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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. 4 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. 4 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

    Maria

    A solid 3.5 stars, rounding up. I had no idea that Cristela had written a book until I got to see her standup show in which she mentioned it and how it came to be. I found this memoir to be such an eye-opener. I had no idea about her growing years or background aside from being a Latina and the voice behind Cruz in Pixar's Cars 3, which I loved, so listening to her narrate her memoir is a bit heartbreaking to hear. There are moments in which her voice catches and the slight pauses in those hard me A solid 3.5 stars, rounding up. I had no idea that Cristela had written a book until I got to see her standup show in which she mentioned it and how it came to be. I found this memoir to be such an eye-opener. I had no idea about her growing years or background aside from being a Latina and the voice behind Cruz in Pixar's Cars 3, which I loved, so listening to her narrate her memoir is a bit heartbreaking to hear. There are moments in which her voice catches and the slight pauses in those hard memories that made me, in turn, pause and stop.  Listening to her reflection of her growing years, I realized how certain things happen to come across as the same in Latin communities, as there were a few things I felt I related to so much more because it so closely mirrored mine or those of friends. I really got to know more on Cristela than I ever could have anticipated and I just want to give her the biggest hug after listening to this.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Julie

    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.

  6. 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. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 5 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 herself to make it clear from context and she doesn't trust the reader to know the difference. I wanted to see how s 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 herself 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.

  9. 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.

  10. 4 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. 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.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Tiffany

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

  12. 4 out of 5

    Crystal Bruce

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

  13. 4 out of 5

    Jenna Gareis

    I absolutely loved Cristela Alonzo's memoir of growing up in poverty in Texas, pursuing her dreams despite racism, colorism, and genderism set to the soundtrack of her life. Five things about Music to My Years: A Mixtape Memoir of Growing Up and Standing Up by Cristela Alonzo. 1. Each chapter in this book is a beautiful love song to the people and experiences that have brought her to this point in her life. These are real, honest, hard to look at people and experiences but she has a way of findi I absolutely loved Cristela Alonzo's memoir of growing up in poverty in Texas, pursuing her dreams despite racism, colorism, and genderism set to the soundtrack of her life. Five things about Music to My Years: A Mixtape Memoir of Growing Up and Standing Up by Cristela Alonzo. 1. Each chapter in this book is a beautiful love song to the people and experiences that have brought her to this point in her life. These are real, honest, hard to look at people and experiences but she has a way of finding the meaning - no - of making them meaningful. There's a difference. 2. I have never been a first-generation, US citizen, Latinx woman growing up in abject poverty on the Mexican border of Texas but wow - can I relate to the humanity of her experience. Such different upbringings but such similar experiences. This is because she is honest and forthright and has done a lot of hard work to face, process, and embrace the experiences of her life. 3. I thought I would fly through this book. I love Cristela. I've watched her Netflix special about 40 times (still makes me laugh so hard), saw her in person in 2019 in Houston before we knew the world would close down for a couple of years, and enjoyed her show for the brief time it was on - but after reading this memoir have different feelings about it. I thought she'd make me feel all the feels and this would be easy. It was. She did. It was also beautiful and I found myself savoring it - chapter by chapter and needing time to process. So I did not Zoom through it because I didn't want it to end. 4. I listened to Cristela read this WHILE I read the book. This was optimal because I was able to underline the passages that particularly spoke to me while feeling like she was telling me her own story - in her own words - with her own voice. This is my preferred way to read a memoir. To hear the author. And yes - there are many many underlined portions in my physical copy of this book because Cristela spoke to my heart and Cristela is reflective, and Cristela is honest and raw. 5. I look forward to Cristela's continued offerings to the world. This woman isn't perfect (she lets you know that) but she's honest (how many times have I said that?) and she's kind, and she's loving, and she's loyal - to herself and others. There were so many things said in this book that I would like to scream from the proverbial mountain tops but the ONE that I'll mention here is from the end of a chapter about integrity and her career. "A lifelong dream has the word lifelong connected to it because that's how long the dream takes. There is no end to a dream, just a continuation. I guess I'm saying that if you say yes to happiness, I believe you will always be successful. I really ask the question...what would I do if I had one chance to get everything I've ever wanted. Would I go after it or would I let it slip? Answer: Sometimes I have to do both because all the nos will get me closer to a yes." Read this book. It's one of my favorites of the year.

