I’ve read so many great books as of late, not to mention all of the wonderful characters that make the books worth reading, I need to begin sharing them with everyone here. One of my favorite authors right now is Esmeralda Santiago. Thus far, I’ve read the following of her books:
I read Conquistadora this past summer. Ana, the protagonist bent on becoming a conquistadora in her own right, is not necessarily sympathetic or blameless. Nonetheless, the entire book is a dark ride through the consequences of her actions. Conquistadora is described by many as a Puerto Rican Gone With The Wind. It may not receive the recognition of Gone With The Wind, but it does deserve the comparison in some respects. It is a dense read that lavishly describes the surroundings, the circumstances, and the social connections of a world now long gone. Throughout the entire book the reader gets the sense the entire Puerto Rican adventure will not end well. The situation can’t endure. While that is true, the ending is satisfying without being completely predictable. It was through Conquistadora that I fell in love with Esmeralda Santiago’s writing.
After doing a little basic web research, I decided to check out both When I Was A Puerto Rican and America’s Dream. I knew that When I Was A Puerto Rican covered Santiago’s childhood in Puerto Rico and her adolescence in New York. While very different from Conquistadora, I again loved the narrative tone she used throughout the memoir. In particular I loved her phonetic spelling of English words she encountered throughout her childhood, Puerto Rican accent and all. Above all, the book made me look at culture and cultural assimilation in a new way. In fact, I plan to write another blog post to cover my thoughts and feelings on the subject. I finished the book wanting to read more about Santiago’s adolescence in New York.
I began America’s Dream believing it to be the follow-up to When I Was A Puerto Rican. Boy was I wrong! Instead of a memoir covering Santiago’s life in New York, it is a fictional account of a young Puerto Rican woman’s struggle with domestic violence and eventual cultural assimilation into New York. There is also a strong theme of mother-daughter relationships. Once again it made me question my thinking on culture and cultural assimilation. The relationship between Correa, America’s marido and abuser, and America could fill another novel, as could the mother-daughter relationships found throughout the book. It may not have been what I expected, but I’m sure glad I picked up the book! I’m just glad there is much more to read by Esmeralda Santiago.