The Sanchezes: A tale of two sisters

In Dream in Color: How the Sanchez Sisters Are Making History in Congress, California Democratic Reps. Linda and Loretta Sanchez share the story of how they beat the odds — being raised by Mexican immigrants in a working-class environment — to become the first sisters elected to Congress.

The book is somewhat reminiscent of popular Hispanic author Sandra Cisneros’s bestseller The House on Mango Street, as it is written in a personable style — weaving together alternating vignettes from both women, evoking vivid imagery and making the reader root for them as they turn each page. And while they are sisters, the two women have strong but different personalities. Linda Sanchez, the youngest, is a night owl, and would later become a lawyer and staunch advocate of women’s rights. Older sister Loretta Sanchez is a neat freak and early-to-bed-early-to-rise type. However, both sisters share a sense of optimism, a sense of adventure and a strong work ethic they attribute to growing up in an immigrant home.

One persistent theme throughout the book is the dual influences of American and Mexican culture, which ultimately shaped their lives. Though first-generation Americans, the sisters also describe the strong cultural ties to Mexico that their parents passed down. One of these influences is the devout Catholic faith of their parents. In one chapter, Linda Sanchez describes the Sunday morning ritual of getting all seven children ready and dressed for the Spanish-language Mass on time, and then lunch at a Chinese restaurant with their grandmother, during which she would share her take on the priest’s sermon.

Another theme in the book is the importance of family — not only immediate, but to friends and those who need help. One of their mother’s prominent sayings was “Mi casa es su casa,” or “My house is your house.” Whenever a friend or relative needed help, she would put them up, feed them and provide them with anything she could. This generosity even extended to strangers.

Loretta Sanchez describes one occasion in which, passing by a homeless man begging for change, their mother opened her wallet and gave him a $10 bill, quite a lot at the time. When she chided her mother, asking her how she could be sure he wouldn’t spend it on alcohol or drugs, her mother simply explained that she would never know what he would spend it on, but all she knew was that he needed it.

Their road to success is paved with speed bumps along the way, and the Sanchez sisters have their problems just like any other family, immigrant or otherwise. Loretta Sanchez suffers for almost a decade from anorexia, which she attributes to her feeling out of place among her white peers and their bodies, different from her Latina figure. She even ends up in the hospital and in rehab, but they are unsuccessful. She notes that ultimately she must want to be cured, something that didn’t occur until she was in her mid-20s.

While they differ in personality, both sisters are driven and end up becoming the first in their family to go to college. Loretta Sanchez goes on to law school, and Linda Sanchez decides to go into business. Eventually — in 2003 — they both ended up working together, when elected to Congress. Today, they are champions of women’s rights and staunch Democrats. Since then, they haven’t looked back.

Dream in Color will prove inspirational for women and minorities alike, and is a light and enjoyable read. The alternation of narrative between the two sisters mixes up the tone and pace, and provides for a more interesting reading experience. It also is ideal for those without a lot of time to devote to a book, as one can read short vignettes one by one and pick it up later. It is an uplifting tale of immigrant success — despite the odds — and a fresh and interesting pick for the fall.