LaGuardia Community College 2002-03 Common Reading
Esmeralda Santiago, When I Was Puerto Rican

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Study Questions for the "Mami Gets A Job" Chapter

  1. What caused Mami to go and look for a job outside of the house, which she had never done before?

    "Women working at the Rodriguez needlework factory, Santurce" in January 1942. Jack Delano, photographer.

  2. When Mami dressed up for her job in nearby Toa Baja, Esmeralda had very strong reactions about the way Mami looked (p. 112 - 113). Summarize Esmeralda's perception in the following chart.

    How Esmeralda described Mami's artificial beauty Esmeralda's feelings about Mami's appearance (Your own interpretation)
    "Her feet, usually bare, looked unnatural in high heels" (p. 112) Esmeralda prefered the bare-footed Mami to the high-heel look, because she liked Mami's natural beauty.

  3. Why did Mami's decision to work create a stir in the neighborhood? (p. 122)

  4. Even though Mami worked long hours outside of the house, she tried her best to make sure that her children were not neglected. Find evidence in this chapter to describe her efforts. (p. 113)

  5. Now, in the 21st century, what kinds of struggles do working mothers face over the choice between work and family? Discuss if there are any similarities with Mami's expereince in the 1950s in Puerto Rico.

  6. Papi was also busy at work and away from home, sometimes for months. Did he face the same kind of pressure. Comment on this issue with your own opinion.

  7. Esmeralda used very powerful techniques to describe how she adjusted to life without Mami at home. The following excerpt describes how she walked to school in the morning. Refer to the full text on page 113 to 114. Analyze her feelings carefully.

    "Books pressed against my chest, I strode head down, ... I was blind and would sometimes get to school anmd not know how ... I'd come all the way to school with no memory of the journey, my mind a blank slate on which I would write that day's lesson."

    Why did she walk with her head down? Why did she say she was blind? Why was her mind a blank slate?

  8. In naive but comical ways, Esmeralda started to explore her sexuality in this chapter. Find examples to describe her interests in gender differences

  9. What kind of rivalry existed between Esmeralda and her counsin Jenny?

  10. A tragic accident happened to Raymond, the youngest child in the Santiago family. Summarize the events in your own words. (p. 126 - 129)

  11. In your own judgment, who had the largest share of responsibility for Raymond's accident? Why?

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