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Music to My Years: A Mixtape-Memoir of Growing Up and Standing Up

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In this memoir full of humor and heart, comedian, writer, and producer Cristela Alonzo shares personal stories of growing up as a first-generation Mexican American in Texas and following her dreams to pursue a career in comedy. When Cristela Alonzo and her family lived as squatters in an abandoned diner, they only had two luxuries: a television and a radio, which became her In this memoir full of humor and heart, comedian, writer, and producer Cristela Alonzo shares personal stories of growing up as a first-generation Mexican American in Texas and following her dreams to pursue a career in comedy. When Cristela Alonzo and her family lived as squatters in an abandoned diner, they only had two luxuries: a television and a radio, which became her pop cultural touchstone and a guiding light. Cristela shares her experiences and struggles of being a first-generation American, her dreams of becoming a comedian, and how it feels to be a creator in a world that often minimizes people of color and women. Her stories range from the ridiculous - like the time she made her own tap shoes out of bottle caps or how the theme song of The Golden Girls landed her in the principal's office - to the sobering moments, like how she turned to stand-up comedy to grieve the heartbreaking loss of her mother, and how, years later, she's committed to giving back to the community that helped make her. Each significant moment of the audiobook relates to a song, and the resulting playlist is deeply moving, resonant, and unforgettable. Music to My Years will make you laugh, cry, and even inspire you to make a playlist of your own.


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In this memoir full of humor and heart, comedian, writer, and producer Cristela Alonzo shares personal stories of growing up as a first-generation Mexican American in Texas and following her dreams to pursue a career in comedy. When Cristela Alonzo and her family lived as squatters in an abandoned diner, they only had two luxuries: a television and a radio, which became her In this memoir full of humor and heart, comedian, writer, and producer Cristela Alonzo shares personal stories of growing up as a first-generation Mexican American in Texas and following her dreams to pursue a career in comedy. When Cristela Alonzo and her family lived as squatters in an abandoned diner, they only had two luxuries: a television and a radio, which became her pop cultural touchstone and a guiding light. Cristela shares her experiences and struggles of being a first-generation American, her dreams of becoming a comedian, and how it feels to be a creator in a world that often minimizes people of color and women. Her stories range from the ridiculous - like the time she made her own tap shoes out of bottle caps or how the theme song of The Golden Girls landed her in the principal's office - to the sobering moments, like how she turned to stand-up comedy to grieve the heartbreaking loss of her mother, and how, years later, she's committed to giving back to the community that helped make her. Each significant moment of the audiobook relates to a song, and the resulting playlist is deeply moving, resonant, and unforgettable. Music to My Years will make you laugh, cry, and even inspire you to make a playlist of your own.

30 review for Music to My Years: A Mixtape-Memoir of Growing Up and Standing Up

  1. 5 out of 5

    Lesley Knight

    I am often drawn to memoirs and biographies written by those sharing their first-generation experience, as I am first-generation Australian. Until I read her book, I had no knowledge of Cristela Alonzo. Although I may not share her taste in music, I enjoyed her book very much and I applaud her empathy, honesty and political engagement.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Amanda Espinoza

    I literally LOL'd throughout Cristela's Netflix special, Lower Classy, a few years ago. It was filmed in my town! So when I saw that Cristela had come out with a book then I knew I had to read it. I'm also a sucker for memoirs by comedians. What I didn't expect is to tear up so much throughout this book. Cristela shares her stories growing up poor on the Texas-Mexico border and her relationship with her family. I've been to some of the towns she talks about. I also appreciate how she shares abou I literally LOL'd throughout Cristela's Netflix special, Lower Classy, a few years ago. It was filmed in my town! So when I saw that Cristela had come out with a book then I knew I had to read it. I'm also a sucker for memoirs by comedians. What I didn't expect is to tear up so much throughout this book. Cristela shares her stories growing up poor on the Texas-Mexico border and her relationship with her family. I've been to some of the towns she talks about. I also appreciate how she shares about her struggle to reach a dream. The songs tie the book together well. Cristela is relatable, ambitious, and hopeful. I'm making my husband read this book so I can have someone to talk to about the book. It would make a good book club book. If you liked Mindy Kaling's "Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?" or if you just love a good memoir then you should definitely read this book!

