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3.89  ·  Rating details ·  9,725 ratings  ·  778 reviews
Every year, Ceyala "Lala" Reyes' family--aunts, uncles, mothers, fathers, and Lala's six older brothers--packs up three cars and, in a wild ride, drive from Chicago to the Little Grandfather and Awful Grandmother's house in Mexico City for the summer. Struggling to find a voice above the boom of her brothers and to understand her place on this side of the border and that, ...more
Paperback, 441 pages
Published September 9th 2003 by Vintage (first published 2002)
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3.89  · 
Rating details
 ·  9,725 ratings  ·  778 reviews

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Jul 24, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: dissertation
One of my top favorite books of all times. And not because Latina discourse is The Thing right now; I think most people never really get past the first 50 pages (including those academics who should know better) because it's challenging and -- I believe -- helpfully marginalizing to the Anglophone reader. The plot is circuitous, anti-teleological, and thoroughly rasquache in the political sense of the term. This could be the best Chicana novel, defining the new Chicano experience, a perspective ...more
May 05, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2019, modern-lit
I enjoyed this Mexican-American family story rather more than I expected to, so thanks to the 21st Century Literature group for selecting it for a group read. Cisneros is a poet who is not as well known on this side of the Atlantic.

Those who like to understand every word of a novel will find this a frustrating reading experience if, like me, they have never been taught Spanish. The text, particularly the sections set in Mexico, is liberally sprinkled with Spanish and Mexican dialect words and ph
Debbie Zapata
May 15, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mexico
Although at times I got a little lost in the different threads involved in this story, overall I loved reading about the Reyes family and their summer visits to the narrator's grandmother's house in Mexico City.

The Awful Grandmother, she is called. Why? Eventually, in the middle part of the book, we learn the answers to that question, and I for one had much more sympathy for her after that. Slowly, over the course of the entire book, we see our narrator growing up, learning who she is and who s
“Like all chronic mitoteros, [a word that might mean something like a nosy person—delving into others’ business] los Reyes invented a past, reminding everyone that their ancestors had been accustomed to eating oysters with mother-of-pearl forks on porcelain plates brought over on the Manila galleons. It was a pretty story and told with such fine attention to detail, neighbors who knew better said nothing, charmed by the rococo embroidery that came to be a Reyes talent.”

Cisneros has given us an e
Elizabeth Pinborough
Through the main storyteller Celaya, Cisneros has created an epic Chicana novel that deals with issues of laguage, class, race, gender, family, and being on the border of two cultures. She also brings into consideration the issue of truth-telling versus story-telling. Are they mutually exclusive? If the story is a lie should it matter? These issues only make the story more thought provoking.

My favorite aspect of the book is that it deals with the formation of the young female identity. "How bef
Oct 05, 2007 rated it liked it
Shelves: novels
This book was definitely worthwhile, but Cisneros seems to have been a bit overwhelmed by the task of composing an entire novel. She has many, many gorgeous lines strewn about the book tied to swift dialogue and gripping mini-stories, interrupted by simply cute moments, but the plot and her point are rather blurry if not craggy. She seems to be able to create enough momentum for a certain scene, but she doesn't give much reason for what all the scenes have in common. And while it is an obvious t ...more
Ana Ovejero
Jul 20, 2015 rated it liked it
A significant feature in Sandra Cisneros's novels is the colourful language, the unforgettable characters and the unique settings. Her stories are narratives about strong women, the ones who struggle their whole lives to make the people they love happy.

In this book we find the protagoniast 'Lala' Reyes and her family crossing the border between their homes in USA to Mexico, where Little grandfather and Awful grandmother wait for them.

