Book review: Salsa! The Taste of Life

by Michelle Cutler

February 27, 2013

Local author Eva Santiago’s stories are inspired by world travel and multi-cultural background.

“There are times when a person is called to starve those things that need to die and to feed those things that need to grow,” she writes in Salsa! The Taste of Life. Her second book, a collection of poetry and fictitious short stories set in locations from Bogota to Bavaria,represents the experiences that flavor Santiago’s life.

Salsa! will have a special appeal for young adults and people who are familiar with Colombian literature. Many of the short stories and narrative poetry pieces, including ‘A Burro Named Churro’, incorporate traditional Colombian humor which may go undetected by non-Colombians.Yet, the stories are simple and written to entertain a universal audience. Parents of young teenagers in any culture will identify with her first story, ‘Capers or Sandals?’

The book is also seasoned with lyrical poetry. ‘Smooth’, one of the shortest poems, sharply depicts a deceived lover and packs a powerful punch as Salsa!’s habanero  pepper. ‘Mi Familia‘ was written as a tribute to Santiago’s siblings, who were separated in youth after her parents died. It is a tender, personal piece that Santiago said represents heaven.

While it’s an easy and overall light read, Salsa!boldly critiques a number of social issues including religion, abortion, and racism. ‘The Race Card‘ is a candid commentary that stems from Santiago’s experience of taking on her mixed-race heritage. Recalling a time when her own family members rejected her because of her mixed race, she wrote:

… that’s when I packed up my bags;

I threw out the board game,

And burned all of their cards.

I learned to travel light,

And I love all people, and treat ’em the same.

I learned to pray, and that’s how I fight.

Parenthood is a prevailing theme throughout the book. Several stories depict imperfect men who try to be good fathers. Santiago also makes an interesting statement, portraying both nurturing and selfish mothers and prompts female readers to evaluate where they personally rest on the spectrum.

Many of the stories are warm and reminiscent of a mother telling a bedtime story. Santiago’s writings are much like the anecdotal conversations mothers often use to share their memories, wisdom,convictions, and warnings with their children. If you are nostalgic for those mother-child moments, or never experienced them and would like to give them a try, you might consider keeping this book handy and reading it periodically. Indeed, it could be like keeping a mom in your pocket.

Perhaps Salsa!’s most surprising ingredients are a few pieces written by Santiago’s daughter, Esther Starr. Readers will be surprised to learn that Starr was only 13 when she wrote ‘Nightmare in Jerusalem‘ and ‘Don’t Go’, as her writing reveals talent and insight beyond her years.

Eva Santiago and Salsa! The Taste of Life will be featured at a book signing event at Book Boutique, 19 W. Pacific Ave.on Saturday, Feb. 23 from noon to 2 p.m.For more information visit

Salsa high res cover


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