I’m thrilled that Stephanie Jimenez’s debut, They Could Have Named Her Anything, is out in the world this week! I had a chance to snag an advance copy and I was not disappointed — this novel has it all: a young but strong protagonist who tackles racism, loyalty, classism; she slingshots between poverty and privilege and learns the hard way of the bittersweet nature of love. Beautifully written and well-realized. I could not put down this book — I gobbled it up in one sitting! I thought about Maria and her story long after I had finished the book; the novel gives the readers so much to consider.
Congratulations Stephanie — So proud of you, and so excited to see They Could Have Named Her Anything make its way in the world.
Every morning, seventeen-year-old Maria An’s Rosario takes the subway an hour from her boisterous and close-knit family in Queens to her private high school on the Upper East Side, where she struggles to fit in as one of the only Latina students–until Rocky welcomes her into this new life. White, rebellious, and ignored by her wealthy parents, Rocky uses her money toward one goal: to get away with anything. To Maria, it’s a dazzling privilege.
As a bond develops between these unlikely friends, neither can see what they share most–jealousy and the desire for each other’s lives. But crackling under the surface of their seemingly supportive alliance, the girls begin to commit little betrayals as they strive to get closer to their ideals regardless of the consequences.
Told from the perspectives of Maria, Rocky, and their fathers, They Could Have Named Her Anything explores the heartfelt expectation of what it means to live up to the name you’ve been given and the more rewarding discovery of what really matters
One of BookRiot’s Top 50 Books for the Summer
One of Electric Literature’s Books to Read by Women of Color in 2019
One of Hypable’s Books to Read this Summer
One of Remezcla’s Books to Read in 2019
“Bristling with adolescent insecurities, sexual tension, and status consciousness, Jimenez’s debut is a natural for both adult and teen readers.” —Kirkus Reviews
“Book lovers have a lot to look forward to in 2019. One of the most anticipated books we’re excited about is They Could Have Named Her Anything, a debut novel from author Stephanie Jimenez.” —HelloGiggles
“Penned by a Latinx author, this arrestingly titled debut is told from the perspective of two girls and their fathers…Racism, class, betrayal, family, and friendship are all dissected by this fresh new voice.” —Cosmopolitan UK
“[The plot] offers sharp insights about teens from different worlds. Highly recommended for mature audiences.” —School Library Journal
I love reading Stephanie’s work, and I tracked down several articles she had written about her time as a Fulbright scholar and the way people of color are often asked to represent their entire culture. I’ve included an excerpt, published first in Yes!:
In order for people of color to exist in this country—and to be seen as fully American—we are often forced to denounce parts of our identities. That might explain why my mother hadn’t been back to Colombia in 42 years. When I refused to come home for Christmas during my Fulbright, I knew I was giving her no other choice but to return. Since then, she’s visited the country three times, and I don’t think her becoming a prouder Colombian has made her any less of a proud American. When I ask her where she would rather live, she still says, “Here in New York! Are you crazy?”
I would imagine many, if not most, immigrants feel the same as my mother—that the U.S. cities where they live are the only places they call home. Some assimilate by distancing themselves from their countries of birth, changing their names, or giving up their languages out of fear of stigmatization. At a time when hostility toward immigrants is rampant, it’s up to my generation to reject the concept of the authentic American as someone who looks and sounds white. The U.S. is not one homogeneous identity—it’s a place of our making. It’s a place we can make better for everyone, if we are free to embrace all aspects of our identities and live authentically as ourselves.