  3. 5 out of 5

    🌈⭐️RoseOfRainbows⭐️🌈💕

    Perfect in every way. Had the flow of a sweet melody that will captivate all audiences. Music to my ears. And book taste. 5/5 stars

  4. 4 out of 5

    J.

    I got an autographed copy of Cristela Alonzo's memoir months ago during her recent stand-up tour. I held off on reading this book because I knew I would cry. I cried because it's rare to come across someone so relatable. I have been a fan since her TV show and had the privilege of meeting her when she toured after the show's cancellation. Like Cristela herself, her memoir is smart, funny, authentic, and inspiring. I am so proud of this woman who, like me, is the American child of an immigrant, a I got an autographed copy of Cristela Alonzo's memoir months ago during her recent stand-up tour. I held off on reading this book because I knew I would cry. I cried because it's rare to come across someone so relatable. I have been a fan since her TV show and had the privilege of meeting her when she toured after the show's cancellation. Like Cristela herself, her memoir is smart, funny, authentic, and inspiring. I am so proud of this woman who, like me, is the American child of an immigrant, a word nerd, someone struggling with anxiety and health issues. The memoir is somewhat chronological and at times purposefully and professionally vague but engaging.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Jamie

    I think if I were already familiar with Alonzo's work, I'd probably have really liked this memoir, but not having a frame of reference for her made me lose interest and not return to it after a while.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Staci

    This was such a great memoir written and read by Cristela Alonzo. She was so honest and revealing about her life growing up. I could not stop listening.

  7. 4 out of 5

    David Glenn Dixon

    With a lot of showbiz types, they don't really want to write a book. Alonzo begins the book by saying as much. It's just the right move to make at the time. She has a cute, self-satisfied voice, busy without saying much of anything, certainly not anything distinctive or surprising. There are lots of jokes where she comes right out and says "Just kidding!" because she doesn't trust her voice to make it clear from context and she doesn't trust the reader to know the difference. I wanted to see how With a lot of showbiz types, they don't really want to write a book. Alonzo begins the book by saying as much. It's just the right move to make at the time. She has a cute, self-satisfied voice, busy without saying much of anything, certainly not anything distinctive or surprising. There are lots of jokes where she comes right out and says "Just kidding!" because she doesn't trust her voice to make it clear from context and she doesn't trust the reader to know the difference. I wanted to see how she integrated the music stuff with the life stuff, but she doesn't really. It's a framing gimmick, with the songs reduced to backdrops. I read just enough of the beginning to get a sense of the voice then skipped around a lot hoping it would be better at another point in the story. It never was.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Velia

    I want to say so much about this book but really, you should just read it. Every brown girl will see some of herself in this book and it touches the heart in so many ways. I loved it and I already want to read it again. It’s got some humor, in true Cristela style, but what it mostly has is heart and sincerity. If we are friends and you want to know more about my own life, I feel like this is a window into it.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Jdchaffe

    She's great. I especially appreciated this book because she encapsulated the cadence and rhythms of the Rio Grande Valley so well. Unless you lived there, you wouldn't necessarily enjoy this book quite as much as I did.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Tiffany

    It’s like reading from her journal. Unpretentious. Honest. Relatable.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Crystal Bruce

    This book is phenomenal. So many latinas will find this relatable and it reads with so much honesty.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Andrea

