From a rippled zinc shack in rural Puerto Rico to "the better life" in a decaying Brooklyn tenement, Esmeralda Santiago's Puerto Rican childhood is one of sorcery, smoldering war between the sexes, and high comedy. Hers is a portrait of a harsh but enchanted world that can never be reclaimed.
From a three-room apartment in Brooklyn, occupied by 10 family members, Esmeralda Santiago begins a journey that is both a triumphant struggle for identity and independence, and a mother's worst nightmare. Challenged by language barriers, cultural stereotypes, and the fiercely protective Mami, Santiago continues the rollicking ascent she began in When I Was Puerto Rican. By day she perfects the role of Cleopatra at Performing Arts High School and interprets for the family at city welfare offices.
"wonderful and absorbing autobiography"
As a young girl growing up in Spain, Ana Larragoity Cubillas is powerfully drawn to Puerto Rico by the diaries of an ancestor who traveled there with Ponce de León. And in handsome twin brothers Ramón and Inocente - both in love with Ana - she finds a way to get there. She marries Ramón, and in 1844, just 18, she travels across the ocean to a remote sugar plantation the brothers have inherited on the island. Ana faces unrelenting heat, disease and isolation, and the dangers of the untamed countryside....
Esmeralda Santiago's memoir Cuando Era Puertorriqueña continues with El Amante Turco. At 21, Esmeralda moves from Brooklyn to begin a life with Ulvi, a domineering, condescending Turkish immigrant several years older. After years of abuse, Esmeralda finds the strength to earn a degree from Harvard and leave Ulvi, ultimately proving, "There will always be another train."