican-American identity. In an American-based traditional Mexican household, Julia finds it difficult to fit in. She wants to be herself and follow her passions, but Mexican daughter norms prevent her from doing so. Julia’s goals and aspirations frequently conflict with what society expects of her. Although her family and culture encourage more conventional responsibilities for Mexican daughters, such as marriage and motherhood, she still wants to pursue her ambitions of attending college and becoming a writer (Sánchez). As Julia strives to manage her career while honoring her cultural background, this conflict causes her to experience internal struggle. Through the narrative, Julia comes to terms with her identity outside of societal and cultural conventions and learns to love herself by challenging preconceptions and boundaries (Sánchez). Julia’s identity search influences her self-perception and her place in the world.

Family Dynamics

The storyline of the work deftly incorporates the issue of family dynamics. Julia has intricate and multi-layered ties with her parents and late sister, Olga. Olga and Julia’s sibling rivalry is investigated, exposing the difficulties and conflicts within the family system. Julia’s troubled relationship with her parents—a result of their traditional ideals and expectations—adds dimension to the study of family dynamics.

Olga’s passing significantly affects the family relationships in the book. Olga’s status as the “perfect Mexican daughter” imposes a standard on Julia that she finds difficult to meet. Her departure creates a hole in the family, adding to Julia’s stress and escalating her disagreements with her parents (Sánchez). The family faces their vulnerabilities and redefines their relationships due to Olga’s death and the following disclosures. Julia’s familial relationships have a big impact on how she goes through her self-discovery process. Her contact with her parents, their expectations, and the sorrow over Olga’s passing impact her decisions and lead her to reflect (Sánchez). The family’s responses to Julia’s rejection of social conventions and pursuit of her aspirations reveal the difficulties and intricacies of family dynamics, ultimately fostering Julia’s development and transformation.

Cultural Expectations

The issue of cultural expectations focuses on Julia’s struggles to uphold conventional beliefs and roles as a Mexican daughter. Her family and community hold specific expectations about her behavior, responsibilities, and prospects. The difficulties many people encounter when negotiating diverse cultural identities are highlighted by Julia’s struggle between upholding her cultural background and claiming her individualism (Sánchez). Julia’s goals and wants frequently conflict with the conventional standards her family and community uphold. She encounters opposition, judgment, and criticism as she works to build her path. Her refusal to follow cultural norms and mandated gender roles upends the status quo, causing difficulties and tensions in her relationships (Sánchez). These tensions serve as a reminder of the clash between personal freedom and culture. Julia faces challenges and repercussions for defying societal conventions. She has to deal with her family, the community, and even her self-doubt. The book examines what Julia must pay to express her individuality and follow her aspirations in defiance of social conventions (Sánche). This investigation highlights the difficulties and costs of defying cultural norms while pursuing personal fulfillment.

Symbolism and Motifs

The Mirror

The mirror serves as a potent symbol throughout the entire story. It stands for introspection and identity exploration. Julia uses the mirror as a metaphorical tool to assess and query her perception of herself both physically and emotionally. It represents the many facets of her identity, putting her face to face with her wants, weaknesses, and expectations. The mirror becomes a tool for self-discovery and helps Julia overcome her struggles with self-acceptance (Sánchez).In the story, the mirror stands for identity and self-reflection.In her mirror conversations, Julia strives to define herself outside conventional conventions, reflecting her internal battle between her Mexican and American identities (Sánchez). Julia confronts her uncertainties, questions her place in the world, and looks in the mirror to learn more about herself. It represents her acceptance and discovery of herself.


The birds are a recurrent theme in the narrative. Birds are frequently present in scenes and represent various facets of Julia’s experiences. They frequently show up when people are reflecting, going through a change, or wishing for independence and escape. The bird motif gives the tale depth and significance, which develops a metaphorical language that improves the examination of Julia’s personality and motivations. Additionally, birds represent several ideas, such as freedom and escape. They represent the desire to break free from social restrictions and find liberation. According to Sanchez, birds are a metaphor for Julia’s desire to overcome the constraints and expectations placed on her because she is a Mexican daughter. They represent her hopes, desires, and aspirations for a life transcending cultural barriers. The bird motif highlights Julia’s quest for freedom and difficulties finding her way.


This analysis examined several aspects of the book “I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter.” The author examines Julia Reyes, the main character, and her quest for self-discovery, as well as the challenges she encounters in establishing her identity and negotiating cultural and familial expectations. The author examines cultural conventions, family, and identity. Through Julia’s journey, the story examines how people torn between society and personal influences suffer. The story emphasizes the importance of defining one’s identity, familial ties and expectations, and the tension between cultural norms and personal aspirations. The story reveals independence, self-acceptance, and cultural authenticity through these themes. With a compelling narrative that appeals to readers from various backgrounds, the story also makes literary contributions. It looks at the difficulties of forming an identity in a connected world and the need to accept one’s cultural heritage while forging one’s path. The family dynamics in the book illustrate how family interactions influence personal development. Additionally, it opposes cultural conventions and encourages inclusion and understanding.

Works Cited

Sánchez, Erika L. I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter. Thorndike Press, a Part of Gale, a Cengage Company, 2020.


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