Best-selling author Esmeralda Santiago, who has written in a variety of genres, ranging from essays and opinion pieces to memoirs and children’s books, will give the forty-third annual Lehman Lecture on Wednesday, March 21, at 11 a.m. in the Lovinger Theatre. The talk, entitled “Writing a Life,” will be followed by a book-signing and is free and open to the community.
Ms. Santiago was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and came to the U.S. at thirteen, the eldest in a family that would eventually include eleven children. She attended New York City’s Performing Arts High School, where she majored in drama and dance. After eight years of part-time study at community colleges, she transferred to Harvard University with a full scholarship, graduating magna cum laude in 1976. In 1977, she and her husband, Frank Cantor, founded Cantomedia, a film and media production company, which has won numerous awards for excellence in documentary filmmaking. She later earned a Master of Fine Arts degree in fiction writing from Sarah Lawrence College.
Ms. Santiago’s writing career evolved from her work as a producer/writer of documentary and educational films. Her essays and opinion pieces have appeared in numerous newspapers and magazines and have been broadcast over National Public Radio. With the publication of her first book, the memoir When I Was Puerto Rican, she was hailed as “…a welcome new voice, full of passion and authority” (Washington Post Book World).
Her first novel, América’s Dream, was published in six languages and was an Alternate Selection of the Literary Guild. Her second memoir, Almost a Woman, received an Alex Award from the American Library Association, and its adaptation into a film for PBS Masterpiece Theatre was honored with a George Foster Peabody Award for excellence in broadcasting. Her third memoir, The Turkish Lover, garnered enthusiastic reviews and appeared on several “Best of 2004” lists.
With Joie Davidow, Ms. Santiago is co-editor of the anthologies Las Christmas: Favorite Latino Authors Share Their Holiday Memories and Las Mamis: Favorite Latino Authors Remember Their Mothers, both published by Knopf. She has also written an illustrated children’s book, A Doll for Navidades.
In addition to her literary endeavors, Ms. Santiago is an active volunteer, speaking on behalf of public libraries and about the need to encourage and support the artistic development of young people. She has designed and developed community-based programs for adolescents, was one of the founders of a shelter for battered women and their children, and is on the boards of organizations devoted to the arts and literature. She has received a Girl Scouts of America National Woman of Distinction Award and honorary degrees from Trinity University, Pace University, Metropolitan College, and Universidad de Puerto Rico, Recinto de Mayagüez.