When I Was Puerto Rican

Negi Character Analysis

The protagonist and narrator of the book. Negi's real name is Esmeralda; she was given “Negi” as a nickname as an infant because her skin was nearly black. She's the first child that Mami and Papi have together and is four years old when her memoir begins. As a young child, she wants desperately to be a jíbara (a country person, usually of indigenous origin) because she thinks the lifestyle is romantic, but Mami tells her she can't be a jíbara because she was born in the city. Negi is an extremely perceptive child and notices a number of inconsistencies between what she observes and what her parents tell her is true, but she knows that Mami is always right and doesn't ask her questions. As the oldest, Negi gets the brunt of Mami's violence towards the children and, though she usually doesn't fight back, she believes the situation is very unfair and is often angry with Mami. She's a tomboy and loves playing outside with boys, which becomes problematic as she gets older and begins approaching puberty, but she rails against Mami's warnings to behave like a lady since she's “casi señorita” (almost a woman). When Mami gets a job, Negi is put in charge of watching her siblings. Because Negi is still a child herself, she's unable to accomplish her chores and keep her siblings out of trouble in Mami's absence, which makes Negi feel as though she's failing at being a woman. Because Mami moves the children between rural Macún and urban San Juan many times during Negi's childhood, Negi constantly has to “code switch” to try to fit into the culture of her current locale. As a preteen, Negi begins listening to radio soap operas that offer her an escape from her parents' worsening relationship and she begins to wonder what a real, loving relationship is like. She moves with Mami to Brooklyn at 13 and feels betrayed by Papi's unwillingness to fight for the family. Negi hates how urban and violent Brooklyn is and makes it her goal to get out, which she does by getting accepted to the Performing Arts High School in Manhattan. While living in Brooklyn, Negi also discovers that she's strong enough to resist Mami's physical violence, which puts an end to the regular abuse.

Negi Quotes in When I Was Puerto Rican

The When I Was Puerto Rican quotes below are all either spoken by Negi or refer to Negi. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
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). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Da Capo Press edition of When I Was Puerto Rican published in 2006.
1. Jíbara Quotes

Even at the tender age when I didn't yet know my real name, I was puzzled by the hypocrisy of celebrating a people everyone looked down on. But there was no arguing with Mami, who, in those days, was always right.

Related Characters: Negi (speaker), Mami
Page Number: 13
Explanation and Analysis:
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"Does anyone call Titi Merín Esmeralda?"
"Oh, sure. People who don't know her well—the government, her boss. We all have our official names, and then our nicknames, which are like secrets that only the people who love us use."

Related Characters: Negi (speaker), Mami
Page Number: 14
Explanation and Analysis:
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Doña Zena dragged Delsa and Norma into her yard, while I straggled behind, fretting about what had just happened, jealous that, even though my lap had been stolen years ago by Delsa and then Norma, another baby was coming to separate me further from my mother, whose rages were not half so frightening as the worry that she would now be so busy with an infant as to totally forget me.

Related Characters: Negi (speaker), Mami, Delsa, Norma, Héctor
Page Number: 18
Explanation and Analysis:
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2. Fighting Naked Quotes

An older sister! I'd wondered what it would be like not to be the oldest, the one who set an example for the little ones.

Related Characters: Negi (speaker), Papi, Margie
Page Number: 26
Explanation and Analysis:
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Chief among the sins of men was the other woman, who was always a puta, a whore. My image of these women was fuzzy, since there were none in Macún, where all the females were wives or young girls who would one day be wives.

Related Characters: Negi (speaker), Mami, Papi, Provi
Page Number: 29
Explanation and Analysis:
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3. Someone is Coming to Take Your Lap Quotes

In Santurce a jíbara was something no one wanted to be. I walked to and from school by myself, watching the jíbara girl with eyes cast down...

Related Characters: Negi (speaker)
Page Number: 39
Explanation and Analysis:
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The doubt in his voice let me know that I knew something he didn't, because my soul traveled all the time, and it appeared that his never did. Now I knew what happened to me when I walked beside myself. It was my soul wandering.

Related Characters: Negi (speaker), Papi
Page Number: 54
Explanation and Analysis:
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5. Why Women Remain Jamona Quotes

"What do they call a man who never marries?" I asked as we settled ourselves in the front of the publico.
"Lucky," the driver said, and the rest of the passengers laughed, which made me mad, because it felt as if he were insulting me in the worst possible way.

Related Characters: Negi (speaker), Papi
Page Number: 89
Explanation and Analysis:
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I wondered if Mami felt the way I was feeling at this moment on those nights when she slept on their bed alone...whether the soft moans I heard coming from their side of the room were stifled sobs, like the ones that now pressed against my throat...

Related Characters: Negi (speaker), Mami, Papi, Abuela
