When I Was Puerto Rican (Paperback)

A Memoir (Merloyd Lawrence Book)

By Esmeralda Santiago

Da Capo Press, 9780306814525, 278pp.

Publication Date: February 28, 2006



Esmeralda Santiago's story begins in rural Puerto Rico, where her childhood was full of both tenderness and domestic strife, tropical sounds and sights as well as poverty. Growing up, she learned the proper way to eat a guava, the sound of tree frogs in the mango groves at night, the taste of the delectable sausage called morcilla, and the formula for ushering a dead baby's soul to heaven. As she enters school we see the clash, both hilarious and fierce, of Puerto Rican and Yankee culture. When her mother, Mami, a force of nature, takes off to New York with her seven, soon to be eleven children, Esmeralda, the oldest, must learn new rules, a new language, and eventually take on a new identity. In this first volume of her much-praised, bestselling trilogy, Santiago brilliantly recreates the idyllic landscape and tumultuous family life of her earliest years and her tremendous journey from the barrio to Brooklyn, from translating for her mother at the welfare office to high honors at Harvard.

About the Author

Esmeralda Santiago is the author of two other highly acclaimed memoirs, The Turkish Lover and Almost a Woman, which was made into a film for PBS's Masterpiece Theatre. She has also written a novel, America's Dream, and has co-edited two anthologies of Latino literature. She lives in Westchester County, New York.

Praise For When I Was Puerto Rican: A Memoir (Merloyd Lawrence Book)

Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, 3/2/09
“[Santiagos] story is painful at points, funny in others, but it speaks a universal truth: We never totally leave our past behind.”

Teen Ink, 4/09
“It shows you the trials that immigrants face when they move to the United States, including the many differences in language and culture…Perfect for those who like books that have real meaning.”