Emily Goldberg Learns to Salsa

Emily Goldberg Learns to Salsa

4.4 5
by Micol Ostow
     
 

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Emily is a Jewish girl from the suburbs of New York. Her mother has family in Puerto Rico, but Emily has never had contact with them—ever. Then Emily’s grandmother dies and Emily is forced to go to the Caribbean for her funeral. Buttoned-up Emily wants nothing to do with her big, noisy Puerto Rican family, until a special person shows her that one dance

Overview

Emily is a Jewish girl from the suburbs of New York. Her mother has family in Puerto Rico, but Emily has never had contact with them—ever. Then Emily’s grandmother dies and Emily is forced to go to the Caribbean for her funeral. Buttoned-up Emily wants nothing to do with her big, noisy Puerto Rican family, until a special person shows her that one dance can change the beat of your heart.

Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature
AGERANGE: Ages 12 up.

If you asked her, Emily Goldberg would say she is a Jewish girl from the New York suburbs. So why is she suddenly in Puerto Rico for the funeral of a grandmother she never met? Emily never really questioned why she never met any of her mother's family--that was just how her life went. But now that they are in Puerto Rico, her mother is acting differently, taking up smoking again and being distant and strange. The day they are supposed to leave the island, Emily's father breaks the news to her: Emily's mother needs to stay in Puerto Rico longer. And Emily is to stay with her. For six weeks. They move into her Aunt Rosa's house and stay in her cousin Lucy's bedroom. Lucy has moved down the hall with her three younger sisters. The weeks pass slowly and Emily cannot seem to connect with Lucy. But a possible family crisis causes the two to bond in a way neither would have thought, and Emily begins to learn that just because she never knew this part of her family does not mean she cannot love them now. This is a charming story of family, cultures, and learning who you really are. Emily is a likable character with a snappy inner dialogue. Readers will leave this book with not only a better sense of who she is, but hopefully of who they could be as well. Reviewer: Kathleen Foucart

VOYA - Sherry York
Emily Goldberg is ready for a fun summer that includes a road trip with two girlfriends before they go to college in the fall. But when Emily's Puerto Rican grandmother whom she never knew dies, the family must go to the island for the funeral. Emily's father is Jewish, and her mother, a college professor, has never discussed her past. After the funeral, Emily's mother decides to remain on the island for a while, and Emily stays too, moving in with Emily's aunt and family. Emily's cousin Lucy does not warm to the nuyorican, but Lucy's friend Ricky is interested in Emily, who is still in a semi-relationship with a boyfriend back home. As the summer passes, Emily learns about her mother's background, about life in Puerto Rican society, and about the family that has not been a part of her life heretofore. When Lucy breaks up with her long-time boyfriend and is afraid that she may be pregnant, Emily's mother helps out. Emily gains an understanding of what her mother gave up when she left her family to attend college on the mainland. Emily makes friends with Lucy, starts a romantic relationship with Ricky, and chooses to stay on the island for the rest of the summer. The contemporary situations, characters, and setting are realistic in this readable story of a teen girl who learns about the other part of her heritage. Issues of mixed ethnicity are interwoven but do not overwhelm the story.
KLIATT
Since Ostow is half-Jewish, half-Puerto Rican, just like Emily Goldberg in this novel, we can surmise she understands this cultural mix well. Emily's Puerto Rican mother is a Ph.D. academic and feminist--she left to go to college in the US and never returned to Puerto Rico or took her family there, making her life in New York with her Jewish husband and their two children. When Emily's grandmother dies, the family travels to Puerto Rico for the funeral. Emily's mother goes into a strange stage of grief, and everyone decides she should stay with her sisters and their families in San Juan, and Emily should remain with her as support. The story is told from Emily's point of view, in her voice. Emily just graduated from high school, and in this summer before leaving for Brown University, she had planned a road trip with two girlfriends. Instead, she is in a household with her Puerto Rican relatives where she feels like an outsider. Her cousin Lucy takes a dislike to her; she is resentful and rude. As the weeks go by, everyone slowly changes, which is the stuff of this story. Emily learns better how to make connections with people; Lucy has a crisis of her own and appreciates the support of Emily and her mother. Secrets from the past are revealed and we understand the tension between the traditional culture of Puerto Rico and the freedom for personal expression available in American culture--especially for women. Emily's mother left tradition to become a feminist scholar, after all: Emily, Lucy and we the readers understand her better by the end of the story. Middle-class teenagers in San Juan who are smart, talented and ambitious--where have we read about them before? I don't think I everhave heard their stories, so I am happy to read about them in this novel. They are the most interesting characters even though it is Emily telling the story. KLIATT Codes: JS--Recommended for junior and senior high school students. 2006, Penguin, Razorbill, 200p., $16.99.. Ages 12 to 18.
—Claire Rosser
School Library Journal

