Blog Tour/Review for ORDINARY GIRLS by Jaquira Diaz

Hello, hello! This week, I’m participating in the blog tour for the paperback release of Jaquira Diaz’s memoir Ordinary Girls. It was originally released in October, 2019 from Algonquin Books. Since then, it has received an abundance of praise and has won the Whiting Award in Nonfiction. Thanks to receiving a copy of the book from Algonquin Books and NetGalley, I’ll be providing my own review shortly, but first I thought I would share some praise the book’s already earned.

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“A skilled writer, Díaz is meticulous in her craft, and on page after page her writing truly sings. Her temporal leaps and switches in tense and point of view make the overall delivery both powerful and complex…  This brutally honest coming-of-age story is a painful yet illuminating memoir, a testament to resilience in the face of scarcity, a broken family, substance abuse, sexual assault, mental illness, suicide and violence.”
-The New York Times Book Review

“A fierce, unflinching account of ordinary girls leading extraordinary lives.”
-Poets & Writers

“Jaquira Díaz writes about ordinary girls living extraordinary lives. And Díaz is no ordinary observer. She is a wondrous survivor, a woman who has claimed her own voice, a writer who writes for those who have no voice, for the black and brown girls “who never saw themselves in books.” Jaquira Díaz writes about them with love. How extraordinary is that!”   
-Sandra Cisneros, author of The House on Mango Street

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A gorgeous cover.

Ordinary Girls tells the story of Diaz’s life from a young childhood in Puerto Rico to an adolescence in Miami to an adulthood still searching for where she belongs. There are dysfunctional families that fall apart, friendships that transform into makeshift families, struggles being overcome, and so much more. It’s Diaz’s story, her life, but it’s also a relatable story for so many young women.

Diaz doesn’t shy away from the difficult topics. She writes openly about suicide and addiction from both sides. She writes about violence and racism and sexual assault. There’s a struggle with her own sexuality. There’s the growth from a teenage “delinquent” (just a girl who doesn’t know any other way to cope with life) to a young woman who knows she can be better and does the only thing she can think of to prove it to herself by joining the navy. And throughout the memoir, Diaz sprinkles in bits of Puerto Rican history to help define where she comes from. It makes for an interesting and moving combination.

The writing is strong. I admit that some of the shifts in tense and changes from more personal writing styles to more journalistic styles were jarring for me. I don’t read much nonfiction, so I’m used to a more uniform style. But once I stopped reading each section as a type of chapter and started reading them more as linked essays, I got into the flow of the book much easier.

Ultimately, Ordinary Girls was an intriguing and emotional piece that I’m glad I read. It’s not something I would have picked up on my own, but it’s relatable and for the parts I couldn’t relate to, it’s enlightening.

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Overall, I gave it four out of five stars. If you enjoy memoirs, this is definitely one worth picking up.


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Photo: Maria Esquinca

Jaquira Díaz was born in Puerto Rico and raised in Miami. She is the author of Ordinary Girls: A Memoir, winner of a Whiting Award, a Florida Book Awards Gold Medal, and a Lambda Literary Awards finalist. Ordinary Girls was a Summer/Fall 2019 Indies Introduce Selection, a Fall 2019 Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers Notable Selection, a November 2019 Indie Next Pick, and a Library Reads October pick. Díaz’s work has been published in The GuardianThe FaderConde Nast Traveler, T: The New York Times Style Magazine, and The Best American Essays 2016, among other publications. She is the recipient of two Pushcart Prizes, an Elizabeth George Foundation grant, and fellowships from the MacDowell Colony, the Kenyon Review, and the Wisconsin Institute for Creative Writing. A former Visiting Assistant Professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s MFA Program in Creative Writing, and Consulting Editor at the Kenyon Review, she splits her time between Montréal and Miami Beach, with her partner, the writer Lars Horn. Her second book, I Am Deliberate: A Novel, is forthcoming from Algonquin Books.

Author Spotlight: Danielle Rose

Howdy, howdy!  My friend, fellow Stonecoaster, and partner in writerly mischief, Danielle Rose, recently released the first of her Blood Books trilogy, Blood Rose, through Oftomes PublishingBlood Magic (book two) drops on August 1st as well.  So, I thought I would take a chance to do a little interview with Danielle.

