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Becoming Maria: Love and Chaos in the South Bronx

3.7  ·  Rating details ·  705 Ratings  ·  172 Reviews
The Pura Belpré Honor winner for The Revolution of Evelyn Serrano and one of America's most influential Hispanics--Maria on Sesame Street--delivers a beautifully wrought coming-of-age memoir.

Set in the 1970s in the Bronx, this is the story of a girl with a dream. Emmy Award-winning actress and writer Sonia Manzano plunges us into the daily lives of a Latino family that is
Hardcover, 272 pages
Published August 25th 2015 by Scholastic Press
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Mar 17, 2015 rated it really liked it
I'm hoping Sonia Manzano writes another memoir about her life after "becoming Maria"... not only would I love to hear about her time on Sesame Street and as a writer for the show but also for how her life changed and what else happened to her family.
I read this memoir as part of June nonfiction month chat with #yearofya 6/29 at 8PM, join us to talk about YA nonfiction. Sonia's story of her chaotic family life from the time she was a youngster until she wins her role as Maria on Sesame Street was enjoyable but also heartbreaking. For an authentic look into her Latino/Puerto Rican roots, her family history, and Sonia's view of all that transpires in her life, the reader will alternately ache and root for Sonia's honesty (in her many stories a ...more
Aliza Werner
I have been anticipating this book's arrival since I heard it would be written. Growing up with SESAME STREET on television every day, Sonia Manzano's character Maria felt like a grown up friend, someone I knew without having met her. She taught me Spanish. She reminded me of my Dominican best friend's mother. She told me my emotions were okay. She was honest and real. From a young perspective, I knew that. Like so many others in my generation who grew up with the show and characters, this book ...more
Kelly Hager
Jul 20, 2015 rated it really liked it
This is a fascinating memoir but you should be aware that it stops as she's auditioning for Sesame Street. (I hope there will be a followup memoir!)

This is also told in a series of vignettes beginning when she's a child and ending when she's about to start Sesame Street (as we know, but she doesn't).

Sonia Manzano's writing is amazing, though. Even with a few words, it's possible to picture everything she's talking about. It's something I admire a great deal.

If you've been curious about the woma
Jan 09, 2016 rated it it was ok
Shelves: education, memoir
The "original" Sesame Street holds such a dear place in my heart (and I cannot recommend Street Gang: The Complete History of Sesame Street by Michael Davis highly enough), and Manzano is so charming and thoughtful and forthright in her interviews that I feel bad that I just...didn't like this book very much.

First of all, I am baffled to discover (only after reading it) that this is considered a middle grade/YA-level book. I genuinely don't believe that children born after 2000 have any grasp o
Saleh MoonWalker
سونیا مانزانو در خانواده ای نامناسب در محله برونکس زندگی می کرد. سالهایی که بدین شکل گذروند و نوشتن اونها در این کتاب، باعث شد که دید دقیقی از شرایط زندگی و وضع افراد در اون محله رو به بقیه هم بده. ایشون در برنامه تلویزیونی Sesame Street هم به ایفای نقش ماریا پرداخت که دقیقا شرایط توصیفی کتاب رو به تصویر کشید.
نثر ساده و توصیفات دقیق و ناراحت کننده ای داره و سرعت پیشرویش هم مناسبه.
Kristina Smith
Oct 30, 2015 rated it really liked it
Only a Puerto Rican could appreciate her description of the typical chaos she describes growing up in a Puerto Rican home. I listened to this book through Audible, and her voice as the narrative makes the book even better. I would give it five-stars if only the beginning had caught me right away. It took me until 1/3 of the book to finally relate to all of her experiences. I think at times it could be hard for other readers to comprehend the abrupt changes in her story unless from a Latin backgr ...more
Memoirs have always been a favorite of mine. I enjoy seeing how people respond to the particular challenges that they face. Sonia shared the difficulties of living with domestic violence and her ways of coping and even achieving in spite of her home life.

