Review of ¡Ay, Mija! by Christine Suggs

¡Ay, Mija!

My Bilingual Summer in Mexico

by Christine Suggs

Little, Brown and Company, 2023. 328 pages.
Review written April 27, 2023, from a library book

¡Ay, Mija! Is one of those wonderful creations – a graphic novel memoir looking back on what it was like to be a teen figuring things out.

In this book, Christine Suggs tells about traveling on their own to visit their mother’s family in Mexico. Their Spanish wasn’t very good at the start, but they loved these people, and that love was returned. We see them carrying out more interactions as the visit goes on.

They also, naturally enough, have questions about their identity. They see things in their Mexican family that they’ve inherited, like a love of pan dulce. But their father is a pale white American, and their skin is lighter than any of their relatives in Mexico. And their Spanish isn’t very good, so they don’t always understand what their relatives are saying.

I love their drawing style, simple and loose. I could mostly keep track of who was who, and I enjoyed the little character they used to express their own thoughts and feelings in dialog.

I have never taken a Spanish class, though when I was in grad school I lived in a Spanish-speaking neighborhood of Los Angeles, and part of the time reading this book felt like that. I started to let the Spanish words rush over me. Though I think that accurately reflects how the author felt.

I do think this book would be perfect for someone who’s studied Spanish a little bit and would help them progress. There are a few English translations given, but mostly what’s on the page progresses as Christine progresses – and I was left a little behind by that. Though in a graphic novel, the pictures convey enough of the story, I didn’t feel lost. So I do think this strategy worked for this book, even though for me personally I didn’t enjoy it quite as much as I would have if I felt like I understood more of the words used.

But even with my lack of Spanish slowing me down, I still thought this was a lovely story of making family connections and a teen making their way outside their comfort zone.

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Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but the views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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