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The celebrated author of The House on Mango Street gives us an extraordinary new novel, told in language of blazing originality: a multigenerational story of a Mexican-American family whose voices create a dazzling weave of humor, passion, and poignancy—the very stuff of life.
Lala Reyes’ grandmother is descended from a family of renowned rebozo, or shawl, makers. The striped caramelo rebozo is the most beautiful of all, and the one that makes its way, like the family history it has come to represent, into Lala’s possession. The novel opens with the Reyes’ annual car trip—a caravan overflowing with children, laughter, and quarrels—from Chicago to “the other side”: Mexico City. It is there, each year, that Lala hears her family’s stories, separating the truth from the “healthy lies” that have ricocheted from one generation to the next. We travel from the Mexico City that was the “Paris of the New World” to the music-filled streets of Chicago at the dawn of the Roaring Twenties—and, finally, to Lala’s own difficult adolescence in the not-quite-promised land of San Antonio, Texas.
Caramelo is a romantic tale of homelands, sometimes real, sometimes imagined. Vivid, funny, intimate, historical, it is a brilliant work destined to become a classic: a major new novel from one of our country’s most beloved storytellers.
“A joyful, fizzy American novel. Cisneros writes poetry as well as prose, and her language is a lovely fusion of Spanish and English, idea and emotion, geography and spirit. [Caramelo is] a personal story of a family, and a political story of culture and power. Lala [the narrator], digs through the remains of the past, demanding to hear the stories and even the shameful secrets. [She] is a storyteller who embraces the sensuous pleasures north and south of the border, the endless variety of Mexican and American culture–songs and stories, jokes and legends, furniture and food–that surrounds her crowded and clamorous family. The title of the novel also has a dual nature, referring to both a candy and a color, suggesting the sweet trials of a loud, brown-skinned clan…This is one of those novels that blithely leap across the border between literary and popular fiction…Vivid…boisterous….playful…a delicious reminder that ‘American’ applies to plenty of territory beyond the borders of the United States.”
—Valerie Sayers, The New York Times Book Review
“[Cisneros’s] long-awaited second novel is a sweeping, fictionalized history of her Mexican American family…The book’s title refers to an unfinished, candy-colored rebozo (shawl) that comes to symbolize both the interconnectedness of individual histories and the author’s act of weaving them together…By book’s end, the different threads of [the characters’] lives are snugged into a tight knot. Cisneros combines a real respect for history with a playful sense of how lies often tell the greatest truths…The author’s gorgeous prose, on-a-dime turns of phrase, and sumptuous scene-setting make this an unforgettable read.”
“With Caramelo, her exuberant, overstuffed novel, Cisneros undertakes storytelling on a grand scale, detailing the struggles and joys of three generations of a family, evoking a subtle panorama of cultural shifts. Her characters leap from the page in all their flawed humanity, falling in and out of love, squabbling and making up, working hard and making do…Caramelo is infused with the permanent nostalgia of exile. Like Eduardo Galeano, John Dos Passos and John Steinbeck, Cisneros writes along the borders where the novel and social history intersect. In this lovingly told and poetic novel, Cisneros uses the storytelling art to give voiceless ones a voice, and to find the border to the past, imbuing the struggles of her family and her countries with the richness of myth.”
—Jane Ciabattari, Los Angeles Times
"It's a crazy, funny and remarkable folk-saga of Mexican migrants told by a curious little girl who has the wisdom of an old grandma. Beginning on Highway 66, it's a salsified variant on the Joad family's odyssey, zigzagging from Chicago to Mexico City and back. It's all about la vida, the life of 'honorable labor.' It's a beautiful tale of all migrants caught between here and there. And it's a real lalapalooza!"
—Studs Terkel, author of Will the Circle be Unbroken
"This book is a crowded train, a never-stop round-trip train going and coming back and going again between Mexico and the USA, across the frontiers of land and time: full of voices, full of music, made from memory, making life."
—Eduardo Galeano, author of Upside Down: A Primer for the Looking-Glass World