I really enjoyed her novel, but this book was not as fluid. The stories seemed fragmented. Perhaps some of that is because childhood memories are often fragmented. I had a hard time staying focused even though many of the stories were interesti
Oct 26, 2015 rated it it was ok
Unfortunately, this ended right where the story started that I actually wanted to read about: her early years on Sesame Street and about working there as Maria. This ended at her audition for the role, and while learning about her childhood was interesting, it just wasn't interesting enough.
Aug 29, 2015 rated it it was ok
Part one had way too much detail about her early life, which was indeed rough- It reminded me of a poorly written A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. Part two and three were more interesting, but overall I was disappointed with this one..
Amy Anderson
Dec 27, 2015 rated it it was ok
I wasn't always sure how old the author was in her narrative and the flow was a bit jarring. I would have loved to know more after she was on Sesame Street, her finding her husband, more of who I saw on TV growing up.
Oct 07, 2015 rated it it was ok
The narrator of this book appears to be oblivious of her own life. I was also hoping to get to read about her success after so many pages of struggle.
Nov 09, 2017 rated it really liked it
Sesame Street was my show as a kid. I watched it every morning in the living room with a bowl of Frosted Flakes on the coffee table. This lyrical, aching memoir is a riveting insight into the real life childhood of one of my favorite characters. As a child especially, you don't consider the person behind the character you see on the screen, but this book allows the reader into Sonia Manzano's chaotic formative years.

Spanning from when she was young until just through her span in Godspell, this
Feb 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing
My God. I loved it. Being that Sesame Street is my “Ride or Die” and has been for my entire life, reading this memoir was like finally getting to have a sleepover weekend with your old best pal, uncovering things you never knew about them. Manzano’s writing is magical, nuanced, warm, humble, and lyrical. Just like the majority of her best-known acting projects. I hope, hope, HOPE there is another installment to this story. Also, as a note to myself- 100th book since January 2016.
Sonia Manzano grew up in a troubled household in the Bronx, and this memoir offers insights into her formative years as well as how she eventually found herself through acting. Many readers will be familiar with the author from her role as Maria on Sesame Street, and they will be stunned to read about her trials and triumphs. For those not familiar with the television program, they will be impressed by this honest account of a girl who grows up into a teen who wants more than those around her se ...more
Mar 17, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: genre-nonfiction
This is one of those books that made me feel my worldview stretching while I read it.

Probably like every other Sesame Street fan, I picked this up thinking it would have something to do with Sesame Street. Instead, I was whisked away to a childhood as a Puerto Rican immigrant in a viciously poor family in the 50s. It was so real I could have touched the furniture and eaten the food.

Manzano tells her life, not from the perspective of an adult looking back, but from her perspective as a child wh
Aug 11, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: memoir, reviews
While I found Sonia Manzano's stories of growing up to be fascinating, I couldn't help but think that her memoir would have really benefited from the help of a ghost writer. The narrative was not very smooth and there was a sense of disconnect throughout the book. Some parts were well written but it definitely suffered from the lack of a seasoned writer who could weave together a cohesive narrative from beginning to end. It helped that I was so interested in her story that these problems did not ...more
Jo Beth
Sep 18, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Growing up, Sesame Street was not to be missed in our house. My generation was the the first one to experience such a program. The mix of adults, children, and puppets was very magical for me. And my favorite adult on Sesame Street was Maria. I loved her because she was so funny, so enthusiastic, yet could be tender and loving to a child (or a puppet) when it was needed. So reading her memoir was an eye-opening revelation.

It is a wonder that she did not become a victim of her circumstances: an a
Wendy Harkrider
Mar 15, 2017 rated it liked it
"Mr. Gitterman says you should read to me every day," I say to Ma later.
"Like I don't got enough to do?"
"That's what he said."
"We don't have any books," she says.

This book made clear, as other memoirs have, the inherent challenges for children of poverty to escape and better their lives. In this case, Sonia Manzano had so much against her to ever become the successful writer and actress that she became. The bright spot to me is the strength she mustered to rise above all of that to live a life m
Aug 24, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: at-the-library
I found the narration style unique. It is not 1st person memoir from the grown adult POV remembering the past, using their current knowledge and wisdom to frame the re-telling. It is more like growing up along side the narrator - knowing only what she knew at age 5 or 14. It took a little getting used to but then it felt like a genius way to handle a memoir.

