Emmy and Golden Globe winner America Ferrera introduced Yo soy Betty, La Fea to US audiences with her role in Ugly Betty and now she’s helping bring a beloved Latinx book to life. Netflix just announced the Honduran-American actress/director will be making her feature film directorial debut with the adaptation of the New York Times bestselling novel, I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by author Erika Sánchez, who will serve as a co-producer on the film. But it gets better, Linda Yvette Chávez, the co-creator of the Netflix hit series, Gentefied, adapted the screenplay. In a time when Latinx representation in films remains low, both behind and in front of the camera, this is a major win for us.
“Years ago, I fell in love with Erika L. Sánchez’ stunning novel, I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter, Ferrera said in a statement. “The depth, wit and searing intelligence of her writing, and her young Latina heroine, struck me to my core and left me wanting so much more. I am truly honored and humbled to direct Linda Yvette Chávez’s beautifully adapted screenplay. The opportunity to direct the work of these two incredibly talented Latina writers is a dream come true. I can’t wait to share this film with the many fans of the novel, and to introduce this funny, profound, and resonant story to the world.”
While Ferrera has previously directed episodes of Superstore (NBC) and Gentefied (Netflix) both of which she also produces and she also stars in the former, this is her first time directing a film. I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter was released in 2017 and was a National Book Award Finalist. The beloved novel was adapted by local Latinx playwright Isaac Gómez for the stage and was set to premiere at the Steppenwolf Theatre in Chicago in March 2020 but plans stalled due to the pandemic. It’s now going to be released as an audio adaptation with the cast and will be available to students worldwide for free through Steppenwolf Education starting April 26, Sánchez announced on Instagram.
The book follows 15-year-old Julia, born and raised in Chicago by immigrant parents, in the wake of her older, more “perfect” sister Olga’s death. Olga supported her family, lived at home, and went to college but Julia’s dreams are bigger and she’s more independent and less traditional which doesn’t bode well with the ideals of perfection her family has. Following Olga’s death, her family is shattered and her mother begins to focus on all of Julia’s shortcomings but then Julie discovers Olga may not have been as perfect as everyone thought. She sets out to discover the truth about Olga and along the way she has to determine who she is in the face of such high expectations.
“Many of us grew up having difficulty with our parents’ culture because it’s very different from our own. It’s hard to understand each other when we grew up in very different worlds,” Sánchez previously told Modern Brown Girl about the book. “It’s a common story for a lot of Latinas, especially rebellious ones who question gender norms and traditions. It’s a story that is not told enough, and I think that’s why it has resonated with so many people because we are not allowed to have our stories told.”