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When I Was Puerto Rican: [A Memoir]
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When I Was Puerto Rican: [A Memoir]

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3.96 of 5 stars 3.96  ·  rating details  ·  6,219 ratings  ·  425 reviews
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
Paperback, 278 pages
Published May 14th 2014 by Not Avail (first published September 20th 1993)
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Gabriel Joseph
My coworker once called me a Jibaro because I have family who live in Aibonito, Puerto Rico. Actually at this very moment, my parents who retired, now live there. I remember that beautiful island. Surviving a hurricane, eating mangos, guavas, arroz con gandules, tostones, getting slapped for being a wild child and just being a child growing up on the pearl of the carribean. I enjoyed this book very much, even though my opinion may be biased. Reading this made me greatful for the childhood of whi ...more
Lisa (Harmonybites)
Dec 23, 2013 Lisa (Harmonybites) rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone--but Especially Anyone with a Puerto Rican Background
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 ...more
Kerry
Nov 09, 2008 Kerry rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone who enjoys the story of a remarkable woman.
Shelves: 08-09, kerry-s-books
When I Was Puerto Rican is the memoir of Esmeralda Santiago, and her journey from a poor young girl living in rural Puerto Rico, to a successful writer based in New York City.
Her story begins in a tin house in Macun. Esmeralda, affectionately called Negi-a shortened version of negra, the Spanish word for black, is the eldest of three children. She has two younger sisters, Delsa and Norma. Her father is a hardworking man, who spends hours of his day outside the home. Negi's mother also works tire
...more
Yvette
This story was wonderful. I love how Esmeralda makes us see life through the eyes of that little girl she once was. Her words are so beautifully descriptive – they took me to the many places she lived and to the era. I also like how honest she was about her parents. She was able to show their tender and loving side as well as their human side, people who made mistakes, even with their children. Many times we forget that our parents are someone other than our mom and our dad.

I am in awe that thi
...more
Alena
3.5 stars.
This is an interesting memoir, but it does feel old school. Most memoirs I read are much more in-your-face, even graphic. This tale of poverty and immigration is more subtle and slow moving. I loved the descriptions of Puerto Rico and her confusion about her parents' love-hate relationship.
Glad I read it.
Mellisa
First book I've read that accurately captures what it's like to move from the Caribbean to the East Coast. I nearly jumped out of my chair shouting 'Say is sister, that's exactly what it was like!' while reading her description of driving from the airport to her new home in the States.
Myrna
Found the characters to be interesting. The mother a strong person that seemed to run the family.
Initially, I could not figure out why the father would leave for days at a time; and then found that they
were not married. She was having way too many children which left the oldest to oversee them.

