Every Year, Ceyala Lala Reyes Family Aunts, Uncles, Mothers, Fathers, And Lala S Six Older Brothers Packs Up Three Cars And, In A Wild Ride, Drive From Chicago To The Little Grandfather And Awful Grandmother S House In Mexico City For The Summer Struggling To Find A Voice Above The Boom Of Her Brothers And To Understand Her Place On This Side Of The Border And That, Lala Is A Shrewd Observer Of Family Life But When She Starts Telling The Awful Grandmother S Life Story, Seeking Clues To How She Got To Be So Awful, Grandmother Accuses Lala Of Exaggerating Soon, A Multigenerational Family Narrative Turns Into A Whirlwind Exploration Of Storytelling, Lies, And Life Like The Cherished Rebozo, Or Shawl, That Has Been Passed Down Through Generations Of Reyes Women, Caramelo Is Alive With The Vibrations Of History, Family, And Love Through the main storyteller Celaya, Cisneros has created an epic Chicana novel that deals with issues of laguage, class, race, gender, family, and being on the border of two cultures She also brings into consideration the issue of truth telling versus story telling Are they mutually exclusive If the story is a lie should it matter These issues only make the storythought provoking My favorite aspect of the book is that it deals with the formation of the young female identity How before my body wasn t my body I didn t have a body I was a being as close to a spirit as a spirit I was a ball of light floating across the planet I mean the me I was before puberty, that red Rio Bravo you have to carry yourself over I don t know how it is with boys I ve never been a boy But girls somewhere between the ages of, say, eight and puberty, girls forget they have bodies It s the time she has trouble keeping herself clean, socks always drooping, knees pocked and bloody, hair crooked as a broom She doesn t look in mirrors She isn t aware of being watched There isn t the sense of the female body s volatility, its rude weight, the nuisance of dragging it about There isn t the world to bully you with it, bludgeon you, condemn you to a life sentence of fear It s the time when you look at a young girl and notice she is her ugliest, but at the same time, at her happiest She is a being as close to a spirit as a spirit 433 34.Although the hybrid Spanish English language Cisneros uses is alienating to her Anglo readers as it is intended to be , everyone can relate to the humanness of this story its depth and breadth, its messyness, and its triumphant moments. Although at times I got a little lost in the different threads involved in this story, overall I loved reading about the Reyes family and their summer visits to the narrator s grandmother s house in Mexico City The Awful Grandmother, she is called Why Eventually, in the middle part of the book, we learn the answers to that question, and I for one had muchsympathy for her after that Slowly, over the course of the entire book, we see our narrator growing up, learning who she is and who she wants to be, all thanks to the family she sometimes wants so much to get away from There were many details in the book that I would not have understood as completely if I had read this before I spent eight years living in Mexico I actually feel a bit homesick right now I need to go watch an old black and white Pedro Infante movie or maybe dig up my stack of old Spanish language comic books that I bought from the guy in the local book bazaar Comic books that came out once a week back in the old days, and that the Awful Grandmother herself used to read and save I need to explore this author s other titles Like all chronic mitoteros, a word that might mean something like a nosy person delving into others businesslos Reyes invented a past, reminding everyone that their ancestors had been accustomed to eating oysters with mother of pearl forks on porcelain plates brought over on the Manila galleons It was a pretty story and told with such fine attention to detail, neighbors who knew better said nothing, charmed by the rococo embroidery that came to be a Reyes talent Cisneros has given us an epic in three parts Part one is easy to fall into The young girl Celaya s impressions of her family particularly on their road trip from Chicago to Mexico to visit her father s mother were both unique and universal.Part two is a bitchallenging We get factual footnotes mixed with family history, a history that sometimes molds itself to the needs of different family members In part three, it all comes together as Celaya begins to grow up, discovering truths about life and her family along the way I found this part very insightfulFather says the army will do Toto good, make a man out of him and all that shit But what s available to make a woman a woman Listen sweets, it s simple You re the author of the telenovela of your life You want a comedy or a tragedy If the episode s a tearjerker, you can hang yourself or hang in there Choose Are the family stories truth or fiction Does it matter Life is hard It s harder in some places than others, for some peoplethan others, but none of us comes through unscathed When times are hard, it helps to remember our history to wrap ourselves in it the way members of the Reyes family wrap themselves in the Awful Grandmother s intricately crafted shawl, her caramelo rebozo.I know from my own experience how comforting these family stories are I also know that once a family member is gone, their stories matterthan the truth of their lives That s just a fact. A significant feature in Sandra Cisneros s novels is the colourful language, the unforgettable characters and the unique settings Her stories are narratives about strong women, the ones who struggle their whole lives to make the people they love happy.In this book we find the protagoniast Lala Reyes and her family crossing the border between their homes in USA to Mexico, where Little grandfather and Awful grandmother wait for them.During