REVIEW: Mexican Enough by Stephanie Elizondo Griest

REVIEW: Mexican Enough by Stephanie Elizondo GriestMexican Enough: My Life between the Borderlines by Stephanie Elizondo Griest
Published: Washington Square Press (2008), Paperback, 336pg
Genres: History, Memoir, Non-Fiction, Travel

Growing up in a half-white, half-brown town and family in South Texas, Stephanie Elizondo Griest struggled with her cultural identity. Upon turning thirty, she ventured to her mother’s native Mexico to do some root-searching and stumbled upon a social movement that shook the nation to its core.

Mexican Enough chronicles her adventures rumbling with luchadores (professional wrestlers), marching with rebel teachers in Oaxaca, investigating the murder of a prominent gay activist, and sneaking into a prison to meet with indigenous resistance fighters. She also visits families of the undocumented workers she befriended back home. Travel mates include a Polish thief, a Border Patrol agent, and a sultry dominatrix. Part memoir, part journalistic reportage, Mexican Enough illuminates how we cast off our identity in our youth, only to strive to find it again as adults — and the lessons to be learned along the way. (from Amazon)

I previously read SEG’s Around the Bloc, which I enjoyed but said was missing something. I’m quoting myself here:

The only thing that really annoyed me was how SEG never went deeper into an analysis of the politics of the countries she visited, nor her own reactions and actions to those politics.

Well! Mexican Enough did exactly what I wanted Around the Bloc to do. I don’t know if it’s because SEG is more tied to Mexico than she was to Russia/China/Cuba or because she went more recently and when she was older, so she was less annoyingly idealistic about what she’d find when she went there AND she was better at getting personal stories and later conveying it to readers. If that makes sense.

I really enjoyed Mexican Enough! It was the perfect mix this time of personal memoir and journalism. I learned so much about Mexico, Mexican culture, and the people that live there that I feel like I have a decent enough knowledge base to build on when I go there myself next year. And I learned a lot about SEG herself, too, and a little more about what it means to be biracial (or bicultural). Plus it was just plain entertaining! And slightly depressing, because Mexico (like most countries) has some serious problems, and SEG doesn’t hold back from talking about them. But she also doesn’t demonize anyone (except maybe politicians) and all in all, it seems as fair a portrayal of a country can be from an outsider’s perspective.

Read: August 2010

Also: An interview with SEG at Wandering Educators

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