    I watched Cristela's Netflix special a couple years ago and really enjoyed it, so I was looking forward to learning about her life and getting more of her humor in book form. This book certainly delivered on the first part, though there was a bit less humor than I was hoping for. Although there were certainly jokes scattered throughout, the general tone of the book was mostly very earnest. Nothing wrong with that, per se, but for me it did drag a bit in places, especially in the middle chapters. I watched Cristela's Netflix special a couple years ago and really enjoyed it, so I was looking forward to learning about her life and getting more of her humor in book form. This book certainly delivered on the first part, though there was a bit less humor than I was hoping for. Although there were certainly jokes scattered throughout, the general tone of the book was mostly very earnest. Nothing wrong with that, per se, but for me it did drag a bit in places, especially in the middle chapters. The idea of having each chapter centered around a particular song also came off a little gimmicky at times; some chapters really felt connected by the theme, but in others it felt tacked on and almost irrelevant. It was a very interesting read, though; I had no idea about the more recent projects she has outside of show business (and honestly would have loved to hear more about them). You'd expect somebody with dreams of acting stardom, once they had a foot in the door in the TV world, would snatch any opportunity that came their way, but she has been choosy about the projects she works on and seems to be committed to chasing her dream her way. I hope she does get back to TV someday, because I'd love to see what else she has to contribute there, but in the meantime good on her for chasing her dream in a way that works for her.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Terry

    I'm sorry to say that I had never heard of Cristela Alonzo until I read a review of her memoir in one of the several book mailing lists I subscribe to. The review raved about the book and said the audiobook was even better, so I got a copy of that and was hooked right from the introduction when Cristela jokes that she'd decided to write a new Bible. She then goes on to say, "I'm kidding. I was raised very Catholic: I don't know anything about the Bible." As someone who was raised very Catholic m I'm sorry to say that I had never heard of Cristela Alonzo until I read a review of her memoir in one of the several book mailing lists I subscribe to. The review raved about the book and said the audiobook was even better, so I got a copy of that and was hooked right from the introduction when Cristela jokes that she'd decided to write a new Bible. She then goes on to say, "I'm kidding. I was raised very Catholic: I don't know anything about the Bible." As someone who was raised very Catholic myself, I found myself laughing out loud. I didn't grow up poor or Latino and Cristela is about 15 years younger than I, but I could relate to her on an emotional level as I was an awkward kid and am definitely an introvert. She is so incredible because she is such a survivor and is so humble and unselfish. Despite all her setbacks, she persevered and she learned to stand up for herself. She is someone I would want to have as a friend.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Carol

    4 stars. I loved this book. Through a clever way, Cristela Alonzo walks us through her life. From her childhood growing up in a small Texas border town to her career as a comic, writer, and producer, Alonzo makes you laugh, cry, and reflect along the way. Each chapter is based on one of her favorite songs that describes that period of her life. I actually listened to some of the songs I was not familiar with and I somehow made a special connection to them because of the pages I was reading. Alon 4 stars. I loved this book. Through a clever way, Cristela Alonzo walks us through her life. From her childhood growing up in a small Texas border town to her career as a comic, writer, and producer, Alonzo makes you laugh, cry, and reflect along the way. Each chapter is based on one of her favorite songs that describes that period of her life. I actually listened to some of the songs I was not familiar with and I somehow made a special connection to them because of the pages I was reading. Alonzo really shows us where hard work and dedication can take you, and how sometimes you have to make sacrifices for family, but the universe always rewards you. Before the book, I was familiar with her stand-ups and her TV show (I mean, she had Carlos Ponce in her cast! Come on!), and because of the book, I admire her for her courage to stay true to herself. The book has everything-comedy, emotion, and humor-and best of all, it shows how Latinos can succeed despite the odds.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Michelle