those summers, we see the relationship between the children and the adults, the tales the latter told the little ones when they ask questions about their family history When Lala tries to understand the story of Awful grandmother, she enters into the land of unbelievable stories, unreliable fantasies, sophisticated lies and intriguing lives.A multigenerational narrative that makes the reader question their own past and how the identity of their family and, at the same time, their own shelves was created. This book was definitely worthwhile, but Cisneros seems to have been a bit overwhelmed by the task of composing an entire novel She has many, many gorgeous lines strewn about the book tied to swift dialogue and gripping mini stories, interrupted by simply cute moments, but the plot and her point are rather blurry if not craggy She seems to be able to create enough momentum for a certain scene, but she doesn t give much reason for what all the scenes have in common And while it is an obvious tribute to her own coming of age in a fascinating family, the end is unbearably schmaltzy especially the last line It is disjointed and directionless in all the ways The House on Mango Street is not Since I absolutely loved said novella and Woman Hollering Creek, I can t help but wonder if her greatest talent lies in shortstories. I really loved this book, and I was completely surprised that I did When I m handed a book and the summary from the person giving it to me is prefaced by well, it s really slow at first , let s just say I don t have high expectations I can be a lazy reader, but this book was completely worth the investment I happened to read it on a quiet weekend and I think that s exactly what you need A few hours to delve into it and I was hooked Cisneros writing is vivid and spare, but never pretentious or obvious I really liked the short chapters that didn t necessarily flow chronologically It made me pay attention and get my bearings at the beginning of each little story, and then sink into the vignettes that so happened to all connect together All I can say is give yourself a vacation or a rainy day to start this book, and you won t be disappointed I ve really never read anything like it. I really enjoyed this book It took me a long time to read it because I would get through a chapter all chapters are very short and have to reminisce about my own personal experiences Cisneros brings to the forefront issues that many Latinas face Annoyance of metiche family members and crazy tales they tell, but also a deep love for family She sprinkled in Spanish words I hadn t heard in years, that I grew up with but I just don t hear in Austin I did realize I am a Texican ha ha, I m not quite Mexican, but I m not really a full American either and I mean culture wise, not citizen legality wise This is just about the only book I have read that really hit home to my own experiences, to my life If you enjoyed this book, I would recommend How to be a Chicana Role Model and Chicana Falsa by Michele Serros. I enjoyed this Mexican American family story ratherthan I expected to, so thanks to the 21st Century Literature group for selecting it for a group read Cisneros is a poet who is not as well known on this side of the Atlantic.Those who like to understand every word of a novel will find this a frustrating reading experience if, like me, they have never been taught Spanish The text, particularly the sections set in Mexico, is liberally sprinkled with Spanish and Mexican dialect words and phrases, and while many are translated or partially explained afterwards, many are not For me this did not seriously affect my ability to follow the story or understand the nuances of the Mexican characters Another minor frustration is the number of sometimes lengthy footnotes, which appear at the end of the chapters, which means finding them is a little disruptive to the reading flow.The book is largely about the nature of truth, fiction and good lies particularly in the way they relate to the telling of family stories.In the first part we meet the narrator Celaya known as Lala on her large family s annual summer drive from Chicago to Mexico City to visit her paternal grandparents The Awful Grandmother is in some ways the dominant character in this part of the book, which is wonderfully described and often funny, building to a dramatic confrontation on Acapulco between Lala s mother and grandmother.In the second part an older Lala is still the narrator, as she tells the family story starting with the grandmother s parents, the last in a line of manufacturers of rebozos fine spun shawls of which the Caramelo is one of the most popular designs The grandmother s rebozo is one of her most treasured possessions Her story is essentially a tragic one, and at times she interrupts Lala s version, usually to demand something happier.In the final part the story moves to Lala s teenage years, and follows their father s ultimately failed attempt to break away from the Chicago upholstery business he runs with his two brothers by buying a ramshackle house and starts his own business using money from the grandmother. Reading this book is like gulping a shot of high octane espresso The writing is incredibly vivid and full of energy, sometimes it leaves you almost breathless Caramelo is the story of a large Mexican American family, covering several generations Told from the point of view of Lala, the youngest daughter, we travel from Mexico City to Chicago and then to San Antonio, Texas Along the way, we learn the story of Lala s grandparents, parents, and finally Lala herself This book bursts with life, sometimes requiring the reader to slow down in order to fully appreciate the crowded canvas.
www.macondofoundation.org , and is Writer in Residence at Our Lady of the Lake University, San Antonio She lives in San Antonio, Texas.
- 441 pages
- Sandra Cisneros
- 19 March 2019 Sandra Cisneros