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Description

Product Description

The celebrated author of The House on Mango Street gives us an extraordinary new novel, told in language of blazing originality: a multigenerational story of a Mexican-American family whose voices create a dazzling weave of humor, passion, and poignancy—the very stuff of life.

Lala Reyes’ grandmother is descended from a family of renowned rebozo, or shawl, makers. The striped caramelo rebozo is the most beautiful of all, and the one that makes its way, like the family history it has come to represent, into Lala’s possession. The novel opens with the Reyes’ annual car trip—a caravan overflowing with children, laughter, and quarrels—from Chicago to “the other side”: Mexico City. It is there, each year, that Lala hears her family’s stories, separating the truth from the “healthy lies” that have ricocheted from one generation to the next. We travel from the Mexico City that was the “Paris of the New World” to the music-filled streets of Chicago at the dawn of the Roaring Twenties—and, finally, to Lala’s own difficult adolescence in the not-quite-promised land of San Antonio, Texas.

Caramelo is a romantic tale of homelands, sometimes real, sometimes imagined. Vivid, funny, intimate, historical, it is a brilliant work destined to become a classic: a major new novel from one of our country’s most beloved storytellers.

Amazon.com Review

Caramelo, Sandra Cisneros''s first novel since her celebrated The House on Mango Street, weaves a large yet intricate pattern, much like the decorative fringe on a rebozo, the traditional Mexican shawl. Through the eyes of young Celaya, or Lala, the Reyes family saga twists and turns over three generations of truths, half-truths, and outright lies. And, like Celaya''s grandmother''s prized caramelo (striped) rebozo, so is "the universe a cloth, and all humanity interwoven.... Pull one string and the whole thing comes undone." The Reyes clan, from Awful Grandmother Soledad and her favorite son Inocencio to Celaya, follow their destinies from Mexico City to the U.S. armed forces, jobs upholstering furniture, and to Chicago and San Antonio. Celaya gathers and retells, in over 80 chapters, the stories that reinforce her family''s, and subsequently her own, identity as they travel between the U.S.-Mexican border and within the United States. Rich with sensory descriptions and animated conversations and peppered with Mexican cultural and historical details, this novel can hardly contain itself. Also an acclaimed poet, Cisneros writes fiercely and thoroughly, and her characters enter and exit the page with uncommon humanity. Although the book is long--over 400 pages plus a relevant U.S.-Mexico chronology--in many ways it''s not long enough. The world of the 20th-century Mexican family, and of the Reyeses in particular, is as complicated, timeless, and satisfying as our own family stories. --Emily Russin

From Publishers Weekly

"Uncle Fat-Face''s brand-new used white Cadillac, Uncle Baby''s green Impala, Father''s red Chevrolet station wagon" the parade of cars that ushers in Cisneros''s first novel since The House on Mango Street (1984) is headed to Mexico City from Chicago, bearing three Mexican-American families on their yearly visit to Awful Grandmother and Little Grandfather. Celaya or "Lala," the youngest child of seven and the only daughter of Inocencio and Zoila Reyes, charts the family''s movements back and forth across the border and through time in this sprawling, kaleidoscopic, Spanish-laced tale. The sensitive and observant Lala feels lost in the noisy shuffle, but she inherits the family stories from her grandmother, who comes from a clan of shawl makers and throughout her life has kept her mother''s unfinished striped shawl, or caramelo rebozo, containing all the heartache and joy of her family. When she, and later Lala, wear the rebozo and suck on the fringes, they are reminded of where they come from, and those who came before them. In cramped and ever-changing apartments and houses, the teenaged Lala seeks time and space for self-exploration, finally coming to an understanding of herself through the prism of her grandmother. Cisneros was also the only girl in a family of seven, and this is clearly an autobiographical work. Its testaments to cross-generational trauma and rapture grow repetitive, but Cisneros''s irrepressible enthusiasm, inspired riffs on any number of subjects (tortillas, telenovelas, La-Z-Boys, Woolworth''s), hilarious accounts of family gatherings and pitch-perfect bilingual dialogue make this a landmark work.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

