Something Could Happen to You



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PreAP English II

Mid-Year Exam Study Guide & Answer Guide with Rationales


Something Could Happen to You


from Almost a Woman by Esmeralda Santiago

We came to Brooklyn in search of medical care for my youngest brother, Raymond, whose toes were nearly severed by a bicycle chain when he was four. In Puerto Rico, doctors wanted to amputate the often red and swollen foot, because it wouldn’t heal. In New York, Mami hoped doctors could save it.

The day we arrived, a hot, humid afternoon had splintered into thunderstorms as the last rays of the sun dipped in to the rest of the United States. I was thirteen and superstitious enough to believe thunder and lightning held significance beyond the meteorological. I stored the sights and sounds of that dreary night into memory as if their meaning would someday be revealed in a flash of insight to forever transform my life. When the insight came, nothing changed, for it wasn’t the weather in Brooklyn that was important, but the fact that I was there to notice it.

One hand tightly grasped by Mami, the other by six-year-old Edna, we squeezed and pushed our way through the crowd of travelers. Five-year-old Raymond clung to Mami’s other hand, his unbalanced gait drawing sympathetic smiles from people who moved aside to let us walk ahead of them.

At the end of the tunnel waited Tata, Mami’s mother, in black lace and high heels, a pronged rhinestone pin on her left shoulder. When she hugged me, the pin pricked my cheek, pierced subtle flower-shaped indentations that I rubbed rhythmically as our taxi hurtled through drenched streets banked by high, angular buildings.

New York was darker than I expected, and, in spite of the cleansing rain, dirtier. Used to the sensual curves of rural Puerto Rico, my eyes had to adjust to the regular, aggressive two-dimensionality of Brooklyn. Raindrops pounded the hard streets, captured the dim silver glow of street lamps, bounced against sidewalks in glistening sparks, then disappeared, like tiny ephemeral jewels, into the darkness. Mami and Tata teased that I was disillusioned because the streets were not paved with gold. But I had no such vision of New York. I was disappointed by the darkness, and fixed my hopes on the promise of light deep within the sparkling raindrops.

Two days later, I leaned against the wall of our apartment building on McKibbin Street wondering where New York ended and the rest of the world began. It was hard to tell. There was no horizon in Brooklyn. Everywhere I looked my eyes met a vertical maze of gray and brown straight-edged buildings with sharp corners and deep shadows. Every few blocks there was a cement playground surrounded by chain link fence. And in between, weedy lots mounded with garbage and rusting cars.

A girl came out of the building next door, a jump rope in her hand. She appraised me shyly; I pretended to ignore her. She stepped on the rope, stretched the ends overhead as if to measure their length, then began to skip, slowly, grunting each time she came down on the sidewalk. Swish splat grunt swish, she turned her back to me, swish splat grunt swish, she faced me again and smiled. I smiled back and she hopped over.

¿ Tú eres hispana?” she asked, as she whirled the rope in lazy arcs.

“No, I’m Puerto Rican.”

“Same thing. Puerto Rican, Hispanic. That’s what we are here.” She skipped a tight circle, stopped abruptly and shoved the rope in my direction. “Want a turn?”

“Sure.” I hopped on one leg, then the other. “So, if you’re Puerto Rican, they call you Hispanic?”

“Yeah. Anybody who speaks Spanish.”

I jumped a circle, like she had done, but faster. “You mean, if you speak Spanish, you’re Hispanic?”

“Well, yeah. No, I mean your parents have to be Puerto Rican or Cuban or something.”

I whirled the rope to the right, then the left, like a boxer. “Okay, your parents are Cuban, let’s say, and you’re born here, but you don’t speak Spanish. Are you Hispanic?”

She bit her lower lip. “I guess so,” she finally said. “It has to do with being from a Spanish country. I mean, you or your parents, like, even if you don’t speak Spanish, you’re Hispanic, you know?” She looked at me uncertainly. I nodded and returned her rope.

But I didn’t know. I’d always been Puerto Rican, and it hadn’t occurred to me that in Brooklyn I’d be someone else. Later, I asked. “Are we Hispanics, Mami?”

“Yes, because we speak Spanish.”

“But a girl said you don’t have to speak the language to be Hispanic.”

She scrunched her eyes. “What girl? Where did you meet a girl?”

“Outside. She lives in the next building.”

“Who said you could go out to the sidewalk? This isn’t Puerto Rico. Algo te puede suceder.”

“Something could happen to you” was a variety of dangers outside the locked doors of our apartment…



1. Read these sentences from the memoir.

From paragraph 5: "There was no horizon in Brooklyn. Everywhere I looked my eyes met a vertical maze of gray and brown straight-edged buildings with sharp corners and deep shadows.”


From paragraph 6: “Used to the sensual curves of rural Puerto Rico, my eyes had to adjust to the regular, aggressive two-dimensionality of Brooklyn."
Based on the diction used to describe Brooklyn, what can the reader conclude about the author’s attitude toward her new surroundings?

A. The author views Brooklyn as a welcoming and comfortable new home.

B. The author views Brooklyn as a cultural melting pot of a variety of cultures

C. The author views Brooklyn as unfamiliar, uncomfortable, and unsettling.

D. The author views Brooklyn as very similar to rural Puerto Rico.
2. Read the sentence from paragraph 5 of the memoir.

"Mami and Tata teased that I was disillusioned because the streets were not paved with gold. But I had no such vision of New York."



What is the connotation of the phrase “disillusioned because the streets were not paved with gold?”

A. The author was teased about her expectations of easy access to wealth

B. The author was teased about her limited understanding of English.

C. The author was teased about her enthusiasm for her new city.

D. The author was teased about her willingness to always to look for the best.


3. Read the following sentences from the passage.

Later, I asked. “Are we Hispanics, Mami?”

“Yes, because we speak Spanish.”

“But a girl said you don’t have to speak the language to be Hispanic.”

"She scrunched her eyes. “What girl? Where did you meet a girl?”

“Outside. She lives in the next building.”

“Who said you could go out to the sidewalk? This isn’t Puerto Rico. Algo te puede suceder.”

“Something could happen to you” was a variety of dangers outside the locked doors of our apartment"

What cultural conflicts are faced by the speaker as she interacts with others and faces Mami’s reactions to the safety issues of Brooklyn?
A. The speaker experiences a cultural conflict when interacting with the neighbor, who insists the speaker is Hispanic, and with Mami, who feels that both Puerto Rico and Brooklyn are very dangerous.

B. The speaker experiences a cultural conflict when interacting with the neighbor, who insists the speaker is Hispanic, and with Mami, who feels that Puerto Rico is safe, but Brooklyn is very dangerous

C. The speaker experiences a cultural conflict when interacting with her brother, who has an injured foot, and with Mami, who feels that Puerto Rico is dangerous, but Brooklyn is very safe.

D. The speaker experiences a cultural conflict when interacting with her brother, who has an injured foot, and with Mami, who feels that both Puerto Rico and Brooklyn are very safe.


4. Read this sentence from the passage.

“Raindrops pounded the hard streets, captured the dim silver glow of street lamps, bounced against sidewalks in glistening sparks, then disappeared, like tiny ephemeral jewels, into the darkness."



What is the meaning of the word ephemeral as it is used in this sentence?

A. rain-soaked

B. short-lived

C. street-wise

D. heat-charged
5. Which incident experienced by the speaker creates an external conflict that results in an internal conflict?

A. her conversation with her brother and realization that he needs a good doctor

B. her observation of the rain and realization that nothing lasts forever

C. her meeting with her grandmother and realization that clothes are important

D. her encounter with the neighbor and realization that she had to be “someone else”


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