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Caramelo by Sandra Cisneros

Ceyala Reyes, the only daughter and youngest of seven children, recounts her family’s history over several generations in Caramelo by Sandra Cisneros .  The Awful Grandmother, the Little Grandfather, Aunty Light-Skin, Uncle Baby, Uncle Fat-Face, Mars and Viva are just a few of the colorful family members and friends we meet as Lala’s story unwinds.

“Like the Mexican saying goes, he who is destined to be a tamal will find corn shucks falling from the sky…”

From the Publisher

Every year, Ceyala “Lala” Reyes’ family–aunts, uncles, mothers, fathers, and Lala’s six older brothers–packs up three cars and, in a wild ride, drive from Chicago to the Little Grandfather and Awful Grandmother’s house in Mexico City for the summer. Struggling to find a voice above the boom of her brothers and to understand her place on this side of the border and that, Lala is a shrewd observer of family life. But when she starts telling the Awful Grandmother’s life story, seeking clues to how she got to be so awful, grandmother accuses Lala of exaggerating. Soon, a multigenerational family narrative turns into a whirlwind exploration of storytelling, lies, and life. Like the cherished rebozo, or shawl, that has been passed down through generations of Reyes women, Caramelo is alive with the vibrations of history, family, and love. Vintage Books

Book Club Party Ideas for Caramelo


If you’ve never danced a cumbia at a quinceanera, listened to mariachis seranade the bride at a Mexican wedding or rocked to Tejano sounds at the week-long Fiesta San Antonio, you’ve missed a great party and an awesome cultural experience.

Bright colors, cascarones, sombreros and great Latin sounds are what this party calls for.   Easy-to-make tissue paper flowers  will add the perfect festive flair to your party atmosphere.

Fiesta Paper Flowers

Tissue Paper Flowers *EASY*

Take 5-8 sheets of tissue paper — solid color or mix & match. Stack sheets and fold into a fan from the short side. The more sheets of paper you use, the fuller your flower will be. The pink flower in the photo above is made with 8 sheets of tissue paper.
Secure center with a twisty tie, wire or string. Lay fan down, and alternating between each side, peel each sheet up one at a time.
Lightly crinkle tissue paper as you lift each sheet. And there you have it! Mix and match colors to your heart’s desire!

Other decorations can include striped fabric to line baskets, a sombrero, a tiled mirror, and chunky candles in clay pedestals.

Mexican Decorations, sombrero

Book Club Menu for Caramelo

When the menu calls for Mexican food, you can expect a feast!  So I would tell the book club to arrive hungry.  I am so excited I get to share one of my family’s favorite meals.


Start off with an easy-to-prepare hot sauce with chips and guacamole as the hungry guests arrived.  This hot sauce is so wonderful and so easy to prepare.

avocados, tomatoes, chips

Carne guisada and flour tortillas are a part of the “stock Mexican ranch food”  Zoila prepares for the Reyes clan in Caramelo.  It is also part of the “stock Mexican ranch food” I prepare for my clan.  I make this meal about twice monthly and we never tire of it.   Pinto beans and Spanish rice complete the meal.   (Occasionally I prepare the healthier corn tortillas to change things up a bit, but we prefer the flour tortillas.)

flour tortillas, mexican recipes

Hope the guests aren’t too full just yet.   Tamales coming up!

book club party Caramelo

Lisa, me and Marilyn wearing our rebozos and ready to dig in to this basket of tamales.  I just have to give a plug to my favorite San Antonio tamale factory, Delicious Tamales.  These tamales are as delicioso as the name implies and can be shipped anywhere in the U.S.


I recommend a creamy Fiesta Flan and crunchy sweet bunuelos to prepare for dessert.   Flan is usually turned out on a plate so the caramel topping is on top, but I kept the flan in it’s individual custard cup and placed each one, adorned with edible flowers, around a sombrero.  (Note on edible flowers:  Use as  decoration only!  They may be “edible”, but taste terrible!)  As for the bunuelos, they’re just plain fun to munch.

Mexican flan, sombrero


I love my margaritas on the rocks, rather than frozen, and more sour than sweet.  Give this refreshing compliment to Mexican food a try!  The margarita isn’t really from Mexico, but the tequila is that goes into the margarita.  And, I’d be shocked if you couldn’t order one at any Mexican food restaurant.  Here’s a bit of interesting history on the margarita.  There’s also some great Mexican beer.  If you go with the beer, have plenty of lime slices on hand for your guests to squeeze into their beer.

cointreau, tequila, limes

Book Club Resources

Discussion Questions for Caramelo by Sandra Cisneros

The following discussion questions are adapted from  For a complete list of discussion questions, click here.

  1. Discuss the similarities and differences between the character of the Awful Grandmother and Ceyala.  What does the Awful Grandmother teach Ceyala about herself?
  2. Candelaria’s skin is describes as “caramelo”.  The Awful Grandmother’s uncompleted rebozo is also called “caramelo”.   What connection is the author making between the two uses of the word “caramelo”?
  3. Does Ceyala come to agree with her father’s belief that family always comes first?
  4. Where you surprised when the secret involving Candelaria is revealed?  Discuss the reactions of the various family members, in particular, Zoila, the Awful Grandmother, and Ceyala.

Author Sandra Cisneros

Sandra Cisneros is an acclaimed author and poet. She was born in Chicago and is the recipient of numerous awards including a fellowship from the National Endowment of the Arts.
Visit Sandra Cisneros at

“Tell me a story, even if it’s a lie.”  A great opening to a wonderfully entertaining story.

I also love the book cover for Carmelo.

Caramelo by Sandra Cisneros

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