Santiago, Esmeralda (1948–)

views updated

Santiago, Esmeralda (1948–)

Peabody Award-winning screenwriter, essayist, and novelist Esmeralda Santiago is the best-selling author of three memoirs, When I Was Puerto Rican (1993), Almost a Woman (1998), and The Turkish Lover (2004), as well as the novel América's Dream (1996).

The oldest of eleven children, Santiago was born in Puerto Rico and immigrated to the United States in 1961. She attended junior high school in Brooklyn, then went on to the Performing Arts High School in New York City, where she majored in drama and dance. Santiago studied film production at Harvard University, graduating magna cum laude in 1976. She has also earned a Master of Fine Arts degree from Sarah Lawrence College, and she holds honorary doctoral degrees from Trinity University (Texas), Pace University, Metropolitan College of New York, and the University of Puerto Rico, Recinto Mayagüez.

Shortly after graduation from Harvard, Santiago married Frank Cantor, with whom she founded Cantomedia, a film and media production company that has won numerous awards for excellence in documentary filmmaking. Indeed, it is from her work as a documentary film writer that her career as an essayist and novelist has evolved.

Critics of Santiago's work often praise her moving portraits of the Puerto Rican immigrant experience, which are peppered with Spanish in order to more accurately depict the bilingual and bicultural realities of her community.

As of the early 2000s Santiago lives with her husband in Westchester County, New York, where she continues to translate her life story into print and film, contributing a powerful voice and commentary on the immigrant experience in the United States.

See alsoFeminism and Feminist Organizations; Puerto Rico; Women.


Primary Works

When I Was Puerto Rican. New York: Perseus, 1993.

América's Dream. New York: HarperCollins, 1996.

Almost a Woman. New York: Perseus, 1998.

Las Christmas: Favorite Latino Authors Share Their Holiday Memories. Edited with Joie Davidow. New York: Knopf, 1998.

Las Mamis: Favorite Latino Authors Remember Their Mothers. Edited with Joie Davidow. New York: Knopf, 2000.

The Turkish Lover. Boston: Merloyd Lawrence, 2004.

A Doll for Navidades. New York: Scholastic, 2005.

Secondary Works

Copeland, Libby Ingrid. "Cultural Go-Between: Author Esmeralda Santiago's Two Languages and Two Lives." Washington Post. November 12, 1998.

Muñiz, Ismael. "Bildungsroman Written by Puerto Rican Women in the United States: Nicholasa Mohr's Nilda: A Novel and Esmeralda Santiago's When I Was Puerto Rican." Atenea 19, no. 1-2 (1999): 79-101.

Sprouse, Keith Alan. "Between Bilingüe and Nilingüe: Language and the Translation of Identity in Esmeralda Santiago's Memoirs." American Studies in Scandinavia 32, no. 1 (2000): 107-116.

                                    Ethriam Cash Brammer