BECOMING MARIA by Sonia Manzano
Kirkus Star

BECOMING MARIA

Love and Chaos in the South Bronx
Age Range: 12 & up
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KIRKUS REVIEW

Actress Manzano, best known as Maria from Sesame Street, provides a lyrical and unflinching account of her tough Nuyorican upbringing in the South Bronx.

Split into three parts, this touching memoir is a chronological series of vignettes in the author's life, starting with her earliest memories as a diaper-clad toddler witnessing her father's drunken outbursts and meeting a mysterious "dark little girl," who turns out to be her older half sister. The author doesn't give many dates or ages; her memories are fragments of her Spanglish-filled life in a large, poverty-stricken Puerto Rican family. She writes about the fear and confusion of having an abusive father and a battered mother doing the best she could with four kids to clothe and feed. She describes the communal shame of cousins and friends "ruined" by teen pregnancies. But her childhood isn't all grim. Manzano lovingly details life-changing moments: seeing West Side Story with a teacher and two other Latina classmates; visiting Puerto Rico, the place her parents fled but cherished; listening to a record of Richard Burton playing Hamlet; and later successfully auditioning for a spot in Manhattan's illustrious High School of Performing Arts. Life is full of tragedies and triumphs alike, and Manzano shows how both helped her become the actress that generations of children grew up seeing on Sesame Street.

In stark and heartbreaking contrast to her Sesame Street character, Manzano paints a poignant, startlingly honest picture of her youth. (Memoir. 12 & up)

Pub Date: Aug. 25th, 2015
ISBN: 978-0-545-62184-7
Page count: 272pp
Publisher: Scholastic
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15th, 2015




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Kirkus Interview
Sonia Manzano
author of BECOMING MARIA
September 22, 2015

Becoming Maria: Love and Chaos in the South Bronx is the new memoir by Sonia Manzano, well-known as Maria on Sesame Street. Set in the 1950s, Becoming Maria is the story of a girl with a dream. Manzano plunges us into the daily lives of a Latino family that is loving but troubled. When readers meet young Sonia, she is a child living amidst the squalor of a boisterous home that is filled with noisy relatives and nosy neighbors. Each day she is glued to the TV screen that blots out the painful realities of her existence and also illuminates the possibilities that lie ahead. But—click!—when the TV goes off, Sonia is taken back to real life: the cramped, colorful world of her neighborhood and an alcoholic father. But it is Sonia’s dream of becoming an actress that keeps her afloat among the turbulence of her life and times. “In stark and heartbreaking contrast to her Sesame Street character, Manzano paints a poignant, startlingly honest picture of her youth,” our reviewer writes in a starred review. View video >

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