When I was Puerto Rican by Esmeralda Santiago This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.


   Thisis a delightfully woven story of immense passion andunconquerable spirit. In this extraordinary autobiography,Santiago, an immigrant to New York from rural Puerto Rico,tells the story of her trials and triumphs, defeats andheart-aches in a unique concoction of vivid sensorydetail.

Santiago grew up in what her mami calls"savage" conditions, dutifully obeying her parentsas they constantly move. Her greatest relocation occurred whena "metal bird" flew her, her mother and two of hersiblings to the rough city of New York.

This book isthe account of the maturing of an extraordinary woman whoovercame barriers formed by hate, prejudice, culturaldifferences, puberty and heartaches to risetriumphantly.

Using words as her medium, Santiagopaints a beautiful picture of her life. I smelled the spicesand herbs emanating from the special Puerto Rican dishes hermami prepared. Mesmerized, I watched as her abuela delicatelystitched her needlework. We laughed together and criedtogether, and I allowed my spirit to run free with hers.Santiago writes with such clarity and fierceness that it isimpossible for any person not to see, feel and understand whatshe went through in her remarkable journey.

Santiago'sunique style is easy to follow. When I read the book, I wasimmediately hooked and could not stop until I read the lastword. The stories are interesting and full of insight. Sheaddresses fears and trials of all people. I especially relatedto her conflicts with her cultural identity. Anyone who haslived in-between two cultures can relate to her story.Santiago wrote: "When I returned to Puerto Rico afterliving in New York for seven years, I was told I was no longerPuerto Rican ... In writing the book I wanted to get back tothat feeling of Puertoricanness I had before I came here. Itstitle reflects who I was then, and asks, who am Itoday?"

Santiago's book provides a sense of hope.She is transformed from a confused and frightened child into aspirited woman full of courage and hope. Her success in life -acceptance into New York City's High School of Performing Artsand graduating from Harvard with highest honors - proves sheis capable of achieving her dreams.

Santiago proves herstrong will and the courage to do whatever it takes areadequate tools to break barriers and achieve the impossible.Through her book, she shares the remarkable journey of herlife and shines hope into all of our hearts.




This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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