Warning: Spoilers ahead for Furia (Algonquin Young Readers, 2020) by Yamile Saied Méndez.
Content Warning for Furia: Mentions of domestic and gender-based violence
While reading Yamile Saied Méndez’s novel Furia, I immediately related to the protagonist, Camila Hassan. From a young age, I knew that I wanted something different than society’s expectations for a young Hispanic woman. I dreamed of going to college and having a career, even when I wasn’t sure exactly what I wanted. My parents’ expectations of me somewhat mirrored my own aspirations in life. They hoped that I would go to college and pursue a career in business, medicine, or law before I settled down. And yes, I am attending college, but not to pursue either of the careers they had envisioned for me.
When I first made the decision to pursue what I enjoy doing most, writing, I was afraid to tell others and my family. What would they think of me? Was I making the wrong choice? Was I letting my family down? I had this pressure looming over me of wanting to make my parents proud but also wanting to pursue my passion. Then I realized that not wanting to disappoint myself meant a lot more. I wanted them to see that I am capable of doing other things that are equally amazing.
Camila Hassan had that same pressure. Her parents would always remind her that they worked hard so she could attend a private Catholic school. They wanted her to receive the best education so that one day, she could attend college and become a doctor. But Camila had another dream and passion for her future. She wanted to become a professional soccer player, which is something her family would never approve of.
Her entire life, Camila had been told that soccer wasn’t for girls and that girls didn’t belong on soccer fields. But even though she knew her family would disapprove, she secretly joined a soccer team. Her performance in the field earned her the nickname “La Furia.” Despite her incredible skills, she was always in the shadow of her older brother Pablo, who had recently started playing professionally for a national soccer league team.
What I enjoyed most about this novel is that despite knowing that her family would disapprove of her passion, Camila never gave up on her dream of becoming a professional soccer player. She never gave up her dream for anyone, not for her family or for the boy that she was in love with who happened to be a soccer star himself. She was willing to overcome every obstacle to make a place for herself, and other girls like her, in soccer. She wasn’t going to let anyone decide who she was supposed to be or who she had to become.
Camila and her team Eva María qualified for the South American women’s soccer tournament, an opportunity that would give Camila the chance to be noticed and recruited for a professional soccer team. Her dream to attend a university in North America, which would allow her to play soccer and receive an education at the same time, was closer than ever. But not everything in life is as perfect as we would want it to be.
After suffering an injury and needing a parent to sign the FIFA paperwork for the tournament, Camila decided to be honest with her mother and tell her about her secret. Her mother’s reaction was to be expected. She was upset that Camila had lied about playing soccer and about not having any interest in becoming a doctor. But overall, she was concerned that Camila was aiming too high for something that was impossible to achieve. I was relieved, however, when she agreed to sign the paperwork, despite what Camila’s father would say. Camila and her team had worked hard to make a place for themselves in an industry dominated by men, and I know that having her mother’s support meant a lot to her.
The novel is set in Argentina, where the Ni Una Menos (Not One Less) movement started five years ago to take a stand against gender-based violence and to defend women’s rights. Furia sheds light on the dangers of being a woman in Latin America and reminds us that these issues are very close to home. For example, Camila marches for justice for the murder of the younger sister of one of her teammates. She even becomes a victim of violence herself after an altercation with her father, which lands him in jail, just a few days before her tournament. I admit I was shocked when I read about the altercation with her father. I never expected Camila would become a victim of violence. However, this reminded me that unfortunately, this can happen to anyone and that it continues to happen to women around the world.
I appreciate that Méndez decided to shed light on this movement and what it means for girls and women living in Latin America. Aggression and violence are not only suffered at home, but also out in public. Women can’t walk the streets during the day or night without fearing for their safety. The novel portrayed the day to day lives of girls like Camila, who must always look over their shoulder when walking on the street or who aren’t allowed to voice their opinions about matters that affect them. It reminds us that even though this movement started five years ago, the fight for justice for the young girls and women who have been victims of gender-based violence isn’t over.
Furia is a great read thatshows the realities of being a woman in Latin America and how limited their choices are. Society doesn’t approve of women who fight for justice or who pursue careers that society believes are best suited for men. Camila and her teammates are a great example of the women in Latin America and around the world who decide to break the mold and choose their own paths in life.
I really enjoyed following Camila’s story and her determination to pursue her passion. It encouraged me to never give up on my own dreams. The novel perfectly shows how the journey towards your dreams will not be an easy one and that sometimes you might end in a different place than where you might’ve intended to be; however, that should only encourage you to keep going.
PRR Writer, Karyme Cuadras