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Becoming Maria: Love and Chaos in the South Bronx Hardcover – August 25, 2015
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From School Library Journal
* "In stark and heartbreaking contrast to her Sesame Street character, Manzano paints a poignant, startlingly honest picture of her youth." -- Kirkus Reviews, starred review
* "As timeless as Esmeralda Santiago’s When I Was a Puerto Rican and Jacqueline Woodson’s Brown Girl Dreaming, this memoir will strike a chord with teens and adults alike." -- School Library Journal, starred review
Praise for The Revolution of Evelyn Serrano :
* “This wry, moving debut novel does a great job of blending the personal and the political. . . while the family drama and revelations continue right up to the end.”-- Booklist, starred review
* “Characters of surprising dimension round out the plot and add to the novel's cultural authenticity. . . A stunning debut.”-- Kirkus Reviews, starred review
“This novel is meant to be savored in delicious bites. I loved its snap and down-home-El Barrio-in-your-face-tell-it-like-it-is tone.” -- Oscar Hijuelos, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love
“The Revolution of Evelyn Serrano should be placed on proud display with the literature that enriches our multicultural America. History will come alive for young readers who will identify with how a great historic moment can affect one girl and her family.” -- Julia Alvarez, Pura Belpré Award-winning author of Before We Were Free and How the García Girls Lost Their Accents
“I love this book! It's smart, real, painfully funny, and filled with the wisdom of a writer who can get to the hearts and souls of her readers. Sonia Manzano, standing ovation! (Encore, please!)” -- John Leguizamo, Emmy Award winning actor-comedian.
"An important story about activism, acceptance, and love.Sonia Manzano vividly portrays a neighborhood in turmoil, with embraceable characters who change history." -- Pam Muñoz Ryan, Pura Belpré Award-winning author of The Dreamer and Esperanza Rising
“The Revolution of Evelyn Serrano underscores the struggle that triumphed in the lives of Latinos. Here is a book that creates indelible political awareness.” -- Nicholasa Mohr, National Book Award Finalist, author of El Bronx Remembered
“Thank you, Sonia Manzano, for capturing important moments for Puerto Ricans, and for reminding us that history doesn't just happen, we live with it and with its consequences.” -- Esmeralda Santiago, Alex Award-winning author of Almost a Woman and When I was Puerto Rican
Top Customer Reviews
BECOMING MARIA is told from Sonia's perspective, beginning when she is still in diapers and ending when she's a twenty-year-old Carnegie Mellon student starring in the first run of "Godspell." Life in the South Bronx, where Sonia lived with her drunken, abusive father, her long-suffering mother, her half-sister, and her two brothers, was punctuated by poverty and heartache. The first part of the story - titled "Fragments" - chronicles the first ten years of Sonia's life through a series of vignettes and memories. And many of them are very difficult to read. This is a little girl without an identity, convinced that a life of squalor (complete with roach-infested apartments, pregnancy at fifteen, and drunken violence) is all she has to look forward to. In fact, at one point her mother tells young Sonia this story: "A woman lives with her four children in Crotona Park in the winter and her husband beats her and beats her until her children grow up and save her. The end.Read more ›
The other element I very much liked is Manzono's refusal to glorify things just because they were part of her culture. This isn't a Puerto Rican memoir (Manzano did not set foot in Puerto Rico until she was well past early childhood) but a personal memoir. She is brutally honest about her parent's abusive marriage, and doesn't ever give us the easy way out of viewing it as part of a culture. A scene the struck me as very unusual in memoirs is when she took a close neighborhood friend to a party with people from her magnet performing arts high school. Afterward, her high school friends commented the girl wasn't too bright. Manzano later had a conversation with the friend, Vanessa, and concluded the high school friends were right. In the politically correct memoir world, she would have realized the neighborhood friend was "smart in her own way" and the high school friends were wrong. I loved it that that didn't have to be the case here.
This is not a sanitized, child-friendly view of the world, so if you are troubled by strong language or content, and are looking for a tale with much about Sesame Street, look elsewhere. But if you like honest memoir writing, you can't go wrong here.
"Fragments," Part I of the three sections of this autobiographical memoir was slower than cold molasses, not at all colorful or evocative, and ideally would have been much better presented as a series of Sesame-Street style video segments. But this is a book that's almost in print (Amazon Vine sent me an advance reader copy) without an option for video embedded in the pages. In fact, it was so dull, despite being quite compulsive about reading almost every page, paragraph and word of most books, I seriously considered not finishing the book and posting a 2-star review.
In spite of myself I kept reading, and Part II, La Lucha or The Struggle, suddenly takes off while Maria gets older, comes of age, moves out of her South Bronx environment and brings her readers along with her, her acquaintances, and her friends. III, The Beginning, is full of social, geographical, and psychological movement, with details about Sonia's personal and emerging professional growth. Becoming Maria grew into a book I was reluctant to put down, that I even read into the night (unheard of for me), and wished it hadn't ended with Sonia's Sesame Street audition/interview. We know the rest of the story? We've watched a whole lot of Sesame Street so we sort of know the rest of the story, but I'd still love a sequel.
PS I hadn't realized Godspell originally was improv! Given the style of every production I've ever seen, that makes sense to me.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Not going to lie, I was 100% interested in this book because I love Sesame Street, and I grew up watching Sonia Manzano play Maria. Read morePublished 23 days ago by LH422
make this book mandatory for our middle school and high school students along with James Baldwin and Frederick Douglass and the rest, instead of that Common Core carp. Read morePublished 2 months ago by Love Thy Enemy
Very disappointing. I love Maria on Sesame Street and thought this would tell how she came to be on Sesame Street, but it only details her childhood. Read morePublished 2 months ago by Amazon Customer
Very honest and moving account. As someone who loved watching Maria with my kids, I enjoyed it tremendously.Published 3 months ago by FoodReader
I have some mixed feelings about this memoir, coming to it with the excitement of reading about Maria from Sesame Street. Read morePublished 5 months ago by Carol T.
This interesting book gives Sesame Street lovers the story behind Maria. I thoroughly enjoyed learning about her life and how she came to Sesame Street!Published 5 months ago by Emily Volenec
A perspicacious storyteller, Manzano chooses just the right words to simultaneously pull at your heartstrings and provoke thought.Published 5 months ago by Marcela Landres
Personally, this book was like going home. She describes it exactly as it was. Conflicts and fights within the family and yet moments of love and forgiveness. Read morePublished 5 months ago by Lydia Febus