After much deliberation I have chosen The Dirty Girls Social Club by Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez as the next BBC selection. The Chicago Tribune reported that this book “set off a bidding frenzy” among publishers. The Associated Press claimed that “even people running the copy machines at the major publishing houses just had to read The Dirty Girls Social Club.”
Here is the blurb followed by the questions you should keep in mind while reading the book. I hope it’s liked better than my last choice Bel Canto; kind of afraid to pick a book after most of you trashed it within an inch of its poor existence! Grrrr.
Valdes-Rodriguez’s debut novel delivers on the promise of its sexy title, offering six lively, irreverent characters: the sucias (“dirty girls” in Spanish), who have been friends since college and get together twice a year to catch up. The book opens at just such a meeting, six years after they’ve graduated from Boston University, and takes us through an eventful year in their late 20-something lives. This diverse group of women defies stereotypes. There’s reserved, conservative Rebecca, founder and editor of a magazine for Latina women, whose marriage to a preppy, Marxist theory-spouting academic is on the rocks; Sara, a full-time mom in Brookline, from a rich Cuban-Jewish family and married to an abusive husband; Usnavys, ambitious and entertainingly materialistic, who’s an executive with United Way; Amber, a struggling singer and guitarist; Elizabeth, host of a Boston morning TV show and a born-again Christian; and Lauren, a feisty, hard-drinking newspaper columnist, half Cuban and “half white trash.”
The book addresses serious questions—prejudice, the difficulty of winning respect from Latino men—but balances them with enough budding (and dying) romances and descriptions of clothing and decor to satisfy any chick lit fan. The lively, humorous writing is peppered with Spanglish and attitude (watching Usnavys approach their meeting place, Lauren says, “Look at her. She just slid up to the curb out front in her silver BMW sedan... She’s on her cell phone. Wait, take two: She’s on her itsy-bitsy cell phone. It gets smaller every time I see her. Or maybe she gets bigger, I can’t tell. Girl loves her food.”) This is a fun, irresistible debut.
- How do you think Rebecca’s husband was raised to view Latinos? How does this impact their marriage? Is his disappointment in her fair, in your opinion?
- How could it be that Sara’s home life and the image her friends have of her could be so different? Why do you think she hid the truth for so long?
- Why does Gato finally stray in his relationship with Amber? How does Amber react? By contrast, how do you think Lauren might have reacted in the same situation?
- Why does Usnavys think she needs to find a rich man? What in her past makes her believe this? How does this belief impact her happiness?
- The sucias are all Latinas, but they are also of different races, religions and backgrounds. How does this compare to images of Latinas you see in the U.S. media?