Esmeralda Santiago was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico and came to the United States at thirteen, 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. “Thrilling and page turning, the fabulous story of América Gonzalez…is laid out masterfully,” according to the Chicago Tribune.
Her second memoir, Almost a Woman, received numerous “best of year” mentions, in addition to an Alex Award from the American Library Association. Her adaptation of the memoir into a film for PBS’s Masterpiece Theatre was greeted with critical and audience acclaim and was awarded a George Foster Peabody Award for excellence in broadcasting.
Santiago is co-editor with Joie Davidow of the anthologies, Las Christmas: Favorite Latino Authors Share Their Holiday Memories and Las Mamis: Favorite Latino Authors Remember their Mothers, both published by Knopf. She is also the author of the illustrated children’s book A Doll for Navidades. 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.
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 am 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.
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