This acclaimed autobiography of a young girl's coming of age in Puerto Rico and New York City is available in both Spanish and English editions. Esmeralda Santiago passes her childhood as a jíbara, a Puerto Rican country girl, living in a small village. Her life changes when she is thirteen, and she moves to New York City, where being Puerto Rican means occupying an indeterminate place in a bewildering hierarchy of Blacks, Jews, and Italians.
How Esmeralda overcomes adversity and eventually wins acceptance to New York City's High School of Performing Arts is a record of a tremendous journey, and a remarkable and affirming story of the changes brought to a young mind as it experiences poverty, love, despair, adolescence, cultural confusion, and hope. Translated from the English by the author.
"Touching and revealing, When I Was Puerto Rican takes its unique place in contemporary Latino storytelling."
--The Los Angeles Times
"In the tradition of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn or Call It Sleep...this time with a unique Latin flavor ...a joyful tribute to the island of her childhood. Santiago is a welcome new voice, full of passion and authority."
--Washington Post Book World
"Santiago's autobiographical account cinematically recaptures her past and her island culture. What is particularly appealing about Santiago's story is the insight it offers to readers unaware of the double bind Puerto Rican Americans find themselves in: the identity in conflict. Is [she] black or white? Is she rural or urban? Even more importantly, is she Puerto Rican or is she American? [One] can only be grateful that Esmeralda Santiago has chosen to explore her culture and share what she has found."
--The Los Angeles Times Book Review
"At once heart-wrenching and remarkably inspirational, this lyrical account depicts rural life in Puerto Rico amid the hardships and tensions of everyday life and Santiago's awakening as a young woman, who, although startled by culture shock, valiantly confronted New York head-on. When in the epilogue Santiago refers to her studies at Harvard, it is both a stirring and poignant reminder of the capacities of the human spirit."
"Read her book.... You will see how one particular woman's journey from a rippled metal shack in a Puerto Rican countryside barrio becomes a story rich in reverberations about all those who have made a transforming physical and spiritual journey in life."
--San Juan Star
A teacher's guide is available for this title in both Spanish and English. Please click on "teacher's guides" above.
The English edition of this title, When I Was Puerto Rican is available from Vintage Books. The second volume of Esmeralda Santiago's autobiography, entitled Almost a Woman was published in English by Perseus Books in September 1998. It will be available in paperback from Vintage Books Fall 1999.
Esmeralda Santiago is represented by Random House Speakers Bureau
Esmeralda Santiago came to the United States from Puerto Rico at age thirteen, attended junior high school in Brooklyn, and Performing Arts High School in New York City. After the extraordinary years described in When I Was Puerto Rican and Almost a Woman, she graduated from Harvard University and received a Master's degree from Sarah Lawrence College. Santiago is also the author of a novel, America's Dreams, and is coeditor, with Joie Davidow, of Las Christmas: Favorite Latino Authors Share Their Holiday Memories. Santiago lives in Westchester County, New York, with her husband and two children.