The Meaning of Consuelo

A Novel

Judith Ortiz Cofer

Farrar, Straus and Giroux

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La nina seria, the serious child. That's how Consuelo's mother has cast her pensive, book-loving daughter, while Consuelo's younger sister Mili, is seen as vivacious--a ray of tropical sunshine. Two daughters: one dark, one light; one to offer comfort and consolation, the other to charm and delight. But something is not right in this Puerto Rican family.

Set in the 1950s, a time when American influence is diluting Puerto Rico's rich island culture, Consuelo watches her own family's downward spiral. It is Consuelo who notices as her beautiful sister Mili's vivaciousness turns into mysterious bouts of hysteria and her playful invented language shift into an incomprehensible and chilling "language of birds." Ultimately Consuelo must choose: Will she fulfill the expectations of her family--offering consolation as their tragedy unfolds? Or will she risk becoming la fulana, the outsider, like the harlequin figure of her neighbor, Mario/Maria Sereno, who flaunts his tight red pedal pushers and empty brassiere as he refuses the traditional macho role of his culture.

This affecting novel is a lively celebration of Puerto Rico as well as an archetypal story of loss, the loss each of us experiences on our journey from the island of childhood to the uncharted territory of adulthood.

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Book Excerpts

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The Meaning of Consuelo
FULANO, NA, n.m.f.: So-and-so, what's-his/her-name; tart, whore; Mr./Miss/Mrs. NobodyMaría Sereno walked in his leisurely way toward the cart selling piragüas that appeared on our street corner every day at noon. The fulano of our neighborhood, María Sereno, born Mario Manuel Santiago Sereno, wore tight red pedal pushers and a man's T-shirt over an obviously empty brassiere. His image contains my earliest understanding of a key phrase in my family's conversations: el fulano or la fulana; used to refer to the outsider, he or she never called by name.

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Praise for The Meaning of Consuelo

A Puerto Rican girl negotiates her own terms of survival in this fierce and funny novel by "a writer of authentic gifts, with a genuine and important story to tell." --The New York Times

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About the Author

Judith Ortiz Cofer

Judith Ortiz Cofer is a native of Puert Rico. She is a poet, essayist, and novelist whose books include The Latin Deli and The Line of the Sun, which the Los Angeles Times called "magical." She is the Franklin Professor of English and Creative Writing at The University of Georgia.

Judith Ortiz Cofer

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The Meaning of Consuelo
A Novel
Judith Ortiz Cofer

Award

American Library Association Best Books for Young Adults, Americas Award for Children's and Young Adult Literature, Winner

e-Book Agency

e-Book Agency
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
November 2003
e-Book Agency
ISBN: 9781466808324
ISBN10: 1466808322
Young Adult Fiction200 pages
Age Range: 14 and up
Grade Range: 9 and up
$7.99
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Farrar, Straus and Giroux

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