GRINGA LATINA by Gabriella De Ferrari


A Woman of Two Worlds
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 A nostalgic memoir of a childhood lived between two cultures. The daughter of Italian parents, now a US citizen, freelance journalist and novelist De Ferrari (A Cloud on Sand, 1990) recounts her idyllic girlhood in Tacna, Peru, and the roots of her Latina identity. Sheltered by her family's wealth and the insularity of her small town, De Ferrari grew up a gringa among Latinos. In brief chapters, she details her world: nurturing parents, whom she idolized; the family servants, important household figures who cosseted the girl and told her stories that figured crucially in her imaginative life; her luxurious house and garden. Those first 15 years in Tacna were not without strife. The author was eventually sent to school in England, in part because her wealth made it difficult for her Peruvian classmates to accept her. (The rejection still rankles: Of a former rival's ill fortune, she writes, ``I wonder what the mother superior would think of her pet student now.'') De Ferrari's prose ranges from the evocative, as in a description of a room that smells ``as if candles had been burning and wet mud had been mixed with the fragrance of lilies,'' to the clichÇd, as in a picture of her father having ``striking blue eyes and a wide forehead that bespoke his great intelligence.'' English, her third language, is the vehicle for her ``most complicated thoughts,'' yet she does not delve too deeply into the emotional consequences of a multicultural identity. She mentions how Peru has changed for the worse (pollution, terrorism, corruption) but only grazes core political issues, and although she describes her social position as a wealthy Peruvian, she doesn't fully acknowledge its impact on the poorer people around her. Readers gain entrÇe into a rarefied, intriguing world, but the tale is rather sparse and short on discovery. (Author tour)

Pub Date: April 1st, 1995
ISBN: 0-395-70934-2
Page count: 192pp
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15th, 1995


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