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When I Was Puerto Rican: A Memoir Spiral-Bound | February 28, 2006

Esmeralda Santiago

★★★★☆+ from 10,001 to 50,000 ratings

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In this first volume of her much-praised, bestselling trilogy, Esmeralda Santiago's story begins in rural Puerto Rico from the barrio to Brooklyn to high honors at Harvard
Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, 3/2/09
“[Santiagos] story is painful at points, funny in others, but it speaks a universal truth: We never totally leave our past behind.”

Teen Ink, 4/09
“It shows you the trials that immigrants face when they move to the United States, including the many differences in language and culture…Perfect for those who like books that have real meaning.”

Esmeralda Santiago is the author of two highly acclaimed memoirs, The Turkish Lover and Almost a Woman, which was made into a film for PBS's Masterpiece Theatre. She has also written a novel, America's Dream, and has co-edited two anthologies of Latino literature. She lives in Westchester County, New York.
Esmeralda Santiago's story begins in rural Puerto Rico, where her childhood was full of both tenderness and domestic strife, tropical sounds and sights as well as poverty. Growing up, she learned the proper way to eat a guava, the sound of 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. As she enters school we see the clash, both hilarious and fierce, of Puerto Rican and Yankee culture. When her mother, Mami, a force of nature, takes off to New York with her seven, soon to be eleven children, Esmeralda, the oldest, must learn new rules, a new language, and eventually take on a new identity. In this first volume of her much-praised, bestselling trilogy, Santiago brilliantly recreates the idyllic landscape and tumultuous family life of her earliest years and her tremendous journey from the barrio to Brooklyn, from translating for her mother at the welfare office to high honors at Harvard.


One of "The Best Memoirs of a Generation" (Oprah's Book Club): a young woman's journey from the mango groves and barrios of Puerto Rico to Brooklyn, and eventually on to Harvard

In a childhood full of tropical beauty and domestic strife, poverty and tenderness, Esmeralda Santiago learned the proper way to eat a guava, the sound of tree frogs, the taste of morcilla, and the formula for ushering a dead baby's soul to heaven. But when her mother, Mami, a force of nature, takes off to New York with her seven, soon to be eleven children, Esmeralda, the oldest, must learn new rules, a new language, and eventually a new identity. In the first of her three acclaimed memoirs, Esmeralda brilliantly recreates her tremendous journey from the idyllic landscape and tumultuous family life of her earliest years, to translating for her mother at the welfare office, and to high honors at Harvard.
Publisher: Hachette Book Group
Original Binding: Paperback
Pages: 288 pages
ISBN-10: 0306814528
Item Weight: 0.5 lbs
Dimensions: 5.6 x 0.7 x 8.2 inches
Customer Reviews: 4 out of 5 stars 10,001 to 50,000 ratings
"Santiago brilliantly recreates the idyllic landscape and tumultuous family life of her earliest years and her tremendous journey from the barrio to Brooklyn, from translating for her mother at the welfare office to receiving high honors at Harvard. Santiago's story is one of the American dream both realized and deferred."
Bustle.com
Esmeralda Santiago is the author of two memoirs, When I Was Puerto Rican and The Turkish Lover, and the novel Conquistadora. A resident of Westchester County, New York, she is married to filmmaker Frank Cantor and is the mother of two adult children, jazz guitarists Lucas and Ila.