Because I need an Excuse Review #2: America’s Dream by Esmeralda Santiago

Review number 2! YAY!! This time, it’s not so much historical fiction as much as quite possibly a well written critique of America’s culture. Introducing: America’s Dream, by Esmeralda Santiago!
The book opens up in Puerto Rico, where the 28 year old maid and single mother goes to work at the hotel and finds out that her 14 year old daughter, Rosalinda, has run away with her boyfriend, Taino. America gets her married boyfriend, Correa, to find her and bring her back, but not without consequences. After Rosalinda gets taken after a huge fight with her mother and after Correa beats her savagely, America slowly decides to leave for New York to work as a housekeeper and nanny. Well, that’s the basic plot.
The main characters are Rosalinda, the resentful catalyst that starts all of the conflict, Correa, the abusive married boyfriend whose bipolar tendencies are overlooked by America, the main character and the descendant of La Casa del
Frances’s first ever housekeeper.
In the beginning, as I have already mentioned, Rosalinda runs away with her boyfriend and America starts looking for clues as to where she can find her only child. Then, we get introduced to her alcoholic mother who also birthed her at age 14-16, and as we learn later (spoiler!) she (America) ran away with Correa at age 14. So I got the over all impression of America just wanting to break the cycle of getting pregnant way too early. As the book goes on, America lands in her job in New York, and she starts to become friendly with her family on her mother’s side. I got a pretty good glimpse into the mind of a domestic abuse survivor and the character definitely introduces some very valid points about American culture that are still true today. This book does not reek so much of sex (for which I was somewhat disappointed, but since it didn’t really seem like a romance novel, it wouldn’t make sense for it to have graphic descriptions of sex). However, there’s a rape scene and pretty graphic violence in the beginning and really bad violence and a death (won’t say who it is) at the end, so no one under 13 should read this unless they’re mature enough to handle it. Unlike the first book I reviewed, this book is good for starting some pretty important conversations, but again, only if the child is mature enough to handle the conversation.

Overall impression?
I loved this book, and I’ll definitely recommend reading it. There is the occasional Spanish word sprinkled in and it kinda took away from the experience, especially since there wasn’t a glossary to translate what the word meant. Still, it was fairly easy to guess the word because of context clues, but some words were a total mystery. The characters were very well thought out, and I got a sneak peek into a domestic violence survivor’s head-even though the character was fake. I was completely hooked throughout the whole book and I will violently push it to you people through the awesome Inter-webs.
Rating: 5 out of 5.


What I learned after Volunteering for 5 hours

Well, I completed my volunteering requirements (5 hours) yesterday. I did the Feed My Starving Children for two hours, went to dance class, went home and then went with my friends to PADS, which is a shelter organization to feed homeless people. That was three hours. So while I have many life lessons to learn if I would like to continue and to grow and to be a productive member of society, I still learned something, and I’m pretty sure these lessons will help me on the long run. Will I continue to make the same mistakes? Definitely. Will I learn to stop bragging on this blog? Nope, I’m too much of an attention whore to do that. But for now, here are the lessons that I learned so far from volunteering.

1. Volunteering gives you some perspective on how lucky you are.
When I was at Feed My Starving Children, there were more families and little kids within those families than I cared to count. Wherever I looked, there was a family with young children, and they were the only ones who actually came here without the need to get a form signed. When I was labeling the food bags, I was talking to a woman who said that she always brought her kids to make them appreciate what they had. She had mentioned that her kids were complaining about being hungry and that she told them that now they know how the poor starving kids were feeling. That was pretty profound for me because no matter how bad things are, my parents still have enough money for always having food in the house, and even to go shopping almost every week. That kind of shit makes me feel really guilty, and trust me, I hate feeling guilty. What also made me feel guilty, is that I’m just now starting to volunteer, and with another annoying twinge, it took an assignment to make me do it. So yes, it’s a huge and very needed slap in the face. Still hurts.

2. You will always put your foot in your mouth, and no matter how hard you try you will offend somebody.
At PADS, my friends and I spent most of the time caring for two children. The man who had the baby joked around with us, and I swear to God, every hour I took an unfavorable thought towards children and it raced out of my mouth in two seconds. Thankfully, there were three hours left but I still said at least five things that could be interpreted really badly, and I’m seriously scared to be near any young children again. Did I try very hard to be an amazing babysitter? Well, no, I’m sorry to say. I mostly avoided the whole playing with the child thing because A. I don’t know the child, and B. I hate talking like a baby, and since the child doesn’t belong to me, I have no right talking in that way to a child that does not share my DNA, because I have no idea how his parents raise him. And no matter what you do, people will complain to you about the stuff that you say, even if you’re just a messenger. Case in point, my friends and I picked out three family friendly movies for the people to watch, as is the policy of the charity, and this old man started complaining and blaming me for it, and giving me a lecture about how we worship children too much (to which I sorta agreed) and it really intimidated me. Thankfully, the woman who told us the policy stepped in. But still, the lesson that I learned is this: you will find that people will complain more to the messengers than to the people who make the policies. The thing that pisses me off most is this: I was not as pissed off as I probably should have been, but I shrugged it off. Either I’m growing up or I’m reading way too many customer service horror stories.