The father seemed very nice and took time to talk and teach Esmeralda. Moving all the time was unsettling but she was able to deal with it and all the new schools. Mother was determined to see that the
chil
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Jasmine
Apr 04, 2010 Jasmine rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: My mother
Recommended to Jasmine by: LACS 256, Professor Barnett
I really wanted to read this novel because I felt that it could teach me more about what it means to be a Puerto Rican. I read this novel from the perspective of a second generation Puerto Rican, who has never been to Puerto Rico as an adult. The perspective I read this novel from greatly impacted what I got out of this novel. What struck me more than anything about this novel was how much I could relate to Esmeralda Santiago. She, like myself, had a father who eventually faded out of her life. ...more
Diana.veras
This has been one of the best books I have ever read. It has to do with a thirteen year old named Esmeralda she has to move to New York after her little brother gets in a bicycle accident and finds out that her father was cheating on her mother. Her brother was riding a bicycle down the street in Puerto Rico when he was 3-4 yrs old his little foot got stuck on the chain and his foot opened up. He had an infection from the grease of the chain and he and his mother had to go to New York to check ...more
Sylver
Wow! One day I want to write like Esmeralda Santiago. This is the book I wish one day I could write. Beautiful, deep, touching. I love Puerto Rico and its people and culture. What a wonderful tribute to the island. At the same time, Esmeralda gives voice to all of us who are not from here or there, but who live in between cultures. Wonderful writing and story.
Risheilly
This book was a very interesting book to read. It's a true story about the life of Esmeralda Santiago who was born and raised in Puerto Rico. She was a liitle girl who went through a hard time growing up. Her family was really poor and she had a lot of siblings. She sometimes had to cook for her family and even takae care of her siblings. Her father cheated on her mother and soon Esmeralda found out that she had a sister from her dad's side who was close to the same age as her and livesd with he ...more
Margie
I am a NYC born Puerto Rican, I was facinated by the account that Ms Santiago gave of her life in PR and the poverty that she experienced. I understand the culture shock that she felt upon arriving in NYC since it is so totally different from what her life was like in PR. This book was warm and humorous, candid and inspiring. I am currently reading her sequel Almost a Woman to see the adult chapter of her life. For a girl that knew no english, she became an accomplished writer and graduated from ...more
Leah
When I Was Puerto Rican is a memoir of Esmeralda Santiago's life from the time she was about four years old, in Puerto Rico, to when she was about fourteen, after she had been in New York for about an year and a half, give or take. While not the best book I've ever read, WIWPR is a great coming of age story. I think I might have liked it more if my teacher had us reading it faster than we were. As it is, I liked the book but it's not a favorite. However, I think that it's definitely worth at lea ...more
Wendy Kendall
April 23 is William Shakespeare’s celebrated birthday, and it’s World Book Night. Each year on that night, World Book Givers across the U.S. give away books that are donated by the authors and publishers. The books are given to those who don’t regularly read or don’t have access to printed books. In 2013 Givers across the country handed out half a million printed books in 6,200 towns and cities, including Edmonds.

“When I was Puerto Rican” is the memoir I chose to give away from this year’s selec
...more
Raymie


When I was a Puerto Rican by Esmeralda Santiago

Growing up with a roof over my head, food to eat, clothes to wear and a great school to attend. I am very privileged and lucky to have a mom and dad that works hard to provide for me. Unfortunately, there are some children in the world whose parents can't afford running water or roof over their head, children such as Negi, from When I was a Puerto Rican.
Growing up in Puerto Rico during the 1960’s Negi the oldest of seven, experiences many life
...more
Melvin Rodríguez-Rodríguez
Aunque usualmente es catalagoda como una memoria de inmigración, "Cuando era puertorriqueña" es en realidad una cautivante y poderosa historia de crecimiento.

Negi (Esmeralda) es una niña creciendo en el campo de Puerto Rico, entre el matrimonio tumultuoso de sus padres, la llegada de muchos hermanos y los cambios políticos y sociales de la época. Gran parte de la memoria transcurre en Macún, cuando Negi desea saber sobre el mundo de los adultos tan lleno de secretos y rumores, y a la vez ir apre
...more
Araceli Aispuro
When I was Puerto Rican is a story about a young girl by the name of Esme. She growns up in the same village in Puerto Rico but finds that her family will be moving to New York city. Over the years her family gets larger and larger as she gets more little brothers a sisters. Esme finds it difficult to leave her native country and she will miss everything about it. As she is living in New York she finds that she must learn English to survive and get through school, and she does. Esme works hard e ...more
Daniel Vega
When I was a Puerto Rican is the life story of Esmeralda Santiago. She takes her readers through a journey of an everyday Puerto Rican girl trying to make the best situation out of what she is given.

