75 pages 2 hours read

Sandra Cisneros


Fiction | Novel | Adult | Published in 2002

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Memory, Forgetting, and the Writer as Family Historian

Memory—and the struggle to recapture memory—is a defining theme throughout Caramelo. The novel makes frequent allusions to the impossibility of separating storytelling gestures (narrative “embroidery”) from lived experience. For example, in Chapter 28, Lala describes the uncanniness Soledad feels as she reflects back on her experiences later in life: “These things she saw with her own eyes! It was only later when she was near the end of her life that she began to doubt what she’d actually seen and what she’d embroidered over time, because after awhile the embroidery seems real and the real seems embroidery” (35). In other words, Caramelo develops memory as a combination of storytelling and lived experience (because neither, ultimately, is more “real” than the other).

As a semi-autobiographical novel, Caramelo is especially interested in the role of the writer as a family historian (a documenter of family memories). From the beginning of the novel, Lala reflects—upon seeing a family souvenir photo from which she was absent—that she feels like the photographer of the photo, thus the documenter of the moment. Amidst these reflections, she significantly notes that, in Spanish, a souvenir photo is often referred to as un recuerdo—a memory.