P.S. 150, Bronx, New York

Unlike other American children, I started school when I was six years old. I knew no English, which is ironic since I was born in New York. My parents were Puerto Rican immigrants and spoke only Spanish at home, so I had little opportunity to practice the language I needed to speak at school. Mami listened to the Spanish radio station, WADO, and watched the Spanish TV network, Telemundo. Papi knew just enough English to get by as an apprentice at a printing plant during the day and an office cleaner at night, but since I was usually asleep by the time he came home, we did not practice our English together. Added to this, my eyesight was poor, though my parents didn’t know. My teacher sent notices home suggesting I have my eyes examined, but Mami always threw away letters from school, along with the loose papers and envelopes inserted in my notebook. Caring only for neatness, she even threw away my artwork. She never checked for homework, either—the homework I never did. How could she? She couldn’t read, write, or speak English.

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