Emilly Prado Spins Her Chicana Coming-of-Age Story in Funeral for Flaca

In her debut memoir-in-essays, Funeral for Flaca, Emilly Prado recounts her coming-of-age experience through essays all sharing names with various corresponding songs; her search for identity and experiences living with trauma are guided by a soundtrack containing musicians like the Spice Girls, Tupac, and Selena.

Funeral for Flaca is part mixtape, all real. In the face of the many ways in which women and the Latinx community are silenced in America, even in what are supposed to be safer spaces for marginalized groups, Prado does not shy away from expressing the multifaceted, sometimes messy, components of being a person: 90s and 2000s nostalgia; familial ties and how they are maintained and broken; an ongoing search for identity in an environment that wants to box people in; living with an eating disorder, a bipolar diagnosis, and trauma; coming out as bisexual and the invalidation that can often accompany this even from other queer people; healing and the nonlinear way it happens, if ever.

Prado’s voice is authentic and engaging, keeping the reader captivated and ready to follow her everywhere she takes us. Through code meshing and pop culture references many Chicanx individuals can see themselves in, Prado writes about her experiences as a Chicana growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area, as well as Michoacán, México, and eventually residing in Portland. The Chicanx label in and of itself is a complex one and can mean different things for different people, as Prado references in remembering her younger self “not yet entangled in the complexity of what it means to be Chicana, split in two.” Further, she writes, “All my life, I’ve been dodging the shitty statistics of being a Brown Girl in America. Most Likely to Be a Dropout. Most Likely to Attempt Suicide. Most Likely to Do Drugs. Most Likely to Become a Teen Mom™.” Many of us belonging to marginalized groups, especially those that intersect with one another, have unfair expectations placed on us by systems that are designed to fail us. Prado brings the way young people navigate these issues to light with the honesty and complexity it deserves.

“I don’t remember when I stopped dreaming in Spanish,” Prado writes in the first section of her memoir. The want, and perhaps need, to remember things exactly as they were is a common thread in Funeral for Flaca; grappling with the truth and who is entitled to remember or share it is something that most writers, especially of nonfiction, have to take into account, even if it is not always explicitly talked about. Prado, however, is unafraid to get into the intricacies of this ever-present dilemma: “I am still learning to become a better detective,” she writes. “I can’t keep track of all the lies of my family, sometimes even my own.”

Funeral for Flaca is also so artfully composed as a whole. Prado’s experience DJing is an asset to the flow of these essays as it is clear she has not only taken the audience’s reading experience into account, but also made it a priority. Varying in length, each chapter is another glimpse into Prado’s world, a world that is too often underrepresented in publishing. In one instance, Prado writes about how “[her] mom howled wassup over [her] off-key pocha rendition of Selena,” and I am taken back to a memory of my own mother doing the same while driving us around our hometown. Though just one line, many small snapshots such as this one leave a mark on the reader.

Prado perfectly encapsulates the insecurities of growing up and the never-ending search for identity in a society that tries to define and confine us at every chance it gets. Early in her life, Prado is given the nickname Flaca by family members due to her appearance. Near the end of the book, Prado discusses how “At [Flaca’s] funeral, there will be no procession or eulogy. No explanations necessary. And for once, I won’t be wearing all black.” We are reminded that perhaps some things should die, perhaps not all change is bad change. Throughout these essays, there are several instances of the writer not necessarily noticing when things change in the moment; however, when looking back, there is the realization that they did in fact change somewhere along the way. This, though, does not mean that the past does not affect us, change us. “I am a relic of the past,” Prado says.

Take your time reading this gorgeous collection of essays. Listen to the accompanying playlist of absolute bangers. Read it again.