washington heights was where the germans had lived after world war two, but by the 70s, the soviets were taking over, escaping the ussr in droves. irina, jacqueline's mother, had been fortunate enough to get out in the late 1950s, beating the rush and finding overlapping culture with the other jewish immigrants. she met john harris by accident: she took an uptown train into harlem rather than the downtown train she intended, and she was smitten, despite being engaged to someone else, a boy from home whose parents had been friends with hers. the wedding proceeded as planned, but did little to stop irina and john from continuing their affair. they had their first and only daughter in spring 1960. when the playboy club opened in 1962, irina went to work as a bunny, a career move which ended her marriage, but did not stop her from having two more children with the boyfriend she refused to marry, not wanting to be stuck listening to another man. spanglish and franglais are what refer to the respective blends of english and spanish and english and french, but at home, jackie and her siblings spoke what could be referred to only as russglish, a hybrid language that was confused listeners who did not expect to see bi-racial russians. much like every other russian-american girl of that era, she was pushed into nursing, regardless of her interest. it was simply what women did, even ones with less than stellar bedside manner. she was working the midnight shift at mount sinai when she first met the man who she would eventually come to marry. their first conversation was an argument; he had come in with a friend whose ailment he had already disgnosed, but had differed from what the doctor on call said. sceptical, jackie sided with the person for whom she worked, and set the tone for what their future held. he bet her a date that it was what he believed it to be, and thus began their relationship. they dated for a year before miguelo's marriage to his first wife was dissolved. one month before their first daughter was born, the pair married, welcoming rebeca into the world with the ability to give her the surname of her father.
the family moved to brooklyn when amanda was two, the summer before rebeca was set to start first grade. having two sisters meant having built-in friends, but their closeness in age meant that they were constantly at each other’s throats, fighting over things as simple as someone sitting in the wrong seat. throughout childhood, they each took on their assigned roles within the family: rebeca was the athletic one, evalina was the pretty one -- outshining even babushka the bunny, and amanda was the smart one, with the added benefit of being their father's clear favourite, the preference for his youngest daughter something impossible to hide. she had been referred to as luisa once in her life, the day that she was born, but from that moment forward, she was called by her middle name by everyone except miguelo, who called her nothing but princesa, even when he was yelling at her. he imagined that she would follow in his footsteps and go to medical school, or at the very least copy her mother and become a nurse, disguising mandatory watching of medical shows as father-daughter bonding. by the time the eldest of them entered high school, she considered herself above petty squabbles with little kids, throwing all of her attention into obtaining some sort of athletic scholarship that would take her out of east new york and around the world, hopefully as some sort of professional athlete. lina had similar dreams of travel, desiring a modelling career; already standing at five-foot-nine by fourteen, she was at the shorter end of the spectrum, but was all arms and legs, never short of male attention. and amanda was going to be the doctor.
rebeca made it to newark, a torn acl that never healed properly keeping her from ever playing more than casually -- not that it did anything to stop her from being irritating about forcing her sisters to work out when she came to visit -- but with the help of her husband started a gym, transferring her dream to her equally athletically gifted daughter. lina spent two of her four years of high school with each of her sisters, feeling proud of the fact that after amanda got her braces off and "finally let [her] pluck that fucking unibrow," she actually had someone with whom she could share beauty advice. although by fifteen, the older nieves sisters had been allowed to date, with lina breaking this rule (of course), it was explicitly forbidden for number three, as boys would keep her from doing well in school, and it was upon her all their father's hopes had been placed.
it would be difficult to pinpoint the exact moment when the word friend became boyfriend, but by her second year of high school, amanda had one of her own, in the form of a childhood friend named tony solano. tony's mother had been the first friend her own mother made when they moved from manhattan to brooklyn, and he had been entrusted with keeping an eye on amanda and her sisters just as he did for his own. her father already considered no man to be good enough for any of his daughters, let alone his favourite, but everything had happened right under his nose, amanda's mother doing her best to help keep the secret until they slipped up. miguelo came home early from work one afternoon, just as tony was leaving, catching them in a goodbye kiss. though he tolerate their relationship until she graduated from high school, he celebrated the moment they broke up, amanda trading new york for four years in boston, and what her father referred to as "college boys who are going to do something with their lives." every boyfriend she brought home was paraded around the neighbourhood like a celebrity, more for tony's benefit than anyone else's, so he could see how much of an upgrade the new person amanda dated was.
and then, like every story goes, she took him back again and again until she returned home after her degree was complete, the inconsistency of their relationship the only constant. when he joined the kings, she walked away, only to come back, head filled with promises of how things would be for them. back and forth things went, seeming to end with a break up, only to have her allow him briefly back into her life the night before he went to jail. carelessness leads to oops babies, and that night was no exception. having been living with her since finishing college, lina was the first to know, noticing the lack of tampon use and birth control refills, and amanda debated allowing any of the solanos to find out that they would soon have a new family member. amanda finally told her parents about her pregnancy when she was no longer able to hide her growing belly beneath strategic clothing choices. it marked the second time in her life that her father called her luisa, the disappointment etched into his face. throwing her life away, he said. never going to marry you, he said. the following morning, she told tony's younger sister caridad, making her swear not to tell her parents before amanda could tell them herself. their son was born in late november of that year, named antonio miguel after his father. although he would have technically been the third of his name if he hadn't been given her surname instead of tony's, all anyone could say was how much he looked like tony, like he was a tony junior, and the nickname stuck.
amanda waited years to move on, in part because being a single mother was exhausting enough without trying to include dating someone, but all of the boys she had grown up with had been discouraged by tony from having any interest in her, effectively marking her as his, and when he made his new friends, it was doubly discouraging. now they had reason to fear. as a result, she had dated only guys she had gone to school with while still in undergrad, or who had grown up in a different borough when she moved to the lower east side. the moment her father met joey gutierrez, he was more in love with him than amanda was, impressed by the fact that he was a doctor who had recently begun his residency. if she couldn't be one, she could at least marry one: that was second best.
• Her father is Dominican, and that is the ethnicity with which she most identifies, but on her mother's side, she is of Russian-Jewish descent, her maternal grandmother having been born in the former USSR.