Only six women can count themselves as members of the Dirty Girls Social Club a group of 20-something Latina women who met at Boston University. There's Lauren, the newspaper columnist with a string of loser boyfriends and severe self-esteem issues. There's Usnavys, a successful executive who delights in parading around the old neighborhood clad in Gucci. Amber is a fiercely ambitious musician living in Los Angeles. Reserved, tightly wound magazine editor Rebecca is married more to her work than her eccentric academic husband. Sara is a full-time mom who has set aside her own professional ambitions. And Elizabeth is the famous local anchorwoman with a secret she can't tell even her fellow club members.
Although these self-dubbed sucias (dirty girls in Spanish) have taken strikingly diverse paths since college, they meet twice a year without fail to reminisce, gossip and dispense advice. Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez offers an honest, sweet look at the enigmatic nature of friendship. The group's mutual devotion is clear, even when they decry Lauren's latest boyfriend or Rebecca's relentless work schedule. Dirty Girls is at its most effective when tackling the obstacles that can make professional success so elusive for young minority women. The sucias come from varying backgrounds: Cuban-American, Puerto Rican, Mexican-American and Colombian. But they encounter the same frustrating roadblocks: Music executives who don't know what to do with a Latina singer, a clueless boss who wants to name Lauren's column "La Vida Loca." Valdes-Rodriguez, herself a newspaper columnist of Cuban and Irish descent, writes with authority on these challenges, but her book will ring true for readers of all ethnicities. Her affectionate treatment of these all-too-human sucias suggests that Valdes-Rodriguez just might be a card-carrying member of a real-life Dirty Girls Social Club. To which we can only say: lucky her. Amy Scribner writes from Washington, D.C.