Caramelo, o, Puro cuento

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Knopf, 2003 - Fiction - 467 pages
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Sandra Cisneros, the award-winning author of the highly acclaimed The House on Mango Street and several other esteemed works, has produced a stunning new novel, Caramelo. This long-anticipated novel is an all-embracing epic of family history, Mexican history, the Mexican-American immigrant experience, and a young Mexican-American woman's road to adulthood. We hope the following questions, discussion topics, and author biography enhance your group's reading of this captivating and masterful literary work. Born the seventh child and only daughter to Zoila and Inocencio Reyes, Celaya Reyes spent her childhood traveling back and forth between her family's home in Chicago to her father's birth home in Mexico City, Mexico. Celaya's intimidating paternal grandmother, adored and revered by Celaya's father, dominates these visits, and Celaya dubs her the Awful Grandmother. Celaya's story begins one summer in Mexico when she was just a little girl, but soon her girlhood experiences segue back in time–to before Celaya was born–to her grandparents' history. Celaya traces the Awful Grandmother's lonely and unhappy childhood in a Mexico ravaged by the Mexican revolution of 1911, her meeting and ultimate union with Celaya's grandfather, Narciso Reyes (the Little Grandfather), and the birth of their first and favorite son, Celaya's father, Inocencio. Inocencio Reyes moves to the United States as a young man, and soon meets Zoila, a Mexican-American woman, with her own colorful mixed-Mexican parentage. Celaya develops the portrait of her parents' love-based, but volatile, marriage and the growth of their own Mexican-American family. After the Little Grandfather's death, the family moves the Awful Grandmother up to the United States with them, first to Chicago, then to San Antonio. Soon afterward, the Awful Grandmother dies, leaving her teenage granddaughter to struggle with her unresolved relationship with her late grandmother. Through her grandmother's history, Celaya discovers her own Mexican-American heritage, enabling her ultimately to carve out an identity of her own in the two countries she inhabits and that inhabit her–Mexico and America. As the family's self-appointed historian, or storyteller, Celaya's tale weaves Mexican social, political, and military history around intimate family secrets and the stormy and often mysterious relationships among multiple generations of family members. The marvelous, often riotous cast of characters that march through time and across the North American continent ranges from close family members to Mexican-American icons of popular culture that have random encounters with the Reyes family. (Remember Senor Wences with his painted talking hand (p. 224)? The spirited, likeable characters, while at times mythological in their characteristics, are always intensely human in their flaws and emotions. While each character can claim equal footing in the Reyes web of family and history, each holds a role of differing significance in Celaya's personal odyssey of connecting to her roots and carving her future.

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Caramelo: En Español

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With this new work about a Mexican American family of shawl-makers the most beautiful of their creations being the caramelo Cisneros will undoubtedly prove once again why she received a so-called MacArthur genius award. With a 150,000-copy first printing. ... Read full review

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About the author (2003)

Sandra Cisneros was born in Chicago in 1954. Internationally acclaimed for her poetry and fiction, she has been the recipient of numerous awards, including the Lannan Literary Award and the American Book Award, and of fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the MacArthur Foundation. Cisneros is the author of the novels The House on Mango Street and Caramelo, a collection of short stories Woman Hollering Creek, a book of poetry Loose Woman, and a children's book Hairs/Pelitos. She lives in San Antonio, Texas.

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