During those summers, we see the relationship between the chil
Feb 23, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction, favorites
I really loved this book, and I was completely surprised that I did. When I'm handed a book and the summary from the person giving it to me is prefaced by "well, it's really slow at first...", let's just say I don't have high expectations. I can be a lazy reader, but this book was completely worth the investment. I happened to read it on a quiet weekend and I think that's exactly what you need. A few hours to delve into it and I was hooked. Cisneros' writing is vivid and spare, but never pretent ...more
Gina Gwen
May 13, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Gina Gwen by: Mandy Roberts
I really enjoyed this book. It took me a long time to read it because I would get through a chapter (all chapters are very short) and have to reminisce about my own personal experiences. Cisneros brings to the forefront issues that many Latinas face. Annoyance of metiche family members and crazy tales they tell, but also a deep love for family. She sprinkled in Spanish words I hadn’t heard in years, that I grew up with but I just don’t hear in Austin. I did realize I am a "Texican"…ha ha, I’m no ...more
Jan 31, 2008 rated it really liked it
Reading this book is like gulping a shot of high octane espresso. The writing is incredibly vivid and full of energy, sometimes it leaves you almost breathless. Caramelo is the story of a large Mexican-American family, covering several generations. Told from the point of view of Lala, the youngest daughter, we travel from Mexico City to Chicago and then to San Antonio, Texas. Along the way, we learn the story of Lala's grandparents, parents, and finally Lala herself. This book bursts with life, ...more
Nov 23, 2007 rated it it was amazing
If i could give it 10 stars I would. I loved it. Felt like home. Like hot cocoa and a tamal at Cafe Tacuba. I agree with another reviewer here, that the format will make or break it for you. But there is something about that pace, the long and the short, the truth and the better-than-the-truth, that is embedded in not only her writing, but the chicana/mexican culture as well. It doesn't straddle the border--the long road between Chicago and D.F., it is the border. That spot where things come tog ...more
Stephanie (That's What She Read)
I loved this book. There were so many parts of this book that I really connected to. She just really captured so many little mannerisms and quirks that I see in my own abuela, like the small superstitions that are sprinkled into everything. "Don't put your purse on the floor! It's bad luck!" I also loved how the dialogue was written as a literal translation from Spanish into English, "I have sleepy," and the Spanish terms of endearment like My Sky, My Queen, My Life. There was just so much a
Mar 28, 2015 rated it liked it
This book is beautifully written and it's no surprise since Cisneros is a poet. It's worth reading for the descriptions alone. I always enjoy exploring other cultures through literature and really appreciate the way she lets us see into the lives of Mexican immigrants in the US and the 2nd generation children born here. There is an overarching storyline and some great storytelling moments though this is fairly loose as a novel. There are a lot of tangents and stories within stories. It holds tog ...more
May 01, 2011 rated it it was ok
I borrowed Caramelo from the library in order to read it for a book club. I'd read The House on Mango Street years ago for a class, but what little I remember is that I wasn't especially impressed - but then I'm not even entirely sure I didn't just skim the book; it was one of those classes where you could get away with that kind of thing.

Caramelo is the chronicle of several generations of the Reyes family, Mexicans recently transplanted to Chicago. The story is narrated by Celaya (Lala), the yo
May 10, 2007 rated it really liked it
Just what you'd expect from Cisneros--vivid language that leaves you with fragments of flavors, colors, sounds, and sensations. You travel to and from Chicago, Mexico, and San Antonio with the characters and you grow to love them along the way. What I didn't like was the ongoing metafictional conversation between the narrator and the grandmother about memory and facts, and how they are altered for the greater truth of the story. Why do authors writing autobiographical novels feel the need to jus ...more
Apr 22, 2009 marked it as to-read
Shelves: book-club, unfinished
"Tell me a story, even if it's a lie." Simple words standing alone on an otherwise empty page. I like this beginning.

Pg. 21 -- I just finished the part about the father giving away Lala's Bobby doll while she watches, horrified. How is it that parents never understand the attachment that children form to that one special toy? The one that's battered and broken and torn, but is loved intensely not despite of its flaws, but because of them. Mine was "Ellie," a gray corduroy elephant my mother made
Dec 30, 2009 rated it really liked it
Caramelo is a most unusual book. It is part-memoir, part-fiction, part-retelling of The House on Mango Street, and part-dream. Knowing very well what I do of Sandra Cisneros and her generally small body of work, I can never quite tell where the line between Caramelo's main character (Lala Reyes) and Cisneros herself actually is. Several incidents in this novel even mirror Esperanza's tale and those of her poems, muddying even more the line between fact and fiction and more fiction.

When I heard C
Apr 21, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is simply stunning. It's the most real book I have ever read, with exquisite lines and important truths that need to be told.

It's divided into 3 parts, and I will not lie, the 2nd part read a little slow, but it was an overall beautiful and captivating novel, and the 3rd part made up for this slowness.

This should honestly be mandatory reading for all.
Laurie Notaro
Dec 28, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Beautifully written, compelling, follows a family from Mexico City, back generations, then to the current—while not epic, it is comprehensive and brilliantly assembled. I loved this book. Had put off reading it for ten years because I read some stupidly bad review of it. The reviewer simply didn't understand what Cisneros was doing. So glad I finally went back.
Jill Lucht
May 22, 2014 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I only made it to page 67. As other reviewers have mentioned, this book is probably excellent for people who are fluent in Spanish and English. I missed a lot of the story and underlying meaning due to my nonexistent Spanish skills. Yet again, I wish I had studied Spanish!
Sep 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
Cisneros earlier writing--the vignettes--were wonderful because they left so much to the imagination. This novel is far more complex in plot and in characterization. This is the first time I remember Cisneros using magic realism. Good use. Effective.
The main character'set parents were young during WWII, making this story set in in the 1960s. Yet the experience remains similar to mine in the 1980s. Maybe the young woman was ahead of her time? Or maybe like many of Cisneros' characters, she is any
Xochitl Arias
Aug 11, 2011 rated it really liked it
It is a bit complex for me to write a review about 'Caramelo', because it stirred all the feelings inside of me, leaving no trace of objectivity.

