|[Image description: Latina woman in a pink shirt gives|
side-eye to something offscreen, one hand on her hip. Text
reads Valentina Goldman's Immaculate Confusion,
Marisol Murano, a novel.]
|Pretty, soothing picture of a "naturally flowing" river in sunset. (Source.)|
Yet, this is an #ownvoices novel in regards to race, and the author's work in general has received Original Voices awards, Amazon "Book of the Month" picks, and a "Latino Book of the Year Award." I'm also reviewing this as a white person, so you can assume a certain level of cluelessness on my part. I didn't want to immediately judge it.
Still. Racial slur. First line. Still bears mentioning because a ton of people have no idea that g*p is a slur that comes from g*psy -- I didn't used to -- which enforces racist stereotypes about how Roma people are cheaters and swindlers, stereotypes that were used to justify literal extermination of said people.
I suppose it adds irony to the book -- but I also dislike this character for a multitude of other reasons and this didn't help. She says some good shit about race but her bad shit is never challenged or acknowledged.
However, this book is ableist as fuck, and it's SUPER WEIRD to me because Valentina is supposed to have been a Psychology major. Whose mom was a psychiatrist. You'd feel like she should know better? But she 100% does not.
[Side note: I hate how she says it like we're supposed to agree with her. Like it's just a fact of life or her nasty attempt at humor. She's inviting well people to laugh at sick people and making it very clear who the audience for this book is.]
The sister also has a thieving maid who is hard of hearing. The maid ate the kid's snack, and didn't hear the admonition not to do that anymore. So, she kept eating the snacks and got fired. Later, Valentina's sister fires another maid because she has venereal disease. When they get a trustworthy maid, Valentina celebrates that she's an older woman, not like these "young, unstable women with STD's." Valentina also explains that you can't trust any poor maids because once they start working for people who are better off, they'll just realize they can steal from you and can't be trusted. So, she ends up concluding that the maid who was hard of hearing (who was fired because she literally didn't hear the warning about not eating the food) just stole because she was poor and untrustworthy. And basically all or most of the "help" you can get is untrustworthy. Or "unstable."
Pretty much everyone bad or annoying in this book is disabled -- the first husband, the ex-wife, the sister, the thieving maid -- even the neurodivergent uncle is very strongly implied to have molested Valentina's aunt Lupita. Lupita, who's just a few years older than Valentina, is asked why she hates him since he seems harmless. Lupita says, "The older the boy, the younger the toy" and "looks darkly" at him/the ceiling/the middle distance or some shit. We've also got a sometimes-not-all-there grandma who's described as being perfectly aware of the abuse by her son(s) and who refuses to do anything about it. People who aren't explicitly identified as disabled are slapped with a diagnosis by Valentina because she doesn't like them.
Usually, 3 stars means that it wasn't for me, but it might be a good fit for someone else. I can't give that to a book which has so many flaws (cringey racial stuff! all the mentally ill and/or disabled characters are bad!) and handles rape in such a horribly clumsy fashion.
Like. You can have a book with a frank, blunt narrator voice and a woman with baggage about being raped and STILL not have that book endorse the rape. I've read several books where rape features in a character's backstory or as a plot point and, while they might be reductive and cringey, they at least clear the VERY LOW BAR of saying "rape is not OK." I'm genuinely not sure if you're supposed to be disgusted here by what her parents and doctor did to her, and the book suggests that in the end it was OK because it all worked out, and just...
|[Image description: gif of octopus crawling rapidly across the sand. Text: Nope nope|
One thing which made me wonder about the directing/producing choices was when Valentina refers to her accented English, yet speaks with the "typical" East-Coast-ish American accent. She wasn't born in the U.S., but she does have a U.S. accent as read in this book; however, her Spanish-speaking family members are read with Latin American accents. I wasn't sure at first why the reader chose to do accents sometimes but not other times. The only thing I can figure is that accented English is meant to signify when a character is speaking Spanish, whereas unaccented English was used for Valentina's narration because she was speaking to Emily in English. I'm not sure quite what the differentiation was or why it was made, but it stood out to me when she was talking about her own accent, learning languages, and trying to understand Southern accents. (Different American regional accents are used, too.)