And finally (for now) 3. You can never do enough to help.
While this seems a little hopeful, it isn’t for me. Sure, I will most definitely help as much as I possibly can and even let this influence my personal life, I’m wondering if we ever can understand what those people are going through. I was horrified to find a pregnant woman in the line for a meal. You can make the meals, you can take care of the kids, you can donate and you can give out hand outs, what people really need are jobs. And the fact is, our economy sickens me to my very core. These caring people, these people who are made to do with a hot meal for six months and a bed for a night, and can laugh and joke so easily, are in dire need of help that will last more. I wonder if any shelters actually do job training, and I’m wondering if we will stop being so awful as to resort to other countries to make things that could just as well be made in America. I’m seriously wondering how selfish (not only us) a lot of countries are, and the sad thing is, they always were and the biggest changes we can make are through legislation and job creation. But should we give up? Hell no. We need awareness and we need to work hard to make small, but noticeable changes that may not add up too much now, but will in the future, but only if we work hard and care about each other. These words that I’m writing won’t add up to much unless you experienced at least some volunteer work, and these words aren’t terribly original, but in this case, they shouldn’t. People need to realize that caring and cooperation may not be “individual” but they are important to note.

Now, excuse me, there are volunteer sign up sheets with my name on them.

What’s the Problem with Pink and Princess?

Great things to consider

Dr. Rebecca Hains

This week, New York and Slate published pieces asking why so many moms have a problem with pink and with princesses.

“What’s the problem with pink, anyway?” griped Yael Kohen in New York. Then, building upon Kohen’s piece, Slate senior editor Allison Benedikt demanded: “What is it with you moms of girls? I have never met a single one of you who isn’t tortured about pink and princesses.” Her annoyance is palpable.

Both writers proceed to defend all things pink and princess. “We treat pink — and the girls who like it — with […] condescension,” Kohen states, while Benedikt adds, “Moms of daughters need to chill out.”

Oh… really? Let’s take a step back, please. I am the author of a forthcoming book called The Princess Problem: Guiding Our Girls Through the Princess-Obsessed Years, and Kohen and Benedikt’s arguments are wrong on several levels. By pontificating on the subject without actually talking to the moms they’re criticizing, they’ve missed the…

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Why You Should Never, Ever, Ever Get A Tattoo (but Having a Baby is Fine)

The Ugly Volvo

I’m not super pro-tattoo or anti-tattoo.  I’ve debated getting one in the past but never that seriously.  But my mother is vehemently anti-tattoo.  Listed below are the reasons my mother has always given me for why I shouldn’t get a tattoo.

And I understand that she’s from a different generation.  And I love my mother very much.  She’s a really wonderful person and I’m not saying none of them is a legitimate reason, but I’m saying that after having a child, I find it really hard to take any of them seriously.

And so in case you were headed out to the tattoo parlor as we speak, here are:


1.  “A Tattoo is Forever”

Yes, a tattoo is forever.  Totally forever!  Except that a tattoo can, if needed, be erased with a laser.

 *Some of you read that and immediately thought, "I am so exhausted, please I need a laser that can temporarily erase a three year-old," but sorry, that is not a thing that exists.  

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Star Wars: Episode VII Has Already Begun Filming



The new Star Wars movie is already being filmed and most of the cast for the latest installment—Episode VII—has already been chosen, said Disney Studios chairman Alan Horn.

Horn, whose studio is producing the film, said of the cast for the upcoming Star Wars movie, due in 2015, “We have a lot of them… We’re just not completely done yet,” The Hollywood Reporter reports. Horn added casting has been the greatest difficulty in getting the latest Star Wars launched.

Speculation has surrounded casting for the movie for some time, with rumors flying that Adam Driver of HBO’s Girls will play the villain in the new Star Wars installment and reports of talks with Lupita Nyong’o, who starred in 12 Years a Slave, as a female lead.

But in response to further questions about the cast, Horn adopted a Yoda voice. “Patience, you must have,” he said.

The screenplay for…

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