by Joe Lopez
Part of LM Voice's Theme Studies collection
Emilly Prado’s Funeral for Flaca, a beaded necklace of events strung together chronologically, tells a story of coming of age, family challenges, rebellion, sexuality, love, heartbreak, feminism, and identity.
In a collection divided up into different tracks like a mixed tape, Prado arranges the perfect ensemble of biographical flashbacks dating from the 90s all the way to the present. Together, the collection is like the mixed CDs she used to create for family events: each track maps a pivotal moment of her life in the San Francisco Bay Area in the upper middle-class suburb of Belmont, California. In this collection Prado has curated the soundtrack to a young girl’s coming of age story.
Opening with a track titled "Say You'll Be There," after the 1996 release by Spice Girls, the author relates how her innocence, faith, and optimism about her father’s promise to show up for a show-and-tell where he was to be the subject of Emilly’s presentation was shattered by his absence.
The narrative unfolds seamlessly from the theme of her father’s broken promises and fake Santas to him ultimately leaving Emilly’s mother. She illustrates this pivotal moment in her life’s soundtrack with "Heartbreak Hotel," dubbed after Whitney Houston’s 1998 pop hit.
The author’s unapologetic display of strikingly personal experiences of acceptance, outright racism, and sexual harassment challenge the reader to think critically of their own role in these authentically real-life sequences.
Prado effectively paints a stark image of the complex issues that many youth face today, including depression, and ways teens attempt to cope. She admits, “I didn’t know how cutting myself could make me feel better, but I figured I would try.” It reminds her audience of the challenges we face with mental health throughout our lives, although we often wince at the thought. The author is unabashed in discussing her challenges to maintain mental acuteness without a thought to the stigma that still clings to those brave enough to admit to having these experiences.
She writes to her father in second person on Track 5, titled after ‘tragos amargos’ by Ramon Ayala, an insight into a daughter's modern day challenges dealing with old-fashioned, long-lived hypermasculinity. And although she reveals her vulnerability and hurt from her father’s actions, she is “still wishing to be fathered.” We see this when she introduces her high school heartbreak Cristian Wexler on track 9; he’s “so rich and so pretty,” she admits, “I am consumed by what it feels like to be...embraced by wide reaching arms, of feeling small when I rest my head against his chest.”
Thereafter, she succeeds in forming “the walls of stone” her father “helped...build,” as she endeavors to lead a more reckless punk rock feministic lifestyle in her search for self.
From track 8, “When You Gonna Give It Up to Me,” Prado thinks she is pregnant and is weighing all her options. In addition to making social commentary on the bias teachers have about women of color and pregnancy rates, she describes many a young woman’s emotional struggle when faced with an unexpected pregnancy (turned false alarm).
Ms. Prado continues to lead us on an eclectic ride in tracks 10 through 18, with titles ranging from an old ranchera, “La llorona” by Chavela Vargas and Aaron Neville’s “Tell it like it is,” to “Not ready to make nice” by the Dixie Chicks. In “Sea of Love” by Cat Power, Prado writes a letter to Cyrena thanking her for her words of kindness after Prado’s break up with Dale, her first functional relationship years earlier. Here, the author reveals her confident self-worth. She writes with a sense of relief at the thought of being comfortable in her own skin, providing for her own self-care and self-love, leaving the reader with a sense of closure with regard to the narrator's development, growth, and maturity.
Relevance to the voices of Black, Indigenous, and people of color is emphasized by the author's ability to carve herself into our community’s narrative. Seamlessly sliding from English to Spanish, Prado’s bold and authentic wordplay effectively drives home the messages of cultural identity and the essence of what it means to be Chicano/a and Latinx. “I want to tell my ancestors, ‘Mira aqui todavia estamos.’ I want to tell my ancestors I still dream in Spanish,” Prado proudly pens, perpetuating the theme of identity and mestizaje throughout her life’s narrative via the mixtape.
Additionally, Ms. Prado’s unapologetic, yet optimistic tone carries volumes in just a few lines, building on her multi-themed narrative about coming of age, leaving the reader with no question that Funeral for Flaca meets Prado’s goal of creating an eclectic mix of genres in her soundtrack and effectively drawing on the symbolism of our multifaceted lives and the effect our families, friends and histories play in our development.
Joe Armando Lopez was born and raised in Los Angeles, California. Having earned his Bachelor of Arts from Long Beach State and his Masters of Education from Cal State Fullerton, he is now a tenured English Language Arts Teacher for Paramount High School in South Los Angeles.