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Book Review
By

 Christine Granados

[This review first appeared in Hispanic, December 2000 Issue]

 

By Michele Serros
How to Be a Chicana Role Model
by Michele Serros
(New York: Riverhead Books, 2000).
Softcover, 222 pages, $12.95. Fiction

 

Michele Serros' second book is a mix of genres-stand-up comedy, advice, and short stories. It even includes a selection from her first novel, "Chicana Falsa." Although noted as "new" fiction, the book presents real life tales and is split into thirteen sections called "role model rules."


Within these sections we learn about the hard knocks of the publishing business, how difficult it can be to get paid for public poetry readings, and how important family is to an aspiring writer. But it is Serros' gift for capturing the emotion of a moment in dialogues between family members that holds this piece of work together.

 

Scenes like the one in her strongest story "The Big Deal" give readers a glimpse into the cross-cultural battle Serros and Latinas in general face as she tries to describe her Anglo boyfriend to her auntie Alma and cousins, who would be meeting him for the first time.

She drops tidbits of important information throughout the day to her family-he has long hair, had been in jail, and was agnostic. The final straw came when she told her auntie and cousins that her new boyfriend was a vegan. It was one thing her surrogate mother couldn't overlook, nor could her cousins.

"What kind of man eats just vegetables?" Auggie repeated. "I mean, where does he get his ganas from?" Then he and Benny laughed together as they left for the backyard. "They're called florets," I called out to him. "Alma, please tell him what we just talked about." "I don't know."

She hesitated. "I mean, personally, I just think it's unnatural, strange." "Alma, what about all this talk about love, and acceptance, and how important it is to find someone you care about in life?" "That was before you told me he and his family were vegans."

In the story "Discard Discontinued Text," Serros opens up enough to write a poignant and heartfelt tale about her mother's death, which got only a brief mention in her first book. She uses the same voice as in her previous effort and unfortunately carries over bad habits from her first try.

Her use of "cuz" for the word "because" can be distracting, and some of the selections can be overly sentimental and manipulative. In "Seek Support from the Sistas" she discusses being a page for the Fox television show In Living Color and how she tried to bond with Jennifer López.

After being rebuffed and then humiliated by the Fly Girl, she writes: "Once you've put on a page uniform, you're already a target of passive contempt. You're a reminder of how detoured a career can go and what a waste a college degree could be."

But a reader can overlook these peculiarities because she's just so funny. In the same story she had me laughing out loud when describing her page uniform. "My panty hose were regulation style, nude-colored sheers that gathered at the ankles and lay low in the crotch. No wonder old women are always so cranky."

 

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Christine Granados is the author of Brides and Sinners in El Chuco (University of Arizona Press, 2006).  Her website is www.christinegranados.com and she can be reached at Christine@rockdalereporter.com.