A celebrated Puerto Rican actress’s memoir about how she found success despite growing up in unstable and often abusive environments.
Brooklyn native Perez spent the first three years of her life with her father’s sister, a woman she called “Mommie.” When her beautiful but schizophrenic birth mother, Lydia, unexpectedly re-entered her life, it was to take her to a Catholic home for children 50 miles outside of New York City. Shocked and confused, Perez knew almost nothing but injustice from that moment forward. The nuns often lacked compassion, and her mother was as neglectful as she was cruel. The only person who genuinely cared for her was her aunt, who struggled for years against both Lydia and the New York court system to get custody of her niece. Perez’s ebullience and scrappiness put her at odds with all of her guardians, but they also allowed her to survive her ever-changing cast of sometimes-abusive caretakers. Despite these challenges, the author still managed to reconnect with her father, Ismael, who helped her learn to appreciate her Puerto Rican identity at a crucial time in an otherwise fraught adolescence. Along the way, she discovered a gift for dancing that would eventually get her noticed in a Los Angeles nightclub by Soul Train creator Don Cornelius. She became a respected hip-hop choreographer and then caught the eye of film director Spike Lee, who cast her in his 1989 film Do the Right Thing. Perez ultimately went on to become the poor Brooklyn girl who made good; but in her personal life, she continued to struggle with the searing aftereffects of her difficult life, including PTSD and depression. With refreshing candor and sass, Perez transforms the painful details of her life into an inspiring reminder that even the most unforgiving of personal circumstances can be overcome.
A spunky and heartfelt memoir.