From School Library Journal

Adult/High School-A rich family tale, based on Cisneros''s own childhood. Although lengthy, the book will appeal to many teens, particularly girls, because of its compelling coming-of-age theme and its array of eccentric, romantic characters. Celaya Reyes, called LaLa, is the youngest and the only girl among seven siblings. The book follows her from infancy to adolescence as she grows up in a noisy, disputatious, and loving clan of Mexican Americans struggling to be successful in the United States while remaining true to their cultural heritage. The Reyes''s annual car journey from Chicago to Mexico City for a visit with the matriarch known as "The Awful Grandmother" is both a trial and a treat for LaLa. The imaginative and sensitive girl often feels lost within the family hilarity and histrionics, but she gradually forms an uneasy bond with her grandmother, inheriting from her the family stories, legends, and scandals. Eventually LaLa fashions these into a weave of "healthy lies" that chronicles the movements and adventures, both factual and imaginary, of several lively generations above and below the border. Her telling is a skillful blending of many narrative threads, creating a whole as colorful and charming as the heirloom striped shawl that gives the novel its title.
Starr E. Smith, Fairfax County Public Library, VA
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Raucous, spirited, and brimming with energy, Cisneros''s latest is less a novel than a landscape. Readers are carried along with Lala Reyes''s family as they routinely motor between Chicago and Mexico to visit the Little Grandfather and the Awful Grandmother. Joining them on this journey are the families of Uncle Fat-Face and Uncle Baby, and it''s no surprise that along the way painful secrets emerge, sibling rivalries flare up, and the Americanized children find themselves in a head-on cultural clash with the Awful Grandmother. The text is deftly shot through with references to Mexican and American popular culture, and with all the comings and goings this work could have felt as lumpy as someone''s first try at knitting. But Cisneros has the talent to render a narrative as beautifully blended as the fabric in the caramelo, the singular striped shawl Lala inherits from her grandmother, descendant of a renowned shawl-making family. Those who remember the pointillist prose of Woman Hollering Creek will be impressed to see that Cisneros knows how to travel. Important for all libraries.
Barbara Hoffert, "Library Journal"
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* The author''s long-awaited second novel (following The House on Mango Street, 1984) is a sweeping, fictionalized history of her Mexican American family. When Celaya (or "Lala") Reyes takes a family vacation from Chicago to Mexico City, she begins a journey from girl to young adult and from the present to the past. Generous digressions trace roots and branches on the luxuriant family tree, telling the tales of ancestors, family members, and sometimes even walk-on players. The book''s title refers to an unfinished, candy-colored rebozo (shawl) that comes to symbolize both the interconnectedness of all these individual histories and the author''s act of weaving them together. Still, the focus is on Lala, her papa, and the Awful Grandmother, the last a truly wonderful literary creation-- a despotic matriarch guaranteed to frighten young and old but whose wounds, once revealed, are a revelation. By book''s end, the different threads of these three lives are snugged into a tight knot. Cisneros combines a real respect for history with a playful sense of how lies often tell the greatest truths--the characters, narrator, and author all play fast and loose with the facts. But, Lala learns, the ability to write your own history also means you must take special care in choosing your fate. The author''s gorgeous prose, on-a-dime turns of phrase, and sumptuous scene-setting make this an unforgettable read. Keir Graff
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Review

“A lavish, richly textured meditation on family and culture. ”
–Ilan Stavans, The Nation

“There’s certainly much in this long-awaited ‘big’ novel from San Antonio’s Sandra Cisneros. So much incident. So many narrative rabbit trails. So much humor. So much play of language. And, yes, so much humanity.”
–Fritz Lanham, Houston Chronicle

“Bottom line: rich and bittersweet.”
–Julie K. L. Dam, People

Caramelo is a novel worthy of the tremendous anticipation that’s built up [around it]. It’s a swirling dinner-table collection of family tales, full of tears and laughter.”
–Ron Charles, Christian Science Monitor

“Cisneros’ finest skill is her descriptive language. It conjures up gorgeous visions of colors and forms…Her use of color, scent, sound and touch is breathtaking…These vignettes remind us that Cisneros is a writer for all people. This is a novel of families, home life and finding yourself in the world’s greater landscape.”
–Carol Memmott, USA Today

“Ten years in the making, Sandra Cisneros’s second novel bursts from between its covers with all the energy of a riotous family fiesta. Emotions are in living color–raw, intricate and as brightly variegated as that most desirable of rebozos–the shawl they call the caramelo. This long-awaited second novel is potentially a watershed in U.S. Latino literature….”
–Adriana Lopez, Washington Post Book World

“Imaginative…charming…Cisneros weaves tales from her own childhood with fabulous fiction, whipping up the story of Lala and her eccentric Mexican and Mexican-American family. Guided by Lala’s narration of her grandparents’ and parents’ histories, Caramelo engages in a kind of playfulness (‘Tell me a story, even if it''s a lie’ is the quote that opens the book) that is utterly bewitching.”
–Rebecca Ascher-Walsh, Entertainment Weekly

“With Caramelo , her exuberant, overstuffed novel, Cisneros undertakes storytelling on a grand scale, detailing the struggles and joys of three generations of a family, evoking a subtle panorama of cultural shifts. Her characters leap from the page in all their flawed humanity, falling in and out of love, squabbling and making up, working hard and making do.”
–Jane Ciabattari, Los Angeles Times

“It is Cisneros’ unique use of language that lifts Caramelo from the category of a very fine novel and situates it among the great literature of our time.”
–Margaret Randall, The Women’s Review of Books

“It’s as if she has poured her entire life into a metafictional fable that combines the thematic richness of the most ambitious literature with the delight in character and plot of the most engrossing page-turner.”
–Don McLeese, Chicago Sun-Times

