cover image American like Me: Reflections on Life Between Cultures

American like Me: Reflections on Life Between Cultures

Edited by America Ferrera. Gallery, $26 (356p) ISBN 978-1-5011-8091-0

Ferrera, known for playing the title character on the sitcom Ugly Betty, opens this essay collection with a conversational and honest account of growing up with conflicting messages as the American-born child of immigrant parents. It’s a theme that runs throughout the following pieces, which are brief snapshots of those moments in which 32 actors, politicians, writers, athletes, filmmakers, musicians, and activists recognized how they occupied a space between different cultures. Parents feature heavily, including Randall Park’s, whose backgrounds in Korea were a mystery to him until he interviewed them for his essay, and Geena Rocero’s “trans mother figure for two of the most important years of my life,” Tigerlily, who shepherded her through beauty pageants in the Philippines and inspired her to continue to “sashay” the pageant stage in the U.S. Some of these celebrities are not great writers, but their pieces still evoke strong emotions, and Ferrara sprinkles enough gifted storytellers among them to keep up the momentum. To name one example of a strong contributor, when Uzo Aduba writes about her high school graduation and asking her mom to wear the vibrant, traditional Nigerian clothes of her heritage, the effect is as dazzling and varied as this book as a whole. Agent: David Kuhn, Aevitas. (Sept.)