When I Was Puerto Rican


” ‘You’re almost señorita.  You shouldn’t be running wild with boys,’ [my mother] would tell me.  But I didn’t have anything in common with the girls my age…my sisters close to my age were not as interesting as the neighborhood boys who ran and climbed and didn’t mind getting dirty.”

Esmeralda Santiago grew up in rural Puerto Rico, sharing a modest home with her parents and seven siblings.  Her mother and father’s tumultuous relationship and on-again, off-again fighting worried her tremendously, but there was always somewhere to find joy: in the taste of ripe guavas, in the companionship of her brothers and sisters, and in the beauty of the countryside.  However, Esmeralda is not at all impressed by the inevitable process of growing up. Leaving behind a carefree childhood for the restrained life of a señorita spoils everything, she feels.  She can’t climb trees or run wild with the neighbor children like she used to, and the teenage boys’ glances burn into her skin and make her want to hide forever.  What’s the big deal about being a grown-up lady, anyway?  All you seem to get out of it is a husband to cook for, and little children crawling all over you.

Just when Esmeralda feels like she’s settling into her new, more grown-up role, everything changes.  The family moves all the way to New York, where everything is different, from the food to the language.  But she adapts, and triumphs, making it all the way to Harvard.  This funny, thoughtful, and bittersweet coming-of-age story is one you won’t want to miss.  If you’ve ever felt out of place, or felt like growing up is one big joke, this is the book for you.

Happy reading!

If you liked this book, give these a try:

The Tequila Worm by Viola Canales

Cuba 15 by Nancy Osa

Ten Things I Hate About Me by Randa Abdel-Fattah

We Need New Names by Noviolet Bulawayo



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