“Lovingly, passionately woven…this is a huge, pan-generational, big-shouldered effort about identity, loyalty, loss, truth-telling, story-telling and, of course, memory, a little history, a little more gossip, a few terrible secrets and a thousand ‘healthy lies’ all pieced together into something as multishaded, raw-edged and timeless as that heirloom, great-grandmother’s caramelo shawl.”
–Margaria Fichtner, The Miami Herald

“A joyful, fizzy American novel. Cisneros writes poetry as well as prose, and her language is a lovely fusion of Spanish and English, idea and emotion, geography and spirit…This is one of those novels that blithely leap across the border between literary and popular fiction…Vivid…boisterous….playful…a delicious reminder that ‘American’ applies to plenty of territory beyond the borders of the United States.”
–Valerie Sayers, The New York Times Book Review

“Poet and writer Cisneros''s sprawling, spirited Caramelo, her first novel since her hugely successful The House on Mango Street, revisits Chicago''s Mexican-American community–this time to retrace the story of the raucous, loving family of Lala Reyes, which stretches back through some tough years in San Antonio, Texas, to its roots in Mexico City…a tumultuous and eventful history. Vibrant and big-hearted like Lala herself, Cisneros''s prose captures both the personal intimacies and the larger-than-life atmosphere of the Reyes family''s passionate saga.”
–Lisa Shea, Elle

“Sandra Cisneros is like a bee that extracts new honey from old flowers. And Caramelo is like a Mexican candy that you suck slowly, savoring it under your tongue for hours; yet it is never sticky, never sugary nor sentimental. Cisneros possesses that most difficult ability–to allow us to imagine that which never existed.”

–Elena Poniatowska, author of Here’s to You, Jesusa

"Writers tell secrets, and in so doing, reaffirm the truths of our lives, the strength of love, the marvel of endurance, and the power of generations. In Caramelo, Sandra Cisneros sings to my blood. Her words are sweet and filling, not sugar-driven but as substantial as meat on the bone. Hers is the kind of family I know well–people who love and hate with their whole souls, who struggle and make over with every generation. She has done them justice on the page; she has given them to us whole."
–Dorothy Allison, author of Bastard Out of Carolina

"It''s a crazy, funny and remarkable folk-saga of Mexican migrants told by a curious little girl who has the wisdom of an old grandma. Beginning on Highway 66, it''s a salsified variant on the Joad family''s odyssey, zigzagging from Chicago to Mexico City and back. It''s all about la vida, the life of ''honorable labor.'' It''s a beautiful tale of all migrants caught between here and there. "
–Studs Terkel, author of Will the Circle be Unbroken

"This book is a crowded train, a never-stop round-trip train going and coming back and going again between Mexico and the USA, across the frontiers of land and time: full of voices, full of music, made from memory, making life."
–Eduardo Galeano, author of Memory of Fire and Upside Down

From the Inside Flap

The celebrated author of The House on Mango Street gives us an extraordinary new novel, told in language of blazing originality: a multigenerational story of a Mexican-American family whose voices create a dazzling weave of humor, passion, and poignancy—the very stuff of life.

Lala Reyes'' grandmother is descended from a family of renowned rebozo, or shawl, makers. The striped caramelo rebozo is the most beautiful of all, and the one that makes its way, like the family history it has come to represent, into Lala''s possession. The novel opens with the Reyes'' annual car trip—a caravan overflowing with children, laughter, and quarrels—from Chicago to "the other side": Mexico City. It is there, each year, that Lala hears her family''s stories, separating the truth from the "healthy lies" that have ricocheted from one generation to the next. We travel from the Mexico City that was the "Paris of the New World" to the music-filled streets of Chicago at the dawn of the Roaring Twenties—and, finally, to Lala''s own difficult adolescence in the not-quite-promised land of San Antonio, Texas.

Caramelo is a romantic tale of homelands, sometimes real, sometimes imagined. Vivid, funny, intimate, historical, it is a brilliant work destined to become a classic: a major new novel from one of our country''s most beloved storytellers.

From the Back Cover

“A lavish, richly textured meditation on family and culture. ”
–Ilan Stavans, The Nation

“There’s certainly much in this long-awaited ‘big’ novel from San Antonio’s Sandra Cisneros. So much incident. So many narrative rabbit trails. So much humor. So much play of language. And, yes, so much humanity.”
–Fritz Lanham, Houston Chronicle

“Bottom line: rich and bittersweet.”
–Julie K. L. Dam, People

Caramelo is a novel worthy of the tremendous anticipation that’s built up [around it]. It’s a swirling dinner-table collection of family tales, full of tears and laughter.”
–Ron Charles, Christian Science Monitor

