cover image Becoming Maria: Love and Chaos in the South Bronx

Becoming Maria: Love and Chaos in the South Bronx

Sonia Manzano. Scholastic Press, $17.99 (272p) ISBN 978-0-545-62184-7

Manzano (The Revolution of Evelyn Serrano), widely known for her longtime role as Maria on Sesame Street, chronicles her formative years in a troubled household in 1950s and '60s New York City with a voice that conveys a slow-burning audacity and the internal glimmer of lightness of a true dreamer. She invites readers into the rundown and crowded apartments and neighborhoods where she lived with her mother and her alcoholic, abusive father, both immigrants from Puerto Rico; her siblings; and a smattering of raucous extended family and friends. Though some of her vividly recounted memories are tinged with warmth and humor, many reveal dark realities of poverty and domestic violence. Manzano's coming of age is paralleled by an increasing pride in her heritage and by her witnessing the civil rights and women's liberation movements. After learning of Manzano's stressors and doubts, her hard-won victories feel downright cathartic, be it a kindness from a teacher, entrance to the High School of Performing Arts, a drama scholarship to Carnegie Mellon University, a rise on Broadway, or her fateful audition for Sesame Street. Ages 12%E2%80%93up. Agent: Jennifer Lyons, Jennifer Lyons Literary Agency. (Aug.)