“I made it.” You can read those words different ways. One perspective relieves. Relief you survived an ordeal. Alternatively the words can represent a rally cry. Victory remains yours! You triumphed. You thrived. The latter stands the appropriate way to perceive Juana M. Ortiz’s memoir title, I Made It.
For Ortiz she triumphed in multiple ways. Triumphs she details in I Made It. The memoir documents her unlikely journey to her bachelor’s degree.
“Unlikely how?” you might ask. After all, the path to a bachelor’s degree seems simple. Yes, for you and I indeed. Thanks to prior generations who helped bring us the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Unfortunately not everyone can rely on such laws.
A girl with a disability in the Dominican Republic did not go to school. Living with cerebral palsy disqualified Juana from receiving an education. At least until her family and her moved to the United States.
By that time though, the odds appeared overwhelming. Compare Juana with her typical 16-year old American peer. Typical can even mean 16-year old American with cerebral palsy. Personally I found myself amidst a busy junior year in high school. A full class load occupied me during the day. Working a part-time job four or five days every week rounded out my schedule.
Meanwhile Juana sat home basically bored into depression. Given her situation she could not start school immediately. Soon however she attended Elks Cerebral Palsy Center. Five additional years passed before Juana attended a traditional high school. Finally at 21 years old Juana could call herself a high school freshman.
In recalling her CP Center and high school days Juana raises valuable points. Specifically she mentions expectations. For special education students the expectation you go to college seemed missing. Or such appeared the case in the mid-1990s. Hopefully expectations grew the past 20 years.
For me in the early 2000s I experienced college expectations. Yet I also enjoyed the traditional classroom setting. Juana encountered more segregated special education. Just another difference in our stories!
Despite these vast differences I still related to Juana. Chapter 13, titled “Friendship,” sees Juana speculate about socializing. She writes “I think I may have created more distance between the other girls and myself by not approaching them, because I was self-conscious about being different physically.” Similar sentiments I share in my own cerebral palsy memoir Off Balanced*.
Said example illustrates only one instance where I relate. There stood multiple. Often I related to Juana’s tales about anxiety or self-acceptance. Themes I feel most, if not everyone, with CP will connect with.
Furthermore I Made It carries dual abilities. You discover the aforementioned ability to relate to Juana. All while you take lessons too from how Juana’s life differs from yours. The twofold elements mix well to create an intriguing read.
Writing wise, remember Juana learned English as a second language. Thus some awkward phrasing occurs. Like this sentence from Chapter 10 “College: A Second Try.”
“I passed creative writing with a grade of B.”
Native English speakers all probably would remove the words “grade of.” In fairness I imagine Juana pinpointing countless mistakes from me if I wrote a book in Spanish. The language issues, although there, cause minimal distractions.
I Made It Final Verdict:
I recommend I Made It by Juana M. Ortiz. For Americans with cerebral palsy Juana’s insights gives greater appreciation for opportunities available. Plus you ought to relate to tales Juana tells. Click below to order I Made It off Amazon.
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