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Silent Dancing: A Partial Remembrance of a Puerto Rican Childhood

3.66  ·  Rating Details ·  290 Ratings  ·  21 Reviews
Cultural Writing. Latino/Latina Studies. SILENT DANCING combines poetry and prose to form an innovative and deeply personal narrative that explores Judith Ortiz Cofer's memories of her childhood spent between Puerto Rico and New Jersey. Winner of the 1991 PEN/Martha Albrand Special Citation for Nonfiction. "This book is a treasure, a secret door opening onto memories locke ...more
Paperback, 158 pages
Published January 1st 1990 by Arte Publico Press
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Dusty
Feb 26, 2017 Dusty rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2017
In "Silent Dancing," the story that gives this collection its title, author Judith Ortiz Cofer describes a home video that was recorded sometime during her youth in Paterson, New Jersey. The only color recording of her childhood, the video pans across women in red dresses before standing still as these women and their men dance toward the camera lens, moving in and out of focus. As an adult rewatching these scenes, Ortiz Cofer wishes she could access more than just the images of these family rel ...more
Rachel Rochester
Sep 23, 2010 Rachel Rochester rated it liked it
I enjoyed this memoir, but I do think the poetry was its weakest aspect. I liked Ortiz's instinct to marry the two mediums, and I liked the way she juxtaposed prose narrative with related verse. Nevertheless, the paired poems sometimes were so repetitive that they seemed, to me, expendable -- they rarely introduced new material.

The strongest point of the text, for me, was its inquiry into the nature of memory and the accuracy of memoir. Ortiz's relation of the fire incident, presented so differ
...more
Erasmo Guerra
Dec 03, 2012 Erasmo Guerra rated it really liked it
First published in 1990, Silent Dancing is a lush, melancholy remembrance of growing up a bicultural Puerto Rican in the '60s. The young girl and her little brother are shuttled--by the circumstances of their parents' lives--between Paterson, NJ, and the island territory of Puerto Rico. This is a collection of creative nonfiction and poetry, of imaginative explorations of memory, attempting to get at a personal truth.

The narrative seemed slow going at first, with many of the anecdotes in the in
...more
Lee Anne
This is a wonderful book if you're teaching a First-Year Composition course. Her stories focus on the culture of the Puerto Rican women of her childhood: her grandmother, her young mother, her aunts and cousins. The stories are empowering for women, but they aren't damning in any way towards men. This book draws you in with Cofer's cuentos, and while it's not a difficult book to understand, there's no lack of significant material for critical analysis in your classroom. Her images are finely cra ...more
Beth
Nov 25, 2012 Beth rated it it was amazing
Shelves: memoir, puerto-rico, 1960s
"Silent dancing" refers to an old silent movie that Judith Cofer's uncle filmed at a family party in Puerto Rico. Taken in the early 1960s, it appears the people are gyrating to nothing.

