Kerry's Reviews > When I Was Puerto Rican

When I Was Puerto Rican by Esmeralda Santiago
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Nov 09, 2008

it was amazing
bookshelves: 08-09, kerry-s-books
Recommended for: anyone who enjoys the story of a remarkable woman.
Read in October, 2008 , read count: once

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 tirelessly, in and outside the home, and is often found running after the younger girls.
Negi at times finds it hard to enjoy life, because of her parents constant bickering. During one of their arguments, Negi overhears her parents discussing a woman named Provi and her daughter Margie. When she asks her father about them, she learns that Margie is her older sister. Negi is excited by the news, but when she continues to ask her mother, she orders her never to discuss neither Provi nor Margie again.
The family moves to Santruce,a suburb of San Juan, because of the father's unsteady job. Shortly after the move, her mother becomes pregnant. Negi, being the eldest of the bunch, is called upon to take responsibility for the younger ones.
They later move back to Macun. During this time, Negi stays with her grandmother. She learns to crochet, and attends her first church service. When she returns home, an enormous hurricane sweeps through Macun. The family's home loses electricity, and there are some major structural damages. Because of this, Negi's mother is forced to get a job to pay for the damages, which leaves Negi to watch after the children. However, the children are not well-behaved, and as a result, Negi's youngest brother, Raymond, gets his foot caught in a bicycle chain.
Negi's mother travels to New York to see a specialist about Raymond's foot. She finds New York to be a place full of opportunities. Negi, her mother, and her two youngest siblings travel to New York, while the rest of the family stay in Puerto Rico until there is enough money to fly them to New York.
The first winter in New York, Negi's mother falls in love with a man named Francisco. They decide to move in with him. Soon after, Francisco learns he has cancer, and at the same time, Negi's mother finds out that she is once again pregnant. Francisco, after fighting the cancer for many months, dies in the hospital.
Years later, after Negi's family have all come over from Puerto Rico, she decides that she would like to be on television. She attends the Performing Arts School, and then Harvard, where she graduates with highest honors.
Esmeralda Santiago is a remarkable woman, who has written and published many memoirs on her life in Puerto Rico. I truly enjoyed her story of determination, struggle, and triumph.


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message 1: by Jennifer (new)

Jennifer very great review
the book is well written, but what i like about the style is that the author compares features to other things, it keeps the essence of the latin culture while she writes..i really like that.
its a well written book.
also it elaborates on how she feels moving from the puerto rico to new york which is something most authors do not explain or do when a character migrates to another location-in this case new york was a whole new world to her.


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