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

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Study Questions for the "Why Women Remain Jamona" Chapter

  1. On p. 89, Santiago said "it felt as it he [the bus driver] were insulting me in the worst possible way." Why did she feel insulted by the driver's comments and the other passengers's laughter?

  2. How did the incidents at the bus stop and on the bus reflect society's expectations about men and women? (p. 87 to 89)

  3. Discuss the difference between "jamona" and "senorita," which also means an unmarried woman in Spanish.

  4. "Jamona" and "senorita" are examples of how words can carry similar denotative meanings but different connotative meanings. Use a good dictionary website to find definitions of denotation and connatation.

  5. Find examples in English to show how words can express similar basic meaning but different positive and negative implications.

  6. Refer to the family tree that you have created in the "jibara" chapter. Add Abuelo and Abuela to the family tree. What is an appropriate way to include these names?

  7. From Esmeralda's description of her stay at her grandmother's house, what do you infer is the relationship between her grandmother and grandfather? Find evidence from the chapter to support your inference.

  8. On p. 95 to 96, Esmeralda described how her grandfather made a living by selling oranges in a cart. She also used this incident to show how Abuelo was loving and caring toward her. Identify the example that she quoted.

  9. During Esmeralda's stay at Abuela's house, she noticed that her grandma was a very religious person and was always praying. On p. 99, in the third paragraph, "Abuela went in to say her prayers." Who/What do you think she was praying for/about?

  10. Esmeralda uses very carefully chosen words to describe her feelings and reactions to things that were bothering her, e.g.

    a. "The soft moans I heard coming from their side of the room were stifled sobs, like the ones that now pressed against my throat, so that I had to bury my face in the pillow and cry until my head hurt" (p. 100).

    b. "I opened the faucets and let cool water wash over me, wishing it could melt away the fear that made the thumps of my heart louder than usual" (p. 103).

    Explain the circumstances in each of these two cases and discuss how these sophisticated techniques of writing help the author express her feelings.

  11. In this chapter, there are at least two instances where Esmeralda used physical pain and discomfort to hide her emotional pain. Locate the examples and explain her reasons for doing so.

  12. Both Abuela and Mami were described as showing a great deal of sadness on p. 102 and 103. Identify the phrases that Esmeralda used to describe their sadness. Why were they sad?

  13. What were Esmeralda's feelings about the old woman at the mercado in the beginning of the chapter? What were her feelings about this woman at the end of the chapter?

  14. What were Esmeralda's feelings toward her father at the end of the chapter?

  15. Esmeralda finishes this chapter with a very powerful and emotional conclusion on p. 104. Read this part carefully and paraphrase what she said.

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