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The cover of book one!

Q: Can you tell us a little about yourself for those who don’t know you?

A: I’m Danielle Rose, author of the Blood Books trilogy, which is being released back to back by OfTomes Publishing in 2017.  I’m also the owner of Narrative Ink Editing LLC, an independent editing company that assists in the preparation of independent authors’ manuscripts.  Sometimes, I teach composition at the university level.

Q: You seem to do so much: you own an editing business, you market your new releases, you’re writing a new book… how do you do it all?  Can you offer any tips and tricks?

A: It’s hard work, but I have a support team, including a personal assistant and PR goddess, as well as a writing group.  It’s important that I have someone there to hold me accountable.  Goal setting is a major aspect of my writing group, and that really helps me (and my horrible memory!) check-off things on my to-do list.

Q: What is your all-time favorite thing to write about?

A: The human condition.  It’s truly fascinates me.  In all of my books, I explore what it means to be human and the choices we make because we’re human.  I like to put my characters in some pretty tight situations and see what they would (realistically) do to get through these tough times.  I think my fascination stems from the digital era we live in.  With the click of a button, we have access to witness awful things, and we are quick to judge.  Sometimes, I wonder what we would truly do had we been in these positions.  I explore these themes in my writing.

Q: What’s the one genre you are dying to write?

A: Psychological thrillers.  I would love to write those!

Q: What is it like to begin your career as an indie author and then become traditionally published?

A: It’s been an interesting journey.  I’ve had to learn to sit back and let someone else take control, which is difficult for me to do.  I’m used to controlling every aspect of my career, from release date to cover design.  Thankfully, my publisher truly cares about my opinions, and he asks for my input on just about everything he does.

Q: Do you prefer self-publishing or traditional publishing?  Why?

A: Comparing self-publishing to traditional publishing is like comparing cats to dogs: there are similarities there, but in truth, they’re two different species.  In self-publishing, the writer experiences the entire weight of the publishing process.  A traditionally published writer has a support team.  Because I have the get-it-done mentality, it’s natural for me to take control, especially if it’s regarding my career.  Because of this, self-publishing works better for me.  However, I absolutely adore my publisher, and I can’t imagine releasing my Blood Books trilogy without them.  With that being said, I can’t say that I like one better than the other.  They’re two completely different experiences, and I wouldn’t be the writer I am today if I hadn’t gone through both methods.

Q: What is the single greatest piece of marketing advice you can offer emerging writers?

A: Offer advance reader copies (ARCs) of your books and require readers to post a review on release day.  This is such an important step to the launch of a book release, because it knocks out many birds with one stone:

1. Readers often flood social media with pictures and posts of their advance copy. (Everyone loves a bragger when it comes to the pre-release of a book!)

2. Readers post a review to platforms, which help to establish your book with new readers in an oversaturated market.

3. Many platforms, like Amazon, will help promote your book for free once you reach a certain number of reviews.

Q: Which writers do you fangirl over?

A: SO many!  I met Meredith Wild (Hacker) recently, and I could barely speak.  (Ha!)  I also love Richelle Mead (Vampire Academy), Chloe Neill (Chicagoland Vampires), and Lauren Blakely (anything, really).  Honestly, I’d fangirl over anyone who wrote a great romance novel.

Q: Join the debate: should emerging writers get a degree in writing before embarking on this journey?

A: Yes.  Because the market is so oversaturated now, I think it’s important to learn how to write before diving in.  You only have one chance to make a first impression.

Q:  And last, but not least, if you could temporarily change into any creature (real, mythical, alive, extinct, etc.), what would you choose and why?

A: First choice: vampire (the immortal kind)!  Second choice: a witch with powers.  I’ve always been attracted to vampires.  They’re immortal, powerful, sometimes magical, and emotional.  I also love witches, but they’re not immortal.  That’s the only reason they’re in second place.

Thank you so much for your time, Danielle!  I know great things await you.

If you haven’t already checked out Danielle’s work, I suggest you do so right now.  Her website is linked above (click on the blue font), along with the publisher’s website.