A searing memoir that explores the institutions that defined a Puerto Rican woman and what she unlearned to rediscover herself • “A lushly written, deeply felt investigation into the meanings of home, lineage and selfhood.” —Melissa Febos, bestselling author ofBody WorkandGirlhood
Growing up in the Midwest, raised by a Puerto Rican mother who was abandoned by her family, Jamie Figueroa and her sisters were estranged from their culture, consumed by the whiteness that surrounded them. In Mother Island, Figueroa traces her search for identity as shaped by and against a mother who settled into the safety of assimilation. In lyrical, blistering prose, Figueroa recalls a childhood in Ohio in which she was relegated to the background of her mother’s string of failed marriages; her own marriage in her early twenties to a man twice her age; how her work as a licensed massage therapist helped her heal her body trauma; and how becoming a mother has reshaped her relationship to her family and herself. Only as an adult in New Mexico was Figueroa able to forge her own path, using writing to recast her origin story. In a journey that takes her to Puerto Rico and back, Figueroa looks to her ancestors to reimagine her relationship to the past and to her mother’s native island, reaching beyond her own mother into a greater experience of mothering and claiming herself.
In stunning prose that draws from Puerto Rican folklore and mythology, a literary lineage of women writers of color, and narratives of identity, Figueroa presents a cultural coming-of-age story. Candid and raw, Mother Island gets to the heart of the question: Who do we become when we are no longer trying to be someone else?