Gr 7–10
After the death of the grandmother she has never met, Emily, a Jewish teen from a New York City suburb, spends a life-changing summer in Puerto Rico. Her mother left her homeland to attend college in New York and stayed on to earn a doctorate, marry, and, seemingly, never look back. Now, the girl must sacrifice a precollege road trip and final weeks with her boyfriend to stay in Puerto Rico while her grieving parent reconnects with her past. At first, relations are strained between Emily and her relatives; though polite and tactful, she's shy and sometimes mistaken for "stuck-up," particularly by her cousin Lucy, who treats her like a spoiled, privileged brat. As her mother comes to grips with her estranged sisters and her loss, Emily learns the truth about their severed ties as well as about life in the real Puerto Rico-not the one in "getaway brochures." When Lucy suspects that she is pregnant, only her New York family can help; old-fashioned attitudes and limited options for women are part of her decision to leave the island, just as her aunt did so many years before. Emily's honest, thoughtful narrative tells this engaging story of family and culture drawn from the author's own experience.
—Barbara AuerbachCopyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

Kirkus Reviews
Growing up in an affluent New York suburb, Emily Goldberg didn't mind not knowing about her mother's Puerto Rican childhood, but when her family travels to Puerto Rico for her grandmother's funeral, Emily's ignorance is compounded as she is bombarded by unfamiliar relatives, foreign customs and a language she can barely decipher. Despite being overwhelmed and longing for her routine New York life, Emily agrees to spend her summer in Puerto Rico helping her mother revisit her roots. As Emily slowly adjusts to the hectic routine of her stern Aunt Rosa's traditional household, she reexamines her sheltered life and recognizes her own need to connect with her heritage before heading to college. As a primarily reactive character, Emily's narrative is slightly flat, except for her rocky interactions with her moody cousin, Lucy, which provide short bursts of energy and propel Emily into becoming more proactive. Despite Emily and Lucy being well-defined, Ostow pays little attention to other characters, who fade into the well-drawn Puerto Rican setting. (Fiction. YA)

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781440678578
Publisher:
Penguin Young Readers Group
Publication date:
11/08/2007
Sold by:
Penguin Group
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
288
File size:
203 KB
Age Range:
12 Years

What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
[Ostow] delves deeply into the feelings of her heroine. (Publishers Weekly)

Meet the Author

Micol Ostow like Emily Goldberg, is half Puerto Rican and half Jewish. Unlike Emily, she is also half editor, half writer. Micol lives in New York City.

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Emily Goldberg Learns to Salsa 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
Beth_Rodgers_Author 3 months ago
'Emily Goldberg Learns to Salsa' by Micol Ostow is a story about a girl who finds out the grandmother she's never met has passed away in Puerto Rico. Her mother came to the United States and met her father years before, never returning to her home, and effectively breaking ties with her family. Ostow has written books in the Students Across the Seven Seas series of books, which are all set in different countries, and this one is most certainly along those lines. Emily travels to Puerto Rico with her family for the funeral, not knowing quite what to expect. She has family she's never met, and her first cousin, Lucy, who is about the same age as her, is not welcoming in the least. When Emily's mom is having trouble coping with the loss of her mother, Emily is forced to stay in Puerto Rico for the summer, derailing her plans to road trip cross country with her two best friends, and keeping her from her boyfriend during their last summer together before college. Making friends proves somewhat difficult since Lucy is not opening up to her, but Emily begins finding herself little by little, learning more of her history by visiting historic sites, taking part in family occasions, and dealing with issues that pop up with both her mother and Lucy. Her friendships and troubles help her grow and show her that even though she thought life would work out a certain way, sometimes there are bumps in the road that turn out to be blessings in disguise. Despite having had to travel to Puerto Rico for her grandmother's funeral, the experience is a transitional one for Emily, allowing her to cope with her own life in her own way. Even though she never learns to actually salsa, the metaphor of how she learns to deal with issues that pop up in her life is strong throughout the novel. Beth Rodgers, Author of 'Freshman Fourteen,' A Young Adult Novel
TeensReadToo More than 1 year ago
It's the summer after her senior year, right before she and her friends split up for college, and Emily Goldberg has plans. A road trip across the country with her best friends, Izzy and Adrienne. Hanging out with her boyfriend, Nate, and maybe figuring out what they're going to do at the end of the summer. But whatever else they may have held, her plans definitely hadn't included standing in a hot, crowded funeral home in a country she'd never been in, at the funeral for a grandmother she'd never met. EMILY GOLDBERG LEARNS TO SALSA is a funny, heartwarming story about family and roots, and how learning about them can teach you about yourself.