Life is like a telenovela mija, and indeed it is! Specially if you are mexican, because we are unos exagerados, además de metiches y mitoteros.

My grandfather also built the highway to Acapulco, here I had to laugh, and made me wonder how much of my story is true or just a healty lie... Of course I come from one of those families who were a "someone" a
Aug 03, 2009 rated it it was amazing
I really love Cisneros' narrative technique in this book -- the interplay of fiction and history (complete with footnotes and backstory about the "real" events/people that pepper the novel), the changing viewpoints (Celaya vs. The Awful Grandmother), the jump in time periods (executed so much more creatively than your average flashback), the repetition of themes and words and phrases in a manner that pushes the story forward ("just enough," the girl who can't keep a secret, etc.), the way Cisner ...more
Jun 09, 2015 rated it really liked it
This book kinda chose me. It explained so many things about my current life in the US, it had me reflect on my past, my present and my future. Insightful and fun, there's no order to the stories told, and sometimes it's hard to tell what story you really are reading. My guess is that Sandra envisioned this book as a big old cuento, with a lot of telenovela, and a lot of those nonsensical truths, too mundane to be called paradoxes. It's easy to get lost in her vivid characters or in their telenov ...more
Sep 03, 2014 rated it liked it
I found this book very hard to get into at first there are so many names and horrible nicknames like the Awful Grandmother and Uncle Fat Face. I'm also not a fan of writing in one language and sprinkling in words of another without stating their meaning. However, which each book the story improved. There is the beginning which an introduction to the past and the family, then we move into the Awful Grandmother's story, and finally Lala as a late teenager beginning to understand grown up life. I r ...more
Oct 07, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: book-club
I love this book. In part because some things or places are familiar--Texas things, things about driving from the Midwest, through Texas, to Mexico. But mostly because it is a great novel. It kind of has the voice of The House on Mango Street, but there is much more to it. I heard her speak when it came out and she said that in the 20 years (or something like that) between those books she had matured so much as a writer. For instance, she said, her main character could have more siblings, like s ...more
May 08, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Filled with beautiful, lively descriptions and stories, Caramelo by Sandra Cisneros really gives voice and life to the Mexican-American experience. I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and I would highly recommend listening to the audio version as Cisneros narrates her own story with the perfect pace and tone. If you do not speak/understand Spanish this is definitely something to consider listening to, Cisneros will often use Spanish phrases or words and it is so nice to hear them as they should be, ...more
Aug 06, 2010 rated it liked it
A good story, told well. But, there's too much of it, with 434 pages. I most enjoyed the portions of the novel set in Mexico City and other sites south of the border. They reminded me of visits to my relatives there. The dialogue is good enough to read aloud. I'd have given it another star if it were 50-75 pages shorter. It got a little tiresome in the middle. There are touches of magical realism in the story, which I liked.
Mutant Supermodel
Really beautiful story that is truly woven masterfully. There are lots of layers, lots of designs. So much ties together, and often in subtle ways that don't really occur to you right away. They're more like an after taste if you will. This is the kind of book that reminds me a great story is wonderful but a great story that is beautifully written is a treasure.
Linda Doyle
May 28, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I rarely read a novel more than once (life is too short), but I had to revisit Caramelo. I love this book. I cannot review it objectively, because it touches my soul, and I react to it emotionally. I relate to the characters, the family dynamics, and, of course, the culture. It is funny, poetic, and beautiful. I know I'll read it again . . . and again.
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topics  posts  views  last activity   
21st Century Lite...: Caramelo - General Discussion (no spoilers 26 31 Jun 05, 2019 04:56PM  
21st Century Lite...: Caramelo - Part 3 & Whole Book 24 22 May 29, 2019 11:11AM  
21st Century Lite...: Caramelo - Part 2 13 21 May 27, 2019 07:29PM  
21st Century Lite...: Caramelo - Part I 13 28 May 16, 2019 05:56AM  
Schumpp, EII Hono...: Caramelo 1 1 Apr 29, 2014 08:39AM  
Spanish language entries in Caramelo 2 48 Feb 17, 2010 05:19AM  

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Sandra Cisneros was born in Chicago in 1954. Internationally acclaimed for her poetry and fiction, she has been the recipient of numerous awards, including the Lannan Literary Award and the American Book Award, and of fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the MacArthur Foundation. Cisneros is the author of two novels The House on Mango Street and Caramelo; a collection of short ...more