Linda's Reviews > Pardon My Spanglish

Pardon My Spanglish by Bill Santiago
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's review
Dec 17, 2008

it was amazing
bookshelves: non-fiction, latina-o, on-language, highly-recommended, humor, immigrant-experience
Recommended for: ¡All my Spanglishistas!

Bottom line: laugh out loud funny. I can't remember the last time I laughed this much through a book. I first heard Bill Santiago on an episode of Latino USA, and I was hooked from his first riff about riding the A-train through the oprima-el-dos corridor. Alerta a todos mis Spanglishistas out there: go pick up this book. If you've ever let slip a ¿Qué what?, read a bedtime story when it's time for mimí, or lived in dread of the pow pow, rest assured you will recognize yourself and your family in this book, and you'll laugh your way from beginning to fin.

But this is not really just a funny book. There's way more than that going on here. For one thing, hiding beneath that comic exterior is a serious cultural milestone. Pardon My Spanglish is a consciousness-raising call to all of us closet Spanglish practitioners, who have labored under and seriously internalized all the anti-Spanlish bias and hostility we've heard from parents, teachers, and pedantic followers of The Book -- by which Bill Santiago and I mean, of course, el diccionario de la Real Academia Española. At the heart of Santiago's very funny primer is a mighty revolutionary notion: Spanglish is not "bad" or "lazy" Spanish. It is a cultural marker born out of the deep well of creativity of a very distinct social identity, a bi-cultural community equally at home in Latina/o and American culture, and never fully of either one individually. And, as such, Santiago's call to all us closeted Spanglishistas is powerful and unambiguous: it's time to wave your freak bandera high. Own your Spanglish as proudly as you own your Latina/o heritage, and practice it to your heart's delight.

And there's even more in there. While the comedian may make light of the the Santiago Spanglish Institute for World Peace, the truth is you can't write a book this good without actually knowing something about what you're playing with. To a semi-professional linguist like me, Santiago's dirty little secret is pretty clear to see. He's really done his research. Yes, he does collect real world Spanglish specimens like birdwatchers log rare sightings. But he also knows a thing or two about grammar and linguistics. Don't worry, all the eggheady stuff is very well hidden and will not get in the way of the abundant laughter the book will produce, but it's there, and it makes his effort all the richer.

This book is an absolute treat -- funny, smart, and full of love for the Latin culture. And if all I've written doesn't convince you why you should read this book, the best I can do is leave you with the most beautiful words ever spoken in the Spanglish language: ¿Cómo que why? ¡Porque because!


Bonus feature: To see some vintage Spanglish, beautifully executed by none other than that august founding papucho of Spanglish, Ricky Ricardo, check out this video. And if for some reason that link doesn't work, nada más googléelo. :)
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Reading Progress

December 17, 2008 – Shelved
November 5, 2010 – Shelved as: non-fiction
November 5, 2010 – Shelved as: latina-o
December 5, 2011 – Started Reading
December 8, 2011 –
page 72
December 11, 2011 – Finished Reading
December 14, 2011 – Shelved as: on-language
December 14, 2011 – Shelved as: humor
December 14, 2011 – Shelved as: highly-recommended
January 14, 2017 – Shelved as: immigrant-experience

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