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Lady of the Month: Esmeralda Santiago
Esmeralda Santiago grew up in Puerto Rico. Her family moved to New York when she was thirteen years old. The eldest of eleven, Esmeralda learned English from children’s books in a Brooklyn library. A teacher encouraged her to audition for Performing Arts High School, where she majored in drama and dance. After eight years of part time study at community colleges, Esmeralda transferred to Harvard University with a full scholarship and graduated Magna Cum Laude in 1976. Shortly after graduation, she and her husband Frank Cantor founded CANTOMEDIA, a film and media production company that has won numerous awards for excellence in educational and documentary filmmaking.
With the publication of her first memoir When I was Puerto Rican, the Washington Post hailed Esmeralda as “a welcome new voice, full of passion and authority.” Her first novel, America's Dream, has been published in six languages and made into a movie by executive producer Edward James Olmos.
Her second memoir, Almost a Woman, received an Alex Award from the American Library Association, and was made into a Peabody-award winning movie for PBS Masterpiece Theatre’s “American Collection.” Esmeralda Santiago is the only living author in this prestigious collection, which also dramatized works by James Agee, Willa Cather, Langston Hughes, Eudora Welty and Henry James.
Esmeralda earned a Master of Fine Arts in Fiction Writing from Sarah Lawrence College, and Honorary Doctorates from Trinity College, Pace University, Metropolitan College in NYC and University of Puerto Rico, Mayagüez.
She is a spokesperson on behalf of public libraries; has designed and developed community programs for adolescents at risk; and was a founder of DOVE, a regional shelter for battered women and their children. Esmeralda has served on the boards of many arts organizations including the Jacob Burns Film Center, the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards, and PEN American Center. She is passionate about the need to encourage and support the artistic development of young people with storytelling and media literacy. (Retrieved from

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