Famous Puerto Ricans Critical Essays

Clarke Newlon


(Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction)

Reading about the strong women in Newlon’s volume is important for girls, especially those who are Hispanic. Carmen Maymi, Miriam Colón, and Concha Meléndez all give testament to women’s strength and ambition. Although Newlon could have found even a few more female subjects, the women he picks are strong artists and leaders. Maymi, who sees herself as the “chief advocate of more than 33 million workers,” as director of the women’s bureau of the United States Department of Labor in the early 1970’s, is a strong supporter of removing sexist obstacles that stand between women and work. After an early idyllic childhood in Toa Alta that was full of music and hard study, Maymi, the only child of an accountant and teacher, was moved to Chicago, where her father became a foot-press machine operator. In Chicago, she lived among African Americans, Hispanics, and whites. Because Maymi was both African American and Hispanic, she was asked to mediate by both groups, something she considered “good training” for her governmental work later in life. After obtaining two degrees from De Paul University, Maymi served in a variety of community and government positions, working to make life easier for Puerto Rican women. In 1967, she was named Outstanding Puerto Rican Woman by the Council of Puerto Rican Organizations of the Midwest. It was only five years later that she was asked to serve as director of the women’s bureau. Maymi’s commitment to women is obvious. She believed that she experienced more discrimination as a female than as a Puerto Rican, and it was in this area that she expended her energies. Maymi was brave, working to allow women to be more than caseras (ones of the house) if they so choose.

Maymi’s story contains all the elements that make up Newlon’s approach in Famous Puerto Ricans. He gives factual information in a journalistic style, such as dates, names, and places. This aspect of his biographical focus is complemented, however, by more personal information. The stories come alive when he tells of his subjects’ gestures and interprets them for his readers, and even more so when he lets them speak about their own lives through interviews.

In telling the story of golfer “Chi Chi” Rodríguez, Newlon relies on his subject’s book, Chi Chi’s Secrets of Power Golf (1967), and printed statements made by Rodríguez. While there is no interview recorded in this chapter, Rodríguez is portrayed as an interesting fellow. Young adult readers will learn as much about golf as they will about young Juan Rodríguez, who was born in 1935 in San Juan. Young readers will also learn...

(The entire section is 1083 words.)