I really enjoy books that take me to childhoods so very very different than mine. They help me put context to any stereotypes I may have lea
It left me wanting more.

The writing style is such that it takes a few chapters to settle in - she's often writing from a very young perspective, which makes some things confusing. But it certainly creates a genuine atmosphere. I would love to know more about what happened (to her and her family) during Sesame Street, but as for her childhood, it was rough and uncertain and hard. She tells it well, although I did struggle a bit with keeping all the characters straight. The fortuitous circumstanc
Aug 19, 2016 rated it liked it
This memoir is frank about an unhappy childhood in a violent household. There are many happy moments, but Sonia Manzano lived in fear of her father most of the time. It was difficult for me to read, at first. I became much more engaged as she reached her teen years. I was fascinated to find out that she was in the cast for Godspell as it was being developed. I was hoping for a little more about her years on Sesame Street, but it ended just after her audition. Though we do know what happened. Tho ...more
Jul 29, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Sonia Manzano's memoir tells the story of a life lived in the face of oppressive odds and a hard fought for feeling of love in a family that was both intact, and terribly broken. There are grace notes and joyful scenes interspersed among acts of violence and cruelty, and the fact that Ms. Manzano made it from such harrowing conditions to become an educator, winner of 15 Emmys, and a positive role model to many generations of children in her 40+ years as "Maria" on Sesame Street says a lot about ...more
Many separate thoughts. 1) I bet she scoffed at the saccharine and misleading publisher's blurb. 2) you know how A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is raw and harsh and reminds you that kids are living and surviving in ways that their teachers know nothing about? it feels facile to compare the two because of the setting they share, but the two books really are so similar in tone and feel. 3) I kept marveling that she survived and thrived without being a reader, without books as a primary means of escape o ...more
Feb 01, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
As soon as I heard that Sonia Manzano had written a memoir, I knew I had to listen to it. I especially liked that she also read it. This tale was harrowing. She really does mean chaos! The view she gives us into her life and experiences is a real eye-opener. (And, frankly, I'm awed by how clearly she recollects things. As a person who has an incredibly patchy memory, especially for childhood, I am impressed.) I think that it is a worthy story.
Feb 16, 2016 rated it really liked it
'Maria' was a role model for me as a child. I always looked forward to seeing her on Sesame Street & following as the character grew on the show. Reading about the earlier part of Sonia Manzano's life resonates so loudly with me since I also grew up in the Bronx and recognize some of the experiences she had. It deepened my connection with who she is beyond the character she portrayed. I enjoyed reading this book and look forward to reading more of her story soon.
Dec 25, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This was powerful and intense and I wasn't able to put it down. Sonia Manzano is an excellent storyteller and her life story drew me in from the first pages. She doesn't pull any punches, but lays out the gritty, raw reality of her early childhood through the end of her teens. Highly recommended for grades 9 & up.

ARC provided by publisher
Kathy Kelley
Feb 25, 2016 rated it did not like it
EXTREMELY disappointed in this book. While I knew it would cover more than just her adult life, it was totally focused on her childhood. Sesame Street was a fleeting thought and very little mention was made of her role as Maria. The title is a total misnomer. I felt totally misled. If this book had been marketed differently, I would have had different expectations.
Jul 13, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoirs
Most celebrity memoirs I read are a life timeline with a little commentary thrown in. This book reads like a novel. Now that the author has left Sesame Street I would love to see her writing more books like this because she has a powerful voice that deserves to be shared with her fans. Gave 4 stars as opposed to 5 because slow moving at beginning.
Feb 07, 2016 rated it really liked it
Enjoyed it very much! Sonia writes her memoir beautifully. She is full of fight and I loved reading a book about a young woman who, while sometimes insecure, has love for herself. A nice change from many so many young female characters who are primarily insecure.
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Sonia Manzano (born June 12, 1950) is an American actress and writer. She is best known for playing Maria on Sesame Street from 1971 until her retirement in 2015.

Manzano was born in New York City and was raised in South Bronx. Her parents moved to New York from Puerto Rico. Manzano attended the High School of Performing Arts, where she began her acting career. She attended Carnegie Mellon Universi
More about Sonia Manzano

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