When I Was a Puerto Rican
Considered to be the first of three installments that make up her memoir, Esmeralda Santiago’s most prominent work “When I Was a Puerto Rican” starts in rural Puerto Rico, portraying the tropical sounds, sights, and even the poverty she knew growing up. When her mother takes off to New York with her children, Esmeralda goes from eating guava fruits and listening to the coquí every night to learning a new language and transitioning to a new way of living. Santiago contrasts the peaceful landscapes with the turbulent family dynamic of her early years and takes the reader on her journey from the barrio to Brooklyn to Harvard. The book touches on subjects like self-discovery, immigration, and her Puerto Rican identity.
Some categorize it as a love story, others as a chase. Eduardo Lalo’s acclaimed “Simone” will take you deep into the neighborhoods of San Juan. Centered around Old San Juan, Río Piedras, and Santurce, the story follows an anonymous narrator – a middle-aged writer that spends his day scribbling about his life and suddenly starts receiving messages from an unknown source. Regardless of where he goes, a message destined for him awaits. As the novel unfolds, so does the narrator’s love for the secret pursuer and the reader’s affection for the city. Lalo received the prestigious Rómulo Gallegos Award, giving him international recognition.
Divided into three acts, “La Carreta” (The Oxcart) is a 1950’s play by René Marqués that follows a family of jíbaros that move to the United States in search of the American Dream. From La Perla to New York, the author portrays the emotional journey of Puerto Rican migration around the time of industrialization.
Felices Días Tío Sergio
Magali García Ramis
A Puerto Rican coming-of-age novel, “Felices Días, Tío Sergio” (Happy Days, Uncle Sergio), by Magali García Ramis, follows Lidia, a young girl whose life takes an unexpected turn after the arrival of her uncle disrupts an adolescence in the care of women. A free spirit full of liberal ideas, Sergio is like no one Lidia has met before, which catches her attention. The book focuses on Lidia’s upbringing and the influence of her uncle over her life, as a chain of events unravels, and you can see how this little girl navigates her feelings, thoughts, tragedy, and changes.
A graphic novel that introduces a Puerto Rican superhero inspired by the island’s National Anthem, “La Borinqueña,” was created by Edgardo Miranda, a writer with Marvel. Her powers, granted by a Taíno goddess when she goes exploring the caves of the island, are derived from the island’s myths and history. La Borinqueña has superhuman strength, the ability to fly, and can control storms.
Other books to enjoy:
“My Beloved World” by Sonia Sotomayor
“Nuestra Señora de la Noche” (Our Lady of the Night) by Mayra Santos Febres