Form and Content
For Growing Up Puerto Rican, Paulette Cooper, a clinical psychologist, interviewed seventeen young Puerto Ricans who came to New York City with their families or who were born shortly after the family moved there. The book is introduced in a foreword by José Torres, a Puerto Rican American, and a preface by Cooper herself, which provide perspective on the accounts that follow. Torres contrasts the early sexual experiences, the widespread use of street drugs, and the violence of these young people’s lives with the innocence of his own upbringing in Puerto Rico. He points out that all the accounts share a common theme: the search for an identity when one has been transplanted into an alien culture.
Cooper, herself orphaned as an infant when her Jewish parents were killed by Nazis in Belgium, notes that her early childhood gives her an understanding of what it is to be “an outcast minority.” Adopted by an American couple at six, Cooper went to the security of comfortable family life. As she points out, these young Puerto Ricans typically followed an opposite pattern: They went from a warm and stable life in Puerto Rico to a cramped, violent, and insecure one in the tenements of New York City. Brought to the United States as children, frequently leaving behind a comfortable way of life, spacious homes, and the freedom of rural space, these children retain a nostalgia for Puerto Rico; many of them dream of returning someday. Yet all of them...
(The entire section is 505 words.)