Esmeralda Santiago was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and came to the United States when she was thirteen years old. She is the author of three award-winning memoirs, two novels, and a children’s book and has co-edited two anthologies of Latino literature. Her experiences as an immigrant in an urban space inspire much of her work.
The eldest in a family that would eventually include eleven children, her writing career evolved from her work as a producer/writer of documentary and educational films. Upon publication of her first book, the memoir When I was Puerto Rican, Santiago was hailed as “…a welcome new voice, full of passion and authority,” by the Washington Post.
Her first novel, América’s Dream, was published in six languages and was an alternate selection of the Literary Guild. Her second memoir, Almost a Woman, received numerous “best of year” mentions and an Alex Award from the American Library Association for books that have special appeal to young adults. She adapted the memoir into a film for PBS’s Masterpiece Theatre and was awarded a George Foster Peabody Award for excellence in broadcasting.
Santiago attended New York City’s Performing Arts High School, where she majored in drama and dance. She graduated magna cum laude from Harvard University on a full scholarship in 1976. She earned an MFA degree in fiction writing from Sarah Lawrence College and honorary doctorate degrees from Trinity University, Pace University, Metropolitan College and Universidad de Puerto Rico, Recinto de Mayagüez.
Her essays and opinion pieces have appeared in the New York Times, the Boston Globe, House & Garden, Metropolitan Home, and Sports Illustrated. She has appeared as a guest commentator on NPR’s All Things Considered and Morning Edition.
The mother of two adult children, she lives in Westchester County, New York, with her husband, filmmaker Frank Cantor.
Almost a Woman: A Memoir (1999)
América’s Dream (1996)
When I Was Puerto Rican (1994)
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Video: PBS NewsHour Conversation with Santiago