“Cisneros’ finest skill is her descriptive language. It conjures up gorgeous visions of colors and forms…Her use of color, scent, sound and touch is breathtaking…These vignettes remind us that Cisneros is a writer for all people. This is a novel of families, home life and finding yourself in the world’s greater landscape.”
–Carol Memmott, USA Today

“Ten years in the making, Sandra Cisneros’s second novel bursts from between its covers with all the energy of a riotous family fiesta. Emotions are in living color–raw, intricate and as brightly variegated as that most desirable of rebozos–the shawl they call the caramelo. This long-awaited second novel is potentially a watershed in U.S. Latino literature….”
–Adriana Lopez, Washington Post Book World

“Imaginative…charming…Cisneros weaves tales from her own childhood with fabulous fiction, whipping up the story of Lala and her eccentric Mexican and Mexican-American family. Guided by Lala’s narration of her grandparents’ and parents’ histories, Caramelo engages in a kind of playfulness (‘Tell me a story, even if it''s a lie’ is the quote that opens the book) that is utterly bewitching.”
–Rebecca Ascher-Walsh, Entertainment Weekly

“With Caramelo , her exuberant, overstuffed novel, Cisneros undertakes storytelling on a grand scale, detailing the struggles and joys of three generations of a family, evoking a subtle panorama of cultural shifts. Her characters leap from the page in all their flawed humanity, falling in and out of love, squabbling and making up, working hard and making do.”
–Jane Ciabattari, Los Angeles Times

“It is Cisneros’ unique use of language that lifts Caramelo from the category of a very fine novel and situates it among the great literature of our time.”
–Margaret Randall, The Women’s Review of Books

“It’s as if she has poured her entire life into a metafictional fable that combines the thematic richness of the most ambitious literature with the delight in character and plot of the most engrossing page-turner.”
–Don McLeese, Chicago Sun-Times

“Lovingly, passionately woven…this is a huge, pan-generational, big-shouldered effort about identity, loyalty, loss, truth-telling, story-telling and, of course, memory, a little history, a little more gossip, a few terrible secrets and a thousand ‘healthy lies’ all pieced together into something as multishaded, raw-edged and timeless as that heirloom, great-grandmother’s caramelo shawl.”
–Margaria Fichtner, The Miami Herald

“A joyful, fizzy American novel. Cisneros writes poetry as well as prose, and her language is a lovely fusion of Spanish and English, idea and emotion, geography and spirit…This is one of those novels that blithely leap across the border between literary and popular fiction…Vivid…boisterous….playful…a delicious reminder that ‘American’ applies to plenty of territory beyond the borders of the United States.”
–Valerie Sayers, The New York Times Book Review

“Poet and writer Cisneros''s sprawling, spirited Caramelo, her first novel since her hugely successful The House on Mango Street, revisits Chicago''s Mexican-American community–this time to retrace the story of the raucous, loving family of Lala Reyes, which stretches back through some tough years in San Antonio, Texas, to its roots in Mexico City…a tumultuous and eventful history. Vibrant and big-hearted like Lala herself, Cisneros''s prose captures both the personal intimacies and the larger-than-life atmosphere of the Reyes family''s passionate saga.”
–Lisa Shea, Elle

“Sandra Cisneros is like a bee that extracts new honey from old flowers. And Caramelo is like a Mexican candy that you suck slowly, savoring it under your tongue for hours; yet it is never sticky, never sugary nor sentimental. Cisneros possesses that most difficult ability–to allow us to imagine that which never existed.”

–Elena Poniatowska, author of Here’s to You, Jesusa

"Writers tell secrets, and in so doing, reaffirm the truths of our lives, the strength of love, the marvel of endurance, and the power of generations. In Caramelo, Sandra Cisneros sings to my blood. Her words are sweet and filling, not sugar-driven but as substantial as meat on the bone. Hers is the kind of family I know well–people who love and hate with their whole souls, who struggle and make over with every generation. She has done them justice on the page; she has given them to us whole."
–Dorothy Allison, author of Bastard Out of Carolina

"It''s a crazy, funny and remarkable folk-saga of Mexican migrants told by a curious little girl who has the wisdom of an old grandma. Beginning on Highway 66, it''s a salsified variant on the Joad family''s odyssey, zigzagging from Chicago to Mexico City and back. It''s all about la vida, the life of ''honorable labor.'' It''s a beautiful tale of all migrants caught between here and there. "
–Studs Terkel, author of Will the Circle be Unbroken

"This book is a crowded train, a never-stop round-trip train going and coming back and going again between Mexico and the USA, across the frontiers of land and time: full of voices, full of music, made from memory, making life."
–Eduardo Galeano, author of Memory of Fire and Upside Down

About the Author

Sandra Cisneros was born in Chicago in 1954. Internationally acclaimed for her poetry and fiction, she has been the recipient of numerous awards, including the Lannan Literary Award and the American Book Award, and of fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the MacArthur Foundation. Cisneros is the author of the novels The House on Mango Street and Caramelo, a collection of short stories Woman Hollering Creek, a book of poetry Loose Woman, and a children''s book Hairs/Pelitos. She lives in San Antonio, Texas.