  14. 4 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.

  15. 5 out of 5

    W. D. Harris

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. It was funny & light while packing some heavy hitting chapters. I wasn’t prepared to lose mom. She was so young and it makes me angry that she worked herself to death in a country she was proud to call home; a country that should have been happy to have her and her hardworking family. She reminds me of other women I’ve known. And women that I still know. I identified with Cristela’s journey as a nerd, her experiences being bullied, and doing things in spite of being anxious. Hearing about how po It was funny & light while packing some heavy hitting chapters. I wasn’t prepared to lose mom. She was so young and it makes me angry that she worked herself to death in a country she was proud to call home; a country that should have been happy to have her and her hardworking family. She reminds me of other women I’ve known. And women that I still know. I identified with Cristela’s journey as a nerd, her experiences being bullied, and doing things in spite of being anxious. Hearing about how political decisions at the border affected her family’s ability to see each other was heart wrenching. The ability to move freely has become such a privilege it seems. One could even imagine being In Honolulu with family forced to fight a white man for being a fool. Although, I probably would have found myself under the jail 😞😩🤣🤣🤣. This book reminds me of Gabrielle Union’s memoir. I mean that as a compliment because I enjoyed Union’s too. I look forward to the reading the rest of her next chapter. (... im also heading to YouTube for stand up clips.)

  16. 4 out of 5

    Kevin Dufresne

    Hi, I hope all is progressing well. Music to My Years: A Mixtape Memoir of Growing Up and Standing Up by Cristela Alonzo is largely about her upbringing particularly in relation to her journey toward becoming, not only a more aware entertainer, but a woman of her own choice merits. I find out about the author randomly scrolling through Twitter, then decide to buy the book after reading a tweet she pins from October 13, 2019: https://twitter.com/cristela9/status/.... I mainly find surprise reading Hi, I hope all is progressing well. Music to My Years: A Mixtape Memoir of Growing Up and Standing Up by Cristela Alonzo is largely about her upbringing particularly in relation to her journey toward becoming, not only a more aware entertainer, but a woman of her own choice merits. I find out about the author randomly scrolling through Twitter, then decide to buy the book after reading a tweet she pins from October 13, 2019: https://twitter.com/cristela9/status/.... I mainly find surprise reading stats of her tweet ("1st Latina to create/write/star in network sitcom/1st Latina to star/lead Pixar movie") because Pixar has a lot of films, and television networks are decades old! I like the book. I think the author maintains a comical tone throughout the text though grounds the text in serious topics as well as situations (like bullying, healthcare, etc.) progressing through chapters thematically by songs. Onward and Upward, Kevin Dufresne www.Piatures.com IG: @Dufreshest

  17. 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.

  18. 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.

  19. 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.

  20. 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.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Gary Bunker

    I don't read a lot of memoirs (or long-form non-fiction for that matter), but Cristela's book is just too awesome to avoid. While she's a bit younger than I, her connection to music as touchstones through life (and chapter titles) is very familiar. And the final line echoes nicely this second week in November, 2020: "We, the people, got it from here." I don't read a lot of memoirs (or long-form non-fiction for that matter), but Cristela's book is just too awesome to avoid. While she's a bit younger than I, her connection to music as touchstones through life (and chapter titles) is very familiar. And the final line echoes nicely this second week in November, 2020: "We, the people, got it from here."

  22. 4 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.

  23. 4 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.

  24. 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. 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.

  25. 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!

  26. 4 out of 5

    Connie

    great biography of Cristela Alonzo growing up as a first generation Mexican-American in a small town in Texas. At the end of the book, she gives advise on how we can all make a difference, especially women of color.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Savanna

    Somehow exceeded my already high expectations. Cristela is an excellent story teller of her experiences as part of an immigrant family, struggling actress and comedian, and philanthropist. She takes you through the music that defines certain parts of her life. You connect with her through the songs and stories. Its beautifully poetic and genuine.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Elle

    So I watched the show originally and didn't really know Cristela Alonzo outside of that show. I wish I had, because I have a new appreciation for it. I love the idea of songs being ties to important chapters of her life. So I watched the show originally and didn't really know Cristela Alonzo outside of that show. I wish I had, because I have a new appreciation for it. I love the idea of songs being ties to important chapters of her life.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Angie

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

  30. 4 out of 5

    Christy

    Funny & heartfelt.

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