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When I Was Puerto Rican

By Esmeralda Santiago
Book Details
  • Author: Esmeralda Santiago
  • Binding: Paperback
  • Published: 1994-10-11
  • Edition: 1st Vintage Books ed
1. Though Santiago's story takes place in several locations, she specifically contrasts two kinds of community: the rural one, represented by Macú the women work far harder with no time off at all. Women serve men, but they also scorn them. How do the demands made on men and women differ in this culture? How similar--or different--are attitudes in the United States? How does hostility between men and women affect the Santiagos' lives? 3. Like all young people, Negi gropes to understand the concept of love by observing the examples she sees around her. What idea of romantic love does she receive from the radio programs and romantic novels she devours? In what way does her principal model of a love relationship--that of her parents--contrast with this model? Is there any way of reconciling these two visions of love? What role does sex play in her romantic imaginings? What does it mean in Negi's world to be señbaro or toda una se&ntildeorita ? Can you come up with good translations of these terms and others in the text? 11. How does Papi define 'imperialism'? Does Negi come to share his opinion? In giving her father's opinions, is Santiago telling the reader something about America or is she using the conversation as a way to reveal her father's character? 12. How might you compare the Latino experience of assimilation with those of, for example, Chinese, Jewish, or Haitian immigrants? How might the cultural barriers between these groups and mainstream America differ? What roles do race and language play in the process? 13. When I Was Puerto Rican is nonfiction, but Santiago relies on many techniques important to fiction writing. What sort of 'narrative voice' has she chosen to use? What ideas of Negi's character and culture do we glean from her narrative style? She has chosen to portray her parents and relatives not as fully developed characters but as adults seen from a child's point of view. How does that enhance or detract from the book's impact?

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