Latino Voices

Book-to-Film Adaptation Puts Chicago Author on Path to Hollywood With ‘I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter’

Book-to-Film Adaptation Puts Chicago Author on Path to Hollywood With ‘I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter’

In 2017, poet and author Erika L. Sánchez published her first novel, “I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter.”

The book topped the New York Times “Best Sellers List” and was named one of Time Magazine’s “Top 100 Best Young Adult Books of All Time,” earning adoption into high school curriculums across the United States. And now, Hollywood is calling, with a book-to-film adaptation at Amazon MGM Studios’ Orion Pictures with award-winning actress America Ferrera on board to make her big-screen directing debut.

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Ferrera had a major impact on Sánchez’s career as a writer, and Sánchez still finds herself catching her breath at the opportunity to work with the Academy Award-nominated actress.

“It was really unbelievable to me, because I grew up not having any representation,” Sánchez said. “I didn’t really have movies or books that spoke to me directly, and then when I saw ‘Real Women Have Curves’ when I was 18, it mirrored me back to myself and I felt like, ‘Well, maybe I can do this grand thing that I want to do. I can be a writer.’ Because I had seen an example of that and that movie really changed me. It’s just so unexpected that we then work on this movie together.”

The daughter of Mexican immigrants, Sánchez grew up as a first-generation Latinx just outside the city limits in Cicero. And according to Sánchez, it was important to her that the film should be shot and based in Chicago.

“I felt like it was really necessary to film in Chicago, and America agreed,” Sánchez said. “There’s just no substitute and the story is so Chicago. That was intentional and it’s also a sort of love letter to the city.”

Sánchez has partnered with screenwriter Linda Yvette Chávez to handle the script, and Sánchez is also wearing a hat as an executive producer on the film.

“I’m trying to learn and also kind of stay in my lane,” Sánchez said. “It’s a weird place to jump into, it’s very unfamiliar. But I feel really confident in my creative abilities and my abilities to work with people. So, I’m scared, but also excited.”

There’s no timeline yet on when filming will begin.

Read an excerpt from the book below. 

“I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter” by Erika L. Sánchez“I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter” by Erika L. Sánchez

Christmas vacation was almost as bad as last year’s. I don’t know if it’s worse to spend all day in my room, or struggle through my classes and be forced to speak to other human beings. Sometimes I can’t make it through the day without losing it, so I have to take crying breaks in the bathroom, which makes me feel extra pathetic. Lorena keeps asking me if I’m okay and if she could do something to help me, and I say I’m fine, although I’m so far from fine that I don’t even remember what it is anymore. I feel like my heart is covered with spines.

Mr. Ingman keeps wondering why I’ve been missing our after[1]school college sessions. He’s excited that I got a 29 on my ACT. If I didn’t feel like absolute garbage, I would probably be excited, too. I try to avoid him, and when I do run into him, I tell him that I have to work with my mom in the evenings. My history teacher, Mr. Nguyen, often asks how I’m feeling. He looks worried, but what can I tell him? How can I begin to explain? I just keep relying on the trusty old period card.

In English class today, we discussed one of my favorite Emily Dickinson poems, and it felt as if something were splintering inside me. When we got to the part about the bees, my eyes ached from holding back tears.

Instead of walking home after school today, I take the bus downtown. I’m not even sure where I’ll go or what I’ll do—I have no money or destination—but I can’t bear another evening locked up in my room. I don’t care about the repercussions. I give up.

I finally decide on Millennium Park because it’s the closest thing I can get to nature and because it’s free. It’s still freezing, so of course no one is around, only a few annoying tourists who, for some stupid reason, thought it was a good idea to come to Chicago in the winter. The cold here feels barbaric, inhumane. Why would anyone want to come to a place like this?

The snow is pretty when it falls, but it hasn’t snowed in about a week. All that’s left now is slushy and gray, or yellow from all the dog pee. I wish winter would pack its bags and get the hell out already.

The amphitheater is completely deserted, so it’s almost peaceful. The silver architecture looks kind of ridiculous to me, like a spaceship and spiderweb fused together, but everyone always takes pictures of it like it’s some sort of masterpiece. I smile when I remember the time Lorena and I came to a summer concert here. We didn’t even like the music—some kind of folk band from Serbia or some shit—but it felt great to be outside under the moon and three sad city stars. I thought maybe Connor and I would come here in the summer, too.

I walk toward the ice-skating rink as the sky begins to darken. I wish I had a few dollars for a cup of hot chocolate, but I barely have enough to get back on the bus. I’m tired of being broke. I’m tired of feeling like the rest of the world always gets to decide what I can do. I know I should go back home, but I can’t seem to move. I can’t keep going like this anymore. What is the point of living if I can’t ever get what I want? This doesn’t feel like a life; it feels like a never-ending punishment. My body shivers, and the thoughts in my head become hot, confusing swirls. I can’t seem to breathe right.

“Go home, go home, go home,” I tell myself, but I just stand there, watching a blond boy with ruddy cheeks skate in a tiny circle until his mother yells that it’s time for them to leave.

Excerpted from I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika L. Sánchez. Copyright 2017 Erika L. Sánchez. All rights reserved.

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