The journey starts in a little town called Macun. Esmeralda lives with her mother, father(who is in and out of there lives mid-way through the story), and her siblings. In this little town she lives in a little house or shack that consists of thin metal walls and a shifty roof. This very house plays
...more
Judy Ha
I loved reading this novel. It is an autobiography of childhood of Esmeralda Santiago. She wrote this book based on her in life in Puerto Rico. She, as the main character, expresses her point of view through out the whole book. She often addressed her mom and dad as 'Mami' and 'Papi' and they called her 'Negi' ,which is short for negrita. Negi is the oldest sister, which made her felt that she wasn't loved much as her younger siblings and was often jealous of the attention they got compared to h ...more
Assia Sabri
I finished the book in a breeze but I kind of regret doing so. As a reader, I don't usually take in what is happening but can state what just happened, if that makes any sense. I should have took pauses every so often because this was a book full of so many events, since it is a memoir, characters, and phrases. It reminded me of so many things, my summers, certain childhood moments, and I wondered if my parents felt this feeling of looking back on their cultural backgrounds and if they felt that ...more
Jennifer Varela
This book concentrates on the life of a young Puerto Rican girl, Esmeralda. Her family, especially her mother, struggles a lot with money and family problems especially after it’s confirmed that Esmeralda’s father is cheating on her mother. By the end of the book, Esmeralda has 11 siblings and her mom is single. They move countless times and Esmeralda is forced to grow up and mature sooner than expected. There are several explicit events in this book that really shocked me because no one as youn ...more
Ana Hurm
This was a coming of age book told through the eyes of the author at the age that she experienced things. It is told with the innocence of a child. You get to experience her life first hand and what was running through her mind when she heard things the adults around her said. She discovers the world by observing the adults and learns that LOVE is not always what it seems. She struggles with the truth verses the fiction she reads about or hears in the programs she listens to on the radio. As she ...more
Ashley R.
When I Was Puerto Rican was about a young twelve year old girl from Puerto Rico who faces a lot of obstacles within her family. Her father refuses to marry her mother, leaves their family, marries another woman, and starts a new family. In response to that, Negi's mom moves her and her siblings up to the United States. Negi faces a very hard reality when she realizes that she is much more terrified here than back down in Puerto Rico. The rest of this book is about Negi's experiences and how she ...more
Richard Brand
This is a nicely told story of her journey from a small village in Puerto Rico to Boston with stop in Brooklyn. What I am always amazed by is the memory such writers have. I cannot remember my own childhood as vividly nor as completely as Santiago does. How do you remember all the clothing that people wear, the way they looked, the smells and the feel of things. I do not doubt the story but I am amazed at the details and the events of her life. There have been a number of this kind of story that ...more
Ashley Kerns
Apr 22, 2014 Ashley Kerns rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone
Recommended to Ashley by: TCH&LRN 339
This book is a good multicultural book to use in a classroom. It shows a great deal of Esmeralda's life and the Puerto Rican culture. It is about a girl named Esmeralda and she is from Puerto Rico. She encounters frequent hard times throughout the book and moves from Puerto Rico to New York and has to switch schools. Esmeralda has a hard time with this because she doesn't feel as if she fits in. She uses code-switching throughout the book. Code-switching in this chase is Esmeralda using English ...more
Laura Anne
A beautifully written, first-hand account of the triumphs and struggles of a Puerto Rican girl growing up in Puerto Rico and then America. This story speaks to the universal themes of coming-of-age in any culture. Wonderful!
Piyali
My familiarity with Latino literature is unfortunately limited to Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Isabel Allende. I love Marquez's magic realism and Allende's fluidity of words. And I was blown away by Santiago's style of writing which was no less pleasing than beautiful lilting music. Her descriptions of her home in Macun and all the places she lived in Puerto Rico almost have a cinematic quality to it. As she describes her surroundings, her mami, papi and siblings, they take form and become real in ...more
Bookworm
Why did I give this such a low rating the first time I read it? Esmeralda Santiago's writing is stellar and as a Puerto Rican myself, my heart goes out to her.
Christine Rosselle thomas
had to read this book for school and I really liked it. I wish there was more about her life after she moved to Americabut still a good book
Nicky
A series of glimpses of the author's life growing up in poor rural Puerto Rico and a little bit in NYC after her mother moved the family there at her age 11.
Memorable were the large numbers of children, the food program telling the women to eat apples and potatoes to have good nutrition (a mom: "Can we substitute mangos?" Program guy: "It's better not to substitute, just buy what's on the card.")at the community center, and the constant focus on her as the eldest child becoming a woman. The men
...more
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Esmeralda Santiago (born 1948 in San Juan, Puerto Rico). Is a renowned Puerto Rican author In 1961, she came to the United States when she was thirteen years old, the eldest in a family that would eventually include eleven children. Ms. Santiago attended New York City's Performing Arts High School, where she majored in drama and dance. After eight years of part-time study at community colleges, sh ...more
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“For me, the person I was becoming when we left was erased, and another one was created.” 21 likes
“What doesn't kill you, makes you fat.” 15 likes
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