Dec 11, 2007

When I Was Puerto Rican

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


Ramya said...

aww! that's sad.. i am sorry you didn't like it better. i heard about this book and it is on my to-read list.. am really thinking about reading it now. I was expecting it be along the lines of getting adjusted to the US as well.. guess that's not the case.. the book just has to move lower down my priority list. thanks for the review! am glad i saw this before i picked the book up!

Anonymous said...

NO RAMYA, please do read this book. This book will teach you so much about the Puerto Rican can continue with Esmeralda's Santiago's second memoir, Almost A Woman, which does cover more of the New York aspect, its actually more of a continuation. Honestly, Esmeralda Santiago is my favorite author ever. Her writing style is so brilliant and descriptive that I feel I can relate to her. Please do give her books a try. Then again, what interests me, may not interests others and the same goes with the first review..Guess you have to read it for yourself and please do update us on the book!

Jeane said...

I'd be curious to read Almost a Woman. I read the first chapter somewhere,and it appeared to be retelling the same story, so I wasn't much interested. Perhaps that was just the first chapter,to rehash?