by Esmeralda Santiago
I was disappointed in When I Was Puerto Rican. It is about a young girl whose mother moves with her and several siblings to the United States when she is thirteen. I liked the beginning well enough, but I was expecting most of the book to be about her experiences in the new country, after establishing the cultural norms and what life was like for her back in Puerto Rico. But the part in New York doesn't happen until page 213, when the book is almost over. I felt like it really could have gone more in depth about the confusion of cultural identity she felt among the Blacks, Latinos and Italians in Brooklyn. A quote on the flyleaf compared this book to Call It Sleep and A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, two of my favorite books ever. When I Was Puerto Rican really pales by comparison. It is a rather sad story about a large, poor family whose parents no longer love each other, and a young girl who gets uprooted from her culture. But it doesn't have the depth of Call It Sleep or the rich descriptions and vivid characterization of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.
Rating: 3/5 ........ 274 pages, 1993