    I found out about this book because I follow Cristela on social media, I don’t usually follow celebrities but somehow I ended up following her... anyway, I was having a reading rut and memoirs are a good way to get me out of them so I picked up her book. I really appreciate that the writing style and content is very accessible, it seems like it was a conscious choice to write a book that even those who don’t consider themselves “readers “ would want to pick up and be able to finish. She had a rel I found out about this book because I follow Cristela on social media, I don’t usually follow celebrities but somehow I ended up following her... anyway, I was having a reading rut and memoirs are a good way to get me out of them so I picked up her book. I really appreciate that the writing style and content is very accessible, it seems like it was a conscious choice to write a book that even those who don’t consider themselves “readers “ would want to pick up and be able to finish. She had a relaxed conversational style that I think probably translates well to audiobooks. I would recommend this book to people who like memoirs or are looking for more Latinx content and authors. She provides insights into her experiences as the child of an immigrant, mixed status family in poverty. And throws in the music that has defined her stages of life.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Angie

    Le sigh. I savored this book and read it ever so slowly because I didn’t want it to end. Then I waited forever before reviewing it. I loved everything about this memoir. Cristela did a spectacular job in telling her life story and making the reader connect with her life.Her story is not the only one. I honestly can’t recommend this book enough.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Melanie

    I love Cristela. I learned about her from her show. Her experience and mine are completely different but she is such an amazing storyteller, performer, activist, and all around great person. Her story is beautiful. Even if we are so different to mine her mom reminds me of mine so much. Her family is so similar to mine in how they joke with each other and love each other. This is a great book.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Amy

    This book is fabulous! I first saw Cristela Alonzo at a Wits show in 2015. I immediately knew she was awesome when she talked about her love of Billy Joel. Such a clever way to organize a memoir, and such powerful stories.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Shelby Lehman

    Funny, heartfelt, sincere. Clever use of Mixed Tape with the storytelling. Some parts got a bit repetitive and some chapters had a lot of tangents, but all in all a good story and excellent audiobook.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Nesa

    I don't know what exactly I was expecting, but I didn't get it. I was left with a hollow feeling, and this really disappointed me because I love Cristela's stand-up, enjoyed her sit-com and her View appearances.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Lizzie

    I read a lot of celebrity memoirs, it's one of my favorite genres. Most are mediocre at best. The majority use ghostwriters, and often are a glossy overlay of their life. Cristela's memoir is nothing like those. First, she actually wrote it herself (shocking!). Second, she doesn't ignore the hard stuff. If you don't know, Cristela, Alonzo is a stand up comedian. She made history as being the first Latina to write and star in a TV show (called Cristela in 2014). She also became the first Latina lea I read a lot of celebrity memoirs, it's one of my favorite genres. Most are mediocre at best. The majority use ghostwriters, and often are a glossy overlay of their life. Cristela's memoir is nothing like those. First, she actually wrote it herself (shocking!). Second, she doesn't ignore the hard stuff. If you don't know, Cristela, Alonzo is a stand up comedian. She made history as being the first Latina to write and star in a TV show (called Cristela in 2014). She also became the first Latina lead in a Pixar movie with Cars 3. As she discusses at length, she also grew up in deep poverty in the southern part of ate as on the Mexican border. As a Mexican American, child of an immigrant, in a mixed status family, she shares about her life and her journey to "making it". She uses the trope of setting each chapter to a song. The first few chapters extrapolate a little too much about the song but later ones have a better balance. I loved her authenticity, her unwavering integrity, and her comedy which shone throughout the book. As a fan of Cristela, I probably enjoyed it more than others because I know her work and wanted to know more about her life. But it's a well written memoir for anyone to enjoy!

