2 out of 4 stars
Share This Review
Elsa, written by Louis R. Torres, tells the story of a brave and hard-working Puerto Rican woman who came to the US and managed to raise six boys all by herself. At the beginning of the narrative, readers learn how hard Elsa’s life was in Puerto Rico back in 1948. She was born in 1913 and lived in the infamous El Fanguito, a slum. There was no running water, and when it rained, Elsa and the boys gathered it into whatever containers they could find. There are several pictures throughout the book, and the ones of El Fanguito were impressive.
Eventually, the family leaves in search of a better life in New York City. They settle in Brooklyn, with the help of former acquaintances from Puerto Rico. However, life was harder than Elsa had imagined. She felt alienated by her neighbors. Her children seemed to be in the way of “the Americanos and Jews.”
Some parts of this book are interesting; other parts are not so much. Let’s begin with the positive aspects. I enjoyed the portrayal of Puerto Rican and American cultures and how they interacted in New York City in the 50s and 60s. The book offers readers a good overview of the historical and economic conditions that resulted in Puerto Rican immigration to the US, especially how the immigrants struggled to build a better life for their families. Since the protagonist lived with her children in Jewish neighborhoods, it also gives readers an idea of how these two different cultures felt about each other, and how they sometimes clashed. This portrayal was what I liked the most about the story.
Unfortunately, in my opinion, the author’s prose wasn’t particularly remarkable or surprising, and neither was the story. The events themselves are not extraordinary, and they’re delivered using a straightforward, unembellished, and rather bland writing style. It’s not a nuanced memoir; it’s more of a biography, with a chronological account of events. Although Elsa fought hard to overcome poverty and the dire conditions she was born in, and I admire her for it, the narration feels a bit dry, making for a somewhat laborious read. This aspect was what I disliked the most.
In closing, I rate the book 2 out of 4 stars. I’m taking a star away because the editing is not yet in its final form. The book needs another round of editing, for there are spelling and grammatical errors in it. I’m subtracting the second star from the rating due to the simplistic and bland writing style. I believe the book might appeal to readers interested in Puerto Rican immigration. If you enjoy biographies of strong women who overcame adversities, you should consider it.
View: on Bookshelves