You Sound Like a White Girl: The Case for Rejecting Assimilation (Paperback)
Julissa Arce worked tirelessly as a young person to become what others might call an "immigrant success story", but she learned it was an impossible goal to achieve. Instead, Arce argues for pushing back against assimilation into white culture and living authentically. It's a thoughtful and compellingly written book about racism in American culture that envisions a better future.— Susie
AN INDIE BESTSELLER
Most Anticipated by ELLE • Bustle • Bloomberg • Kirkus • HipLatina • SheReads • BookPage • The Millions • The Mujerista • Ms. Magazine • and more
“Unflinching” —Ms. Magazine • “Phenomenal” —BookRiot • "An essential read" —Kirkus, starred review • "Necessary" —Library Journal • "Powerful" —Joaquin Castro • "Illuminating" —Reyna Grande • "A love letter to our people" —José Olivarez • "I have been waiting for this book all my life" —Paul Ortiz
Bestselling author Julissa Arce calls for a celebration of our uniqueness, our origins, our heritage, and the beauty of the differences that make us Americans in this powerful polemic against the myth that assimilation leads to happiness and belonging for immigrants.
“You sound like a white girl.” These were the words spoken to Julissa by a high school crush as she struggled to find her place in America. As a brown immigrant from Mexico, assimilation had been demanded of her since the moment she set foot in San Antonio, Texas, in 1994. She’d spent so much time getting rid of her accent so no one could tell English was her second language that in that moment she felt those words—you sound like a white girl?—were a compliment. As a child, she didn’t yet understand that assimilating to “American” culture really meant imitating “white” America—that sounding like a white girl was a racist idea meant to tame her, change her, and make her small. She ran the race, completing each stage, but never quite fit in, until she stopped running altogether.
In this dual polemic and manifesto, Julissa dives into and tears apart the lie that assimilation leads to belonging. She combs through history and her own story to break down this myth, arguing that assimilation is a moving finish line designed to keep Black and brown Americans and immigrants chasing racist American ideals. She talks about the Lie of Success, the Lie of Legality, the Lie of Whiteness, and the Lie of English—each promising that if you obtain these things, you will reach acceptance and won’t be an outsider anymore. Julissa deftly argues that these demands leave her and those like her in a purgatory—neither able to secure the power and belonging within whiteness nor find it in the community and cultures whiteness demands immigrants and people of color leave behind.
In You Sound Like a White Girl, Julissa offers a bold new promise: Belonging only comes through celebrating yourself, your history, your culture, and everything that makes you uniquely you. Only in turning away from the white gaze can we truly make America beautiful. An America where difference is celebrated, heritage is shared and embraced, and belonging is for everyone. Through unearthing veiled history and reclaiming her own identity, Julissa shows us how to do this.
About the Author
Julissa Arce is a nationally recognized author, sought-after speaker, producer, and social changemaker. She is the best-selling author of My (Underground) American Dream and Someone Like Me. Arce is a Crooked media contributor and a frequent writer for TIME Magazine, and has provided political commentary across numerous TV networks including NBC News, Bloomberg TV, CNN, and MSNBC. She is the cofounder of the Ascend Educational Fund, a college scholarship and mentorship program for immigrant students regardless of their immigration status. She lives in Los Angeles with her family.
"Now, Arce has come out with another volume that examines the costs of that success. In a careful, forcefully argued polemic, she picks apart the myth of American assimilation. No matter how much she effaced her Mexican background, Arce argues, she still didn’t have a White person’s privileges ." —Bloomberg
"This is an important book that challenges the idea of American exceptionalism with equal parts passion, fury, intimacy, and ignored history. Arce celebrates the Mexican American immigrant experience in all its vibrancy and nuance while fearlessly naming the pain inflicted by American racism, ethnocentrism, and xenophobia. An essential read to better understand America and its immigrant stories.”
—Kirkus, starred review
"With bold, clear writing, Arce calls for immigrants and communities of color to reject assimilation, turn away from the white gaze and embrace their unique cultures, histories and identities, which deserve celebration. This book is a confident step forward for Arce as a writer and public thinker."
—BookPage, "2022 Preview: Most Anticipated Nonfiction"
"I’m so glad Arce wrote about this important topic, and how we should resist the insidious ways colonialism affects the world."
—Julianne Escobedo Shepherd , The Meteor
"A necessary counterpoint to the narrative of the American dream." —Library Journal
“Examines the damage caused by America's push for assimilation, breaking down the myth that newcomers must abandon their culture to achieve a sense of belonging.” —ELLE
"In this unflinching book, Julissa Arce guts the idea that to live in America means immigrants must abandon their own histories, cultures and languages and assimilate to dominant norms." —Ms. Magazine
"You should read You Sound Like a White Girl by Julissa Arce...In this phenomenal book, Arce argues against pressures for Latine people and other BIPOC to assimilate into white culture." —BookRiot
"A narrative that questions and dismantles the idea that assimilation will lead to belonging, success, and acceptance in America for citizens of color (and specifically immigrants)" —The Millions
"By centering Latinx history and culture, memoirist and cultural critic Julissa Arce boldly challenges narrow notions of American identity." —Kelly Blewett, BookPage
"Rather than attempt to become unaccented, English-speaking Americans, Arce argues, Latinx immigrants should endeavor to maintain their language, culture, food, and other traditions on U.S. soil." —Bustle, The Most Anticipated Books of March 2022
“Arce unapologetically challenges the age-old notion that America is stronger when it’s newest immigrants relinquish their culture, language and identity by merging to whiteness. This book spares no one and nothing in uncovering the cultural and societal forces that convince many young people longing for acceptance in America that their skin is too dark to be beautiful, their English too accented and their customs too ethnic to be truly American. Ultimately, You Sound Like A White Girl is a powerful call for and celebration of self-acceptance. If you could take Rodolfo Gonzales epic poem 'I Am Joaquin' and explain it through compelling, personal narrative in twenty-first century America, You Sound Like A White Girl would be it.”
— Joaquin Castro
"Illuminating. You Sound Like a White Girl debunks age-old historical myths and instead offers us forgotten truths that will help us make sense of our country today. You will not think the same after reading this book."
— Reyna Grande, award-winning author of The Distance Between Us
“A love letter to our people—full of fury and passion. You Sound Like a White Girl tells us about who we are, where we came from, and most importantly, helps us imagine a future where we can live in all our beauty and power.”
— José Olivarez, award-winning poet and author of Citizen Illegal
“I have been waiting for this book all my life. Julissa Arce brilliantly dismantles the idea that we must reject our languages, our histories, and the teachings of our elders to fit into a flawed society. Arce asks us to draw on our ancestors’ wisdom as well as our own experiences to rebuild this society on the foundations of self-respect, mutuality, and care for others. She convincingly demonstrates that a nation humbled by the global pandemic can be reinvigorated by the courage and compassion of immigrants from Latin America and the Caribbean.”
— Paul Ortiz, award-winning author of An African American and Latinx History of the United States
"To so many immigrants throughout history, including many in my own Mexican American community, assimilation has meant repressing or abandoning their languages and cultures to fit in. In You Sound Like a White Girl, Julissa Arce challenges that notion with a clear eye and exacting rebuke, urging us to recognize and cherish the traditions and cultures that immigrants have contributed to our nation." — Julián Castro, former Housing and Urban Development Secretary