  22. 4 out of 5

    Angie

    I found some of the over explaining to be a bit annoying/distracting but otherwise it was an enjoyable read.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Christy

    Funny & heartfelt. Funny & heartfelt.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Jehnie

    It was fine.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Matti

    One of the few books I read where I could not put down. Totally relatable to my upbringing. Paints such a colorful and vivid picture of her childhood, influences and overall journey.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Micaela R

    I recently watched the Netflix comedy special by the author. I loved her sense of humor and could relate to some of her stories as a Latina woman. I was very interested to read her story because it sounded like she had so many different life experiences. This book was wonderful. She talks a lot about her childhood, her family, and how she came into the world of comedy. I loved all the stories and connection to songs. She grew up in extreme poverty, and really share so much of herself with the rea I recently watched the Netflix comedy special by the author. I loved her sense of humor and could relate to some of her stories as a Latina woman. I was very interested to read her story because it sounded like she had so many different life experiences. This book was wonderful. She talks a lot about her childhood, her family, and how she came into the world of comedy. I loved all the stories and connection to songs. She grew up in extreme poverty, and really share so much of herself with the reader- she was genuine and raw at the same time. Loved the book, and now I will enjoy her comedy even more!

  27. 4 out of 5

    Nate

    Cristela... omg I can't begin to explain how much I enjoyed this book. That connected to it on a few different levels. This book made me cry in made me laugh it made me proud I thoroughly love reading listening along to audible I found myself wanting to come home or reading on my breaks or lunch and be less alone just so I could finish this book. I'm sad the book is over. I pray you write again. I love reading about your past and the love you have for your family. Wonderful wonderful book. thank Cristela... omg I can't begin to explain how much I enjoyed this book. That connected to it on a few different levels. This book made me cry in made me laugh it made me proud I thoroughly love reading listening along to audible I found myself wanting to come home or reading on my breaks or lunch and be less alone just so I could finish this book. I'm sad the book is over. I pray you write again. I love reading about your past and the love you have for your family. Wonderful wonderful book. thank you for letting your story out and allowing us to read it!

  28. 5 out of 5

    Alexandra Navarro

    Great read! I first loved her as a comic, now I love her as a human.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Bethany

    2/5 Comedian Cristela Alonzo writes about her life growing up in a Texas border town, getting her own TV show, and more. I am a huge fan of Cristela’s standup, but this book did not resonate with me. It was not as funny as I had expected - and not interesting enough to keep me engaged. Cristela does have an interesting life story, but much of it I knew before reading. I was also not a fan of the hokey chapter premise: each chapter is a song that was important to her during that time of her life. 2/5 Comedian Cristela Alonzo writes about her life growing up in a Texas border town, getting her own TV show, and more. I am a huge fan of Cristela’s standup, but this book did not resonate with me. It was not as funny as I had expected - and not interesting enough to keep me engaged. Cristela does have an interesting life story, but much of it I knew before reading. I was also not a fan of the hokey chapter premise: each chapter is a song that was important to her during that time of her life. It hurts my heart to not give this book a higher rating since I’d love for her to find new fans. Instead of reading the book, check out her Netflix special.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Jen Zug

    To be honest I'd never heard of Cristela Alonzo, but I listened to an interview with her on NPR about this book and decided to read it because of the concept -- I love music, and Rob Sheffield's book "Love is a Mixtape" follows the same concept and is one of my favorites. I also want to read more books by women of color this year. The writing style isn't like other memoirs I've read with flowery narrative or deep thoughts. She's pragmatic, and the flow is very much like, "I did this and then I di To be honest I'd never heard of Cristela Alonzo, but I listened to an interview with her on NPR about this book and decided to read it because of the concept -- I love music, and Rob Sheffield's book "Love is a Mixtape" follows the same concept and is one of my favorites. I also want to read more books by women of color this year. The writing style isn't like other memoirs I've read with flowery narrative or deep thoughts. She's pragmatic, and the flow is very much like, "I did this and then I did that and then this happened and it made me feel like this...." The book reads more like an eyewitness account of events observed. That being said, I enjoyed it, and the momentum of her storytelling continues to propel you further into the book. I appreciated the view into immigrant family life, the importance of sacrifices all members of her family made to support each other, and the path she took to pursue her dreams in the face of setbacks and roadblocks. I resonated a lot with career choices she made that reflected her truth and authenticity, even if it meant sacrificing fame, money, and "success" as the entertainment industry defines it.

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