Emily's mother is from Puerto Rico, but she'd left for college, met and married Emily's father, and never gone back. Emily's never met her grandmother, or her many aunts, uncles, and cousins, until she's forced to go down to Puerto Rico for the funeral. But at least it's only for a few days...until her mother has some sort of crisis and Emily is forced to stay with her.

Sharing a bedroom with her mother, stuck in a country where she barely speaks the language, and living in her ultra-religious Tia Rosa's house with an impossible set of rules, Emily is not looking forward to the rest of the summer. It doesn't help that her cousin Lucy thinks she's a pampered princess from the mainland, and that her boyfriend back home isn't returning her calls. But readers will laugh as she's thrust into one uncomfortable situation after another. Salsa dancing for a girl with two left feet? Cooking with lard? Driving in a country with no street signs? Emily faces them all, slowly getting dragged out of the safe world she's built for herself and connecting with the family she'd never known she'd missed.

Ostow writes with an authentic teenage voice, in clear and uncluttered prose. Her descriptions of a country unfamiliar to many of her readers will fascinate and intrigue them. Writing with respect for a culture different from that of the United States isn't easy, but Ostow pulls it off with style, drawing on her personal experiences. Recommended for readers looking for a fun and enjoyable read.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Emily Goldberg is a normal American girl. She has friends that she loves to hang out with and this summer is going to be great for her. She is going on a road trip with her two best friends Adrienne and Isabelle and this was going to be the best summer of her life. All is well until her grandmother who lives all the way in Puerto Rico dies of a heart attack in the middle of the night. So Emily and her family were going to have to go to Puerto Rico for the funeral. Emily doesn¿t know what she is going to do she has never met her mom¿s half of the family before so this was going to be interesting. Emily was getting nervous and so was her brother Max who was dying for a cigarette, but it was only going to be for one weekend and she would be back in time for the trip with her friends so what could it hurt? The funeral was on Saturday, it was hot, sticky and overcrowded and she didn¿t know anyone, and in fact she didn¿t really want to know anyone even though they were her family. But her family was huge, there were so many people there and it was her mom¿s part of the family, the Ramirezes. There were 4 sisters in her mom¿s family there was Amalia, Eva, Rosa and Gloria. Gloria was the youngest and was Emily¿s mother. After the funeral they went to la casa de su Tia Rosa, or the house of her aunt Rosa. It was small and cramped and all she could think about was her friends. After the horrible encounter with the long lost half of her family which she never met before they went back to their hotel and they were to go home the next morning. So she fell asleep with the satisfaction of home sweet home in mind. The next morning the sun shone through the window and onto her face and knew this was the day, until her father saw her looking out the window at the hotel courtyard and told her that she would have to stay here with her mother. Her mother was not ready to go home yet to the United States, but this was home to her, in Puerto Rico. She hadn¿t seen her family in years and her father knew that she still needed Emily, so they would stay for the rest of the summer. She didn¿t mind until she realized that she was going to miss the trip with her friends. When they moved out of the hotel and into Rosa¿s house Emily is not getting along with her family all that well. Emily's cousin Lucy who was about her age and did not like her or her attitude at all. I guess that it won¿t be the perfect summer after all, or will it? I liked this book in some ways and in some ways I did not like it. There are a lot of things in this book that I could think of as being hard, which made for a good story line. For example, when she is surrounded by family that she has never even met and didn¿t really plan on meeting, this is something I could relate to. I have been around a lot of family that I didn¿t know before and it is awfully hard to present yourself in an appropriate manner when you are nervous the people around you all know each other well. But there were a few things that I could not relate to such as being in Puerto Rico or having such a huge family that you could keep there names straight or even not having the desire to meet her family. I would have liked this book better if she wanted to meet them. From reading this book I have learned that it might not be very easy to cope with living some place else with people that you don¿t know. This made me think about the conditions of foreign places and kind of made me glad that I don¿t have any very foreign relatives. I would recommend this book to mostly girls who are going through changes with their family, friends and other things in life and need to cope with things that are usually out of the ordinary for them.