Cofer grew up spending half of her time in Puerto Rico when her Navy father was at sea and half in Paterson, New Jersey, when the ship was in port in New York. Although,the family spoke Spanish at home, she excelled in school in both places and in two languages. Although her father was Puerto Rican, he always sp
...more
Michelle
Dec 10, 2010 Michelle rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2010
In the beginning, I felt Cofer was trying too hard to imitate Woolf's style of writing so I rolled my eyes at times. Throughout the course of her folkloric autobiography, however, I began to see that that was not her intention at all. I was engaged during her simple stories and colorful descriptions, I can even say that they were very comforting to read. Some of her short poems did make me roll my eyes a bit the way I did in the beginning but, for the most part, I enjoyed reading her stories (at ...more
Catharine
May 24, 2009 Catharine rated it really liked it
A delightful exploration of cultural clashes from a Puerto Rican/New Jersey childhood. Ms. Ortiz-Cofer writes from the clear perspective of a child balanced between two worlds - one of cuentos, a plethora of aunts, uncles and family, bright colors and emotions, and a world of grey isolation. A very moving journey.
Holly Oldham
Mar 27, 2011 Holly Oldham rated it really liked it
This book is a mix of poetry and short stories that depict Cofer's life in Puerto Rico and the U.S. She intertwines Spanish with English as she shares stories from her own childhood and those she remembers being told by the women of her family.
Felicia Caro
Dec 04, 2016 Felicia Caro rated it really liked it
The feeling of not being here - or there - with half your heart belonging to one place and the other half belonging to the other, and for completely different reasons… of wanting to live your own particular way, but having others tell you to live another particular way - this may be a roller coaster of emotions familiar to most, if not all of us. The immigrant experience, however, compounds this, no matter where you’re coming from. Silent Dancing: A Partial Remembrance Of A Puerto Rican Childhoo ...more
Chris
Jan 30, 2014 Chris rated it really liked it
This autobiography is different in the sense that while it follows a linear progression there are noticeable gaps as it leaps over years and the reader may at first find themselves feeling a sense of disorientation at the start of each chapter as they attempt to figure out where and when they are at during the narrator's life. However, I felt that these effects were entirely appropriate in a book that focuses on the narrator's sense of displacement and disorientation as she transverses between P ...more
Jennifer Dines
Aug 18, 2014 Jennifer Dines rated it it was amazing
This book envelopes you into its two worlds...Puerto Rico and Paterson, New Jersey. The author explores her early life in a series of "ensayos" - which she explains are different than the English word "essays". For her, the "ensayos" are more of rehearsals or studies - like a musical etude. Cofer's genuine voice lifts off the pages and offers pearls of wisdom on living as a woman. If you read her later YA novel An Island Like You, you can see the seeds of those stories beginning in this book.
Jacqueline
Feb 28, 2015 Jacqueline rated it it was amazing
Fans of Sandra Cisneros' House on Mango Street, should definitely check out Silent Dancing. This collection of vignettes is every bit as memorable. I particularly loved the poetry that followed the chapters, re-framing each recalled memory so beautifully. Cofer's memoir of growing up in both Puerto Rico and New Jersey is an absolutely delightful read.
Marjie
Apr 06, 2010 Marjie rated it really liked it
This is one of those books you read and years later you still remember it fondly...something hit your heart. I adore Judith's style of writing and I really connected with her references to Puerto Rico. I'll have to find this one and read it again.
Michelle
Aug 09, 2011 Michelle rated it it was ok
I really wanted to enjoy this book, and there were parts of it that reminded me of home in PR, but overall, the book seemed a little too disjointed. There wasn't one specific storyline, rather,the author jumped around from story to story.
Puck Paderau
Dec 29, 2016 Puck Paderau rated it it was amazing
This book is beautiful and tender. I feel nostalgic for a past that's not my own when I'm reading. I'm also a Spanish learner so her explanation of the "feeling" or connotation of Spanish words and phrases was nice.
Val
Dec 03, 2013 Val rated it liked it
Puerto Rico (territory)
Evan
Aug 01, 2007 Evan added it
Shelves: more_than_once
some of this works, some doesn't. A couple of chapters are surprisingly honest while others seem to cover up. I wonder if Cofer was writing with her mother over her shoulder?
Stacy
Dec 31, 2008 Stacy rated it liked it
The first book of required reading for narrative inquiry. Based on this book... should be a great class!
aggie
A book that teaches, through singing Poetry and ballroom dancing prose, how to travel the avenues of memory and make Art from the particulars of one's personal life.
Nancy
Nancy rated it it was ok
Aug 09, 2012
Riki Cardona
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Apr 18, 2016
Afiya
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Jan 02, 2009
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Aug 26, 2010
StoneSeraph
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Jan 20, 2015
Evelyn Reyes
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Sep 17, 2014
Kate
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Sep 02, 2007
Aqiyl Aniys
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Julia
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Rachel
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Mar 25, 2012
Bachchan
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Apr 12, 2016
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Judith Ortiz Cofer (born in 1952) is a Puerto Rican author. Her work spans a range of literary genres including poetry, short stories, autobiography, essays, and young-adult fiction.

Judith Ortiz Cofer was born in Hormigueros, Puerto Rico, on February 24, 1952. She moved to Paterson, New Jersey with her family in 1956. They often made back-and-forth trips between Paterson and Hormigueros. In 1967,
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