Day 336- Esmeralda Santiago

I don’t usually stray too far from my typical literary genre when reading. I confess I love Regency romances, because they invariably have happy endings! I mostly read fiction, with the exception of a few memoirs that are too good to pass up.

But I’d actually never read a book, at least not a non-fiction one, that is flavored with Latino culture.

Yes, it hurts to even admit I’ve become that assimilated, that far-removed from my own culture of origin. But, recently, my Aunt Lavinia lent Mom her copy of Almost a Woman by Esmeralda Santiago. (She has the English translation, not the Spanish translation, whose title reads Casi una mujer.)

The entire time Mom was reading it, she would keep saying to me, “omigosh, Laurita, you have to read this book. You’ll love it!”

When Mom finished it, I scooped it right up. I wish I could say I’m one of those people who can finish an entire novel in two sittings. I’m not. I get easily distracted.

But even throughout the last few days of classes, amid final projects and exams, and in spite of a very demanding blogging schedule, I’ve made it to page 100.

Yes, against all odds, I, Laura Tellado, am reading an actual chapter book– for fun.

Don’t get me wrong– I love to read. But it’s gotten increasingly frustrating over the years as my college workload has increased, and my attention span decreased. Plus, I have ADHD, so often it takes me five times to read a sentence before I can grasp its meaning, and then I usually have to go back to read it again in its context.

So far, Santiago’s book is an excellent read, filled with colorful anecdotes, funny Latino-isms as only a Latina can explain, and sometimes heartbreaking conclusions.

Of course, this is isn’t the New York Times, so I’m not going to write a book review. Rather, I grew intrigued by Santiago, and yearned to learn more about this incredible writer.What I found out inspired me even more.

After transferring to Harvard University from a community college on full scholarship, Santiago graduated magna cum laude. She and her husband, Frank Cantor, founded CANTOMEDIA, “a film and media production company, which has won numerous awards for excellence in documentary filmmaking.”

Santiago is the author of several memoirs, published in Spanish and in English, about her emigration from Puerto Rico to New York in the early 1960s. In addition to earning a Master of Fine Arts in Fiction Writing from Sarah Lawrence College, she has received several Honorary Doctor of Letters degrees from Trinity University, Pace University, Metropolitan College, and from the University of Puerto Rico.

Santiago is the recipient of the George Foster Peabody Award for excellence in broadcasting for her film adaptation of Almost a Woman, which was broadcast on PBS’ “Masterpiece Theatre.”

As a person who has made it her life’s work to write about her struggles to embrace two cultures while growing up in a big family of limited means, Santiago has nothing but compassion for great causes. According to her official site, Santiago is very active in volunteer work. She is a spokesperson for public libraries. She helped found a shelter for battered women and children. She is passionate in her assistance of organizations that promote education in the arts, and her hard work has not gone without notice. “Her community activism was cited when she received a Girl Scouts of America National Woman of Distinction Award in March 2002,” it says on Santiago’s Web site.

And, like me, Santiago studied the performing arts at a special program in high school, but went on to be a writer. It’s funny how we often segue from one art to the other!

In short, Esmeralda Santiago is a person who has rekindled my passion for reading something other than online news (Lord knows I already spend way too much time online, right?). So, I can’t wait to share the information with her about the high incidence of spina bifida among Latinos. I feel confident that she will be moved to take action on all our behalf.

By the way, I do apologize for the frequent changes in the layout and design of this site. After having a mini-meltdown, thinking I had ruined my site, I was able to restore it, and am now playing around with different templates. If you have any ideas for the color and design, please feel free to comment!

Buenas noches, y que Dios los Bendiga (good night, and may God Bless you),

Laurita ♥



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