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Emily Goldberg Learns to Salsa was written by Micol Ostow and published by Penguin Group. This teen novel shows how one girl, thrown completely out of her element, can find herself and her lost heritage. Emily has just graduated high school and has a fun filled summer planned ahead of her. She was supposed to go on a road trip across country and then spend time with her boyfriend before they both went off to college. This takes a loop when Emily finds out her Puerto Rican grandmother, whom she has never met, dies. Emily and her family pack up and head for Puerto Rico. When the funeral is over, Emily is relieved to go home when she is faced with a turn again. Emily¿s mother decides that she wants to stay in Puerto Rico to reconnect with her past, and asks Emily to stay with her. Realizing that her mother needs her support, Emily gives in to staying for the rest of the summer and cancels all of her plans. When first arriving at Tia Rosa¿s house, Emily knows she is out of place. She is to share a room with her mother, do chores, help prepare dinner and take care of the kids. This is a huge change for the pampered princess. Emily¿s cousin Lucy is the same age as her, however when first meeting they do not get along. This change and on top of it all not being able to speak the country¿s language provides for an interesting novel. This book was enjoyable for me because I could really relate with the main character, Emily. We have similar ways of life and I think I would have a hard time if I was in her situation also. Therefore, I learned a lot from her experiences and think I could handle myself better if this were to ever happen to me. I learned about how the Puerto Rican culture compared to American. I saw that Emily needed to be more accepting and not so quick to judge other people¿s way of life before she had lived in that way. I would definitely recommend this book to teenage girls. It is a quick, easy and enjoyable read.
Guest More than 1 year ago
It's the summer after her senior year, right before she and her friends split up for college, and Emily Goldberg has plans. A road trip across the country with her best friends, Izzy and Adrienne. Hanging out with her boyfriend, Nate, and maybe figuring out what they're going to do at the end of the summer. But whatever else they may have held, her plans definitely hadn't included standing in a hot, crowded funeral home in a country she'd never been in, at the funeral for a grandmother she'd never met. EMILY GOLDBERG LEARNS TO SALSA is a funny, heartwarming story about family and roots, and how learning about them can teach you about yourself. Emily's mother is from Puerto Rico, but she'd left for college, met and married Emily's father, and never gone back. Emily's never met her grandmother, or her many aunts, uncles, and cousins, until she's forced to go down to Puerto Rico for the funeral. But at least it's only for a few days...until her mother has some sort of crisis and Emily is forced to stay with her. Sharing a bedroom with her mother, stuck in a country where she barely speaks the language, and living in her ultra-religious Tia Rosa's house with an impossible set of rules, Emily is not looking forward to the rest of the summer. It doesn't help that her cousin Lucy thinks she's a pampered princess from the mainland, and that her boyfriend back home isn't returning her calls. But readers will laugh as she's thrust into one uncomfortable situation after another. Salsa dancing for a girl with two left feet? Cooking with lard? Driving in a country with no street signs? Emily faces them all, slowly getting dragged out of the safe world she's built for herself and connecting with the family she'd never known she'd missed. Ostow writes with an authentic teenage voice, in clear and uncluttered prose. Her descriptions of a country unfamiliar to many of her readers will fascinate and intrigue them. Writing with respect for a culture different from that of the United States isn't easy, but Ostow pulls it off with style, drawing on her personal experiences. Recommended for readers looking for a fun and enjoyable read. **Reviewed by: Dena Landon