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When I Was Puerto Rican by Esmeralda…
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I read this book with my book club this month. I could not put it down.
This is a memoir of a young girl growing up in poverty in Puerto Rico and then Brooklyn in the 1950's and 1960's. The author's descriptive writing paints a vivid picture of what life was for her as a child.
Esmeralda lived with her mother and father, with many siblings along the way, often in primitive conditions for their time. She was often uprooted due to the unstable relationship between her mother and father, who were never married.
After finishing this book, Esmeralda has left me wanting to learn more about her life. I am anxious to read the other books she has written. ( )
  megk11676 | Sep 16, 2015 |
The story follows the author's experiences about her daily life.

I didn't find the experiences spectacular or as thrilling as I expected to read. It was like listening to my sister ranting about her day.

It's mostly inside family stuff rather than someone whos living in Puerto Rico. Or maybe I didn't read properly. I found very little of things that would be specific to their culture.

She does have a unique way of communicating things. Communicates a lot with just a few words.

I read it for about 25% of the book and then realized that it didn't feel like we were moving forward. So I started reading the next chapter and after a few pages read the next chapter again. Finally dropped the book. ( )
  MugenHere | Jul 12, 2015 |
RGG: Vibrant, descriptive memoir of the author's life, especially family life, growing up in Puerto Rico in the 1950's. The last few chapters recount the author's move to the United States in the 1960's, which seems to coincide with a new found independence and self-sufficiency.
  rgruberhighschool | May 6, 2015 |
RGG: Vibrant, descriptive memoir of the author's life, especially family life, growing up in Puerto Rico in the 1950's. The last few chapters recount the author's move to the United States in the 1960's, which seems to coincide with a new found independence and self-sufficiency.
  rgruberhighschool | May 4, 2015 |
I loved this book beyond reason, but I admit for very personal reasons. This certainly resonated with me in ways someone without a Puerto Rican background wouldn't share, although that doesn't mean they wouldn't appreciate it. Just that my response to it was so personal I'm aware I didn't have an objective response to it at all. It was hard to see Esmeralda Santiago when I was constantly thinking of my own family and what we shared in our experiences and attitudes and background and what we didn't. I guess this is to me what A Tree Grows in Brooklyn might be for someone with an Irish background--not that I didn't love that book as a teen myself. But I've found few works about the Hispanic American experience that I could identify with and like. (I despised the celebrated House on Mango Street by Cisneros for instance.)

In a lot of ways mind you Santiago and I are very different--you could say her experience is much closer to the experience of my mother than myself. It was my mother and her family that was born and raised in Puerto Rico. I'm a native New Yorker who has only spent a few brief vacations in Puerto Rico, the longest one entire summer when I was a child, even if it was an indelible experience. But when Santiago spoke of the morivivi plant and the coquis (tree frogs) and mango and coconut trees, it sure brought back memories of that magical summer. Nor did I grow up in Hispanic neighborhoods or close to our extended family--but in integrated neighborhoods and buildings. So there are times I think growing up I didn't have a full context for things that Santiago illuminated. For instance, I have called my aunt "Titi" for as long as I can remember. I thought it was my word for her. As it turns out it's what Santiago called her aunts as well. Mind you, I have to admit feeling a bit disappointed in that... And "jibaro"--it was funny how different our families saw the word. She translated it as "country person" and mostly took pride in it as an identity. In my family it was disparaging--the Puerto Rican equivalent of hillbilly or redneck and used as a comment on bad taste or a display of ignorance or "low class" behavior. And we never, ever used the word "gringo" in our household so when I first heard the word, I thought of it as something Mexicans said of Americans--not Puerto Ricans. I think that reflects another difference between us and our families. Santiago expressed at times an ambivalence, a resentment of how moving to the American mainland made her a "hybrid." My family never looked back. Not that they ever forgot where they came from or were ashamed of being Puerto Ricans--but above all we were proud of being Americans, and the opportunities that opened to us, and happy to adapt and assimilate. Well, mostly--goodness knows my aunt is not to be separated from her Puerto Rican foods or cooking. She wouldn't, like Santiago, express any ambivalence about grabbing a guava... (or avocado, mango, bacaloa, or ugh pig feet.)

I'd add that even if my reaction to this felt so personal, I couldn't help but note this was "objectively" a good read. Santiago's a good, good writer. This is a memoir that read like a novel--one of those works of "creative non-fiction" I feel somewhat ambivalent about usually but was fine with here. I'd add that for all I compared this to A Tree Grows in Brooklyn and is a coming of age story that follows Santiago from about ten to fourteen years old, I wouldn't call this a Young Adult work. It's frank in sexual content for one--not G-rated, I'd call this PG-13 at least--you'll even learn some Spanish curse words (if you didn't already know them)--so keep that in mind. ( )
1 vote LisaMaria_C | Dec 19, 2013 |
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Under its palm frond wings, the little house on the hill sense the freshness of morning and opens its eyes to the dawn. A bird flies from its nest. The rooster jumos from the branch. From the nostrils of calves separated from the cows run the milk of dawn. Butterflies swarm-ruby, sapphire, gold, silver-orphan flowers in search of the mother branch. -from "Claroscuro" by Luis Llorens Torres
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There are guavas at the Shop and Save.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0679756760, Paperback)

Selling over 16,000 copies in hardcover, this triumphant coming-of-age memoir is now available in paperback editions in both English and Spanish. In the tradition of Black Ice, Santiago writes lyrically of her childhood on her native island and of her bewildering years of transition in New York City.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:24:13 -0400)

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[The author's] story begins in rural Puerto Rico, where her warring parents and seven siblings led a life of uproar, but one full of love and tenderness as well. Growing up, Esmeralda learned the proper way to eat a guava, the sound of the tree frogs in the mango groves at night, the taste of the delectable sausage called morcilla, and the formula for ushering a dead baby's soul to heaven. But just when Esmeralda seemed to have learned everything, she was taken to New York City, where the rules - and the language - were bewilderingly different. How Esmeralda overcame adversity, won acceptance to New York City's High School of Performing Arts, and then went on to Harvard, where she graduated with highest honors, is a record of a tremendous journey by a truly remarkable woman. -BooksInPrint.… (more)

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