From the Trade Paperback edition.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Chapter One

Acuérdate de Acapulco,

de aquellas noches,

María bonita, María del alma;

acuérdate que en la playa,

con tus manitas las estrellitas

las enjuagabas.


-"María bonita," by Augustín Lara, version sung by the composer while playing the piano, accompanied by a sweet, but very, very sweet violin

**************

We''re all little in the photograph above Father''s bed. We were little in Acapulco. We will always be little. For him we are just as we were then.

Here are the Acapulco waters lapping just behind us, and here we are sitting on the lip of land and water. The little kids, Lolo and Memo, making devil horns behind each other''s heads; the Awful Grandmother holding them even though she never held them in real life. Mother seated as far from her as politely possible; Toto slouched beside her. The big boys, Rafa, Ito, and Tikis, stand under the roof of Father''s skinny arms. Aunty Light-Skin hugging Antonieta Araceli to her belly. Aunty shutting her eyes when the shutter clicks, as if she chooses not to remember the future, the house on Destiny Street sold, the move north to Monterrey.

Here is Father squinting that same squint I always make when I''m photographed. He isn''t acabado yet. He isn''t finished, worn from working, from worrying, from smoking too many packs of cigarettes. There isn''t anything on his face but his face, and a tidy, thin mustache, like Pedro Infante, like Clark Gable. Father''s skin pulpy and soft, pale as the belly side of a shark.

The Awful Grandmother has the same light skin as Father, but in elephant folds, stuffed into a bathing suit the color of an old umbrella with an amber handle.

I''m not here. They''ve forgotten about me when the photographer walking along the beach proposes a portrait, un recuerdo, a remembrance literally. No one notices I''m off by myself building sand houses. They won''t realize I''m missing until the photographer delivers the portrait to Catita''s house, and I look at it for the first time and ask, -When was this taken? Where?

Then everyone realizes the portrait is incomplete. It''s as if I didn''t exist. It''s as if I''m the photographer walking along the beach with the tripod camera on my shoulder asking, -¿Un recuerdo? A souvenir? A memory?

1.

Verde, Blanco, y Colorado

Uncle Fat-Face''s brand-new used white Cadillac, Uncle Baby''s green Impala, Father''s red Chevrolet station wagon bought that summer on credit are racing to the Little Grandfather''s and Awful Grandmother''s house in Mexico City. Chicago, Route 66-Ogden Avenue past the giant Turtle Wax turtle-all the way to Saint Louis, Missouri, which Father calls by its Spanish name, San Luis. San Luis to Tulsa, Oklahoma. Tulsa, Oklahoma, to Dallas. Dallas to San Antonio to Laredo on 81 till we are on the other side. Monterrey. Saltillo. Matehuala. San Luis Potosí. Querétaro. Mexico City.

Every time Uncle Fat-Face''s white Cadillac passes our red station wagon, the cousins-Elvis, Aristotle, and Byron-stick their tongues out at us and wave.

-Hurry, we tell Father. -Go faster!

When we pass the green Impala, Amor and Paz tug Uncle Baby''s shoulder. -Daddy, please!

My brothers and I send them raspberries, we wag our tongues and make faces, we spit and point and laugh. The three cars-green Impala, white Cadillac, red station wagon-racing, passing each other sometimes on the shoulder of the road. Wives yelling, -Slower! Children

yelling, -Faster!

What a disgrace when one of us gets carsick and we have to stop the car. The green Impala, the white Caddy whooshing past noisy and happy as a thousand flags. Uncle Fat-Face toot-tooting that horn like crazy.

2.

Chillante

If we make it to Toluca, I''m walking to church on my knees.

Aunty Licha, Elvis, Aristotle, and Byron are hauling things out to the curb. Blenders. Transistor radios. Barbie dolls. Swiss Army Knives. Plastic crystal chandeliers. Model airplanes. Men''s button-down dress shirts. Lace push-up bras. Socks. Cut-glass necklaces with matching earrings. Hair clippers. Mirror sunglasses. Panty girdles. Ballpoint pens. Eye shadow kits. Scissors. Toasters. Acrylic pullovers. Satin quilted bedspreads. Towel sets. All this besides the boxes of used clothing.

Outside, roaring like the ocean, Chicago traffic from the Northwest and Congress Expressways. Inside, another roar; in Spanish from the kitchen radio, in English from TV cartoons, and in a mix of the two from her boys begging for, -Un nikle for Italian lemonade. But Aunty Licha doesn''t hear anything. Under her breath Aunty is bargaining,

-Virgen Purísima, if we even make it to Laredo, even that, I''ll say three rosaries . . .

-Cállate, vieja, you make me nervous. Uncle Fat-Face is fiddling with the luggage rack on top of the roof. It has taken him two days to get everything to fit inside the car. The white Cadillac''s trunk is filled to capacity. The tires sag. The back half of the car dips down low. There isn''t room for anything else except the passengers, and even so, the cousins have to sit on top of suitcases.

-Daddy, my legs hurt already.

-You. Shut your snout or you ride in the trunk.

-But there isn''t any room in the trunk.

-I said shut your snout!

To pay for the vacation, Uncle Fat-Face and Aunty Licha always bring along items to sell. After visiting the Little Grandfather and Awful Grandmother in the city, they take a side trip to Aunty Licha''s hometown of Toluca. All year their apartment looks like a store. A year''s worth of weekends spent at Maxwell Street flea market* collecting merchandise for the trip south. Uncle says what sells is lo chillante, literally the screaming. -The gaudier the better, says the Awful Grandmother. -No use taking anything of value to that town of Indians.

Each summer it''s something unbelievable that sells like hot queques. Topo Gigio key rings. Eyelash curlers. Wind Song perfume sets. Plastic rain bonnets. This year Uncle is betting on glow-in-the-dark yo-yos.

Boxes. On top of the kitchen cabinets and the refrigerator, along the hallway walls, behind the three-piece sectional couch, from floor to ceiling, on top or under things. Even the bathroom has a special storage shelf high above so no one can touch.

In the boys'' room, floating near the ceiling just out of reach, toys nailed to the walls with upholstery tacks. Tonka trucks, model airplanes, Erector sets still in their original cardboard boxes with the cellophane window. They''re not to play with, they''re to look at. -This one I got last Christmas, and that one was a present for my seventh birthday . . .

Like displays at a museum.

We''ve been waiting all morning for Uncle Fat-Face to telephone and say, -Quihubo, brother, vámonos, so that Father can call Uncle Baby and say the same thing. Every year the three Reyes sons and their families drive south to the Awful Grandmother''s house on Destiny Street, Mexico City, one family at the beginning of the summer, one in the middle, and one at the summer''s end.

-But what if something happens? the Awful Grandmother asks her husband.

-Why ask me, I''m already dead, the Little Grandfather says, retreating to his bedroom with his newspaper and his cigar. -You''ll do what you want to do, same as always.

-What if someone falls asleep at the wheel like the time Concha Chacón became a widow and lost half her family near Dallas. What a barbarity! And did you hear that sad story about Blanca''s cousins, eight people killed just as they were returning from Michoacán, right outside the Chicago city limits, a patch of ice and a light pole in some place called Aurora, pobrecitos. Or what about that station wagon full of gringa nuns that fell off the mountainside near Saltillo. But that was the old highway through the Sierra Madre before they built the new interstate.

All the same, we are too familiar with the roadside crosses and the stories they stand for. The Awful Grandmother complains so much, her sons finally give in. That''s why this year Uncle Fat-Face, Uncle Baby, and Father-el Tarzán-finally agree to drive down together, although they never agree on anything.

-If you ask me, the whole idea stinks, Mother says, mopping the kitchen linoleum. She shouts from the kitchen to the bathroom, where Father is trimming his mustache over the sink.

-Zoila, why do you insist on being so stubborn? Father shouts into the mirror clouding the glass. -Ya verás. You''ll see, vieja, it''ll be fun.

-And stop calling me vieja, Mother shouts back. -I hate that word! I''m not old, your mother''s old.

We''re going to spend the entire summer in Mexico. We won''t leave until school ends, and we won''t come back until after it''s started. Father, Uncle Fat-Face, and Uncle Baby don''t have to report to the L. L. Fish Furniture Company on South Ashland until September.

-Because we''re such good workers our boss gave us the whole summer off, imagine that.

But that''s nothing but story. The three Reyes brothers have quit their jobs. When they don''t like a job, they quit. They pick up their hammers and say, -Hell you . . . Get outta . . . Full of sheet. They are craftsmen. They don''t use a staple gun and cardboard like the upholsterers in the U.S. They make sofas and chairs by hand. Quality work. And when they don''t like their boss, they pick up their hammers and their time cards and walk out cursing in two languages, with tacks in the soles of their shoes and lint in their beard stubble and hair, and bits of string dangling from the hem of their sweaters.

But they didn''t quit this time, did they? No, no. The real story is this. The bosses at the L. L. Fish Furniture Company on South Ashland have begun to dock the three because they arrive sixteen minutes after the hour, forty-three minutes, fifty-two, instead of on ti...

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4.6 out of 54.6 out of 5
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Top reviews from the United States

Gabrielle
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
*Touching writing It warms the heart for sure*
Reviewed in the United States on March 12, 2020
I loved Caramelo by Sandra Cisneros. It is hard to believe she is so talented and wrote all this wonderful text! This was my second time reading Caramelo, as I read it once in my early twenties and now I am thirty-five. The characters are strangely relatable. This book is... See more
I loved Caramelo by Sandra Cisneros. It is hard to believe she is so talented and wrote all this wonderful text! This was my second time reading Caramelo, as I read it once in my early twenties and now I am thirty-five. The characters are strangely relatable. This book is so imaginative. The reader can almost smell the cool nights of the stories and feel the love of the characters. My favorite parts of the book are the ones with Senor Coochie and the ones with Ernesto. Tasteful and bittersweet. Thank you Sandra and Amazon!
5 people found this helpful
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cricket
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Imagery and insight
Reviewed in the United States on March 7, 2019
Cisneros has been a favorite writer of mine for many years. It started when I read and then taught portions of House on Mango Street to middle school students. It is amazing to read and feel personal connections with a text as a Mexican American who grew up in south... See more
Cisneros has been a favorite writer of mine for many years. It started when I read and then taught portions of House on Mango Street to middle school students. It is amazing to read and feel personal connections with a text as a Mexican American who grew up in south Texas. While her subject, setting and characters strike a chord with me on a cultural level, it is her imagery and use of figurative language that thrill me as a reader. That is not to say that the message and the generational insight on family relationships are not well developed and profound, but to find a powerful message presented with equally powerful display of word-craft is praiseworthy.
4 people found this helpful
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James Glenn
4.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Hang in there
Reviewed in the United States on January 10, 2019
For me, this book started a bit slow... in all honesty I nearly put it down after 40-50 pgs. However, there''s truly much to like. Insightful engaging stories that not only give great insight into Mexican and Mexican-American culture/history, but also life in... See more
For me, this book started a bit slow... in all honesty I nearly put it down after 40-50 pgs.

However, there''s truly much to like. Insightful engaging stories that not only give great insight into Mexican and Mexican-American culture/history, but also life in general. So many passages and quotes that stirred my spirit and imagination. Awesome for your soul, you heart and head.

Only caveat is some of the stories didn''t grab me or hold me and I felt like after a while I began to skim some pages. Only reason I give it a 4 star, not 5.
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Mrs. M.
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Beautiful writing.
Reviewed in the United States on April 3, 2021
Cisneros writes with such beautiful and magical prose. It doesn''t matter if the plot is a little slow, the writing itself compels further reading because the characters are so richly drawn. Don''t pay attention to those reviewers who didn''t get it and said they were bored.... See more
Cisneros writes with such beautiful and magical prose. It doesn''t matter if the plot is a little slow, the writing itself compels further reading because the characters are so richly drawn. Don''t pay attention to those reviewers who didn''t get it and said they were bored. Reading this book is like savoring a great meal in which all your senses are activated. If you loved The House on Mango Street like I did, this novel will fill you up.
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Pink Paisley
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
I love this novel
Reviewed in the United States on July 21, 2010
I read "The House on Mango Street" by Sandra Cisneros, and had enjoyed it. However, I had not read any of her other novels until I came upon this one. I found the title in a reading list at the back of another book, "How The Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents" by Julia... See more
I read "The House on Mango Street" by Sandra Cisneros, and had enjoyed it. However, I had not read any of her other novels until I came upon this one. I found the title in a reading list at the back of another book, "How The Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents" by Julia Alvarez.

This book is interesting to me on many levels. First, it delves deeply into a complicated family relationship. Many of the themes resonate with me, because they remind me of my own family. My grandparents were immigrants from Italy, and the family dynamics between Italian families and Latino families are so similar. Perhaps that is because of the immigrant experience, as well.

This book explores those relationships against the backdrop of a Mexican family that emigrated to the U.S. So intertwined with family themes are all of the struggles of adapting to and living in a different country..specifically, Latino/Mexican struggles.

In order to explore these themes, the writer goes back in time as the granddaughter of the family, trying to learn more about her family''s past.

I really loved this book for it''s study of familial relationships, as well as it''s focus on one Latino family''s experience in the U.S.

I would recommend this book to anyone who is interested in Latino culture, the experiences of immigrants, as well as anyone who also has complicated family relationships and seeks to understand these more.

The book keeps your attention, and is very funny and entertaining in many parts, as well.
18 people found this helpful
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Kindle Customer
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
The MBC Abbreviated Review
Reviewed in the United States on March 27, 2008
For us, the San Antonians, the book was nostalgic and chewy, full of life, delicious, and bitter-sweet. So was the same for many other Mexican-Americans who live in Texas. The book presented an honest reflections, life and souls of an important slice of American population;... See more
For us, the San Antonians, the book was nostalgic and chewy, full of life, delicious, and bitter-sweet. So was the same for many other Mexican-Americans who live in Texas. The book presented an honest reflections, life and souls of an important slice of American population; and more importantly, peoples of our own town. The voice, the blocks of words full of local idiom, and Mexican proverbs were exhilarating. The plot was a story of the awful grandmother but more so mini tales of individual characters who appeared in the novel. The group agreed that the book was a great and pleasant read; here are some delightful passages:
Sweet sweeter, colors brighter, the bitter more bitter.
Tin sugar spoon and how surprised the hand feels because it''s so light.
If you leave your father''s house without a husband you are worse than a dog.
Only people you love drive you to hate.
The book also reflects upon the transformation of the city and appearance of a new milieu.
3 people found this helpful
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Last Mango
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
"I am homesick for ...a country I invented"
Reviewed in the United States on February 3, 2009
It is not a "healthy lie"; I really enjoyed this book spanning generations of the Mexican/Hispanic immigrant experience. I lived in South America for six years where my husband is from. It was surprising that there were so many similiarities between Caramelo and people I... See more
It is not a "healthy lie"; I really enjoyed this book spanning generations of the Mexican/Hispanic immigrant experience. I lived in South America for six years where my husband is from. It was surprising that there were so many similiarities between Caramelo and people I knew and am related to by marriage. The book does tend to wander, (although I thought it came together well at the end) and I truly wish that someone would have married their sweetheart, but there is still plenty of love in the story and plenty of beautiful, colorful writing. Knowing Spanish made the book come to life since in many cases a dictionary wouldn''t be that helpful, but the relationship between the father and daughter as they learn about themselves and where home really is hopefully will still pull non-Spanish speakers through.
3 people found this helpful
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Barbara Salzman
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Caramelo by Sandra Cisneros
Reviewed in the United States on January 16, 2012
Sandra Cisneros is an exquisite writer. Caramelo is a big book with a large heart that transports you to a world rich and wonderful. Caramelo and her immediate family visit their relatives in Mexico every year. The transition from Caramelo''s American life and her heritage... See more
Sandra Cisneros is an exquisite writer. Caramelo is a big book with a large heart that transports you to a world rich and wonderful. Caramelo and her immediate family visit their relatives in Mexico every year. The transition from Caramelo''s American life and her heritage in Mexico inspires her imagination as she discovers her heritage and the diversity of beauty in the world. Cisneros uses language to highlight the diversity so be prepared for a book peppered with untranslated Spanish. Even if you don''t know a word of the language, it enhances and reveals. Caramelo is highly recommended as one of the best novels of our times. If you haven''t already, be sure to also read Cisneros'' House on Mango Street.
6 people found this helpful
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Top reviews from other countries

M. T. Adegas
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Gorgeous book, and fun to read
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on January 30, 2020
Beautiful book, but not difficult at all. It’s light hearted and you keep turning pages, it draws you in. The characters feel very real and I really loved this new view of Mexico, the US, the different tribes, the effects of being part, or not, of something: a country, a...See more
Beautiful book, but not difficult at all. It’s light hearted and you keep turning pages, it draws you in. The characters feel very real and I really loved this new view of Mexico, the US, the different tribes, the effects of being part, or not, of something: a country, a family, a nationality, a culture, even a particular region. I’m not surprised the author is also a poet, because her use of language is extremely precise and vivid- but unpretentious.
Beautiful book, but not difficult at all. It’s light hearted and you keep turning pages, it draws you in. The characters feel very real and I really loved this new view of Mexico, the US, the different tribes, the effects of being part, or not, of something: a country, a family, a nationality, a culture, even a particular region. I’m not surprised the author is also a poet, because her use of language is extremely precise and vivid- but unpretentious.
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Ebony
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Now my favourite book!
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on July 28, 2011
Since I was raised between two lands, I identified myself strongly with the story. But that''s not all. Sandra Cisneros is a unique writer, incredibly talented and able to make you feel and not just see what she describes. Places, times, family dynamics: all is true. This is...See more
Since I was raised between two lands, I identified myself strongly with the story. But that''s not all. Sandra Cisneros is a unique writer, incredibly talented and able to make you feel and not just see what she describes. Places, times, family dynamics: all is true. This is one, great book!
Since I was raised between two lands, I identified myself strongly with the story. But that''s not all. Sandra Cisneros is a unique writer, incredibly talented and able to make you feel and not just see what she describes. Places, times, family dynamics: all is true. This is one, great book!
One person found this helpful
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Amazon Customer
1.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
so boring and hard to get through
Reviewed in Canada on June 19, 2020
Read for a book club. While there are some great descriptive passages, the book is really hard to get through as it''s only character driven (versus anything ever happening) but even the characters are a jumble.
Read for a book club. While there are some great descriptive passages, the book is really hard to get through as it''s only character driven (versus anything ever happening) but even the characters are a jumble.
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Carlos Gómez
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Opinión
Reviewed in Mexico on March 23, 2021
El producto responde a mis expectativas
El producto responde a mis expectativas
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Black Forest Academy
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Delightful & fascinating narration.
Reviewed in Germany on January 1, 2020
Captivating, insightful view into the lives of a Mexican-American family.
Captivating, insightful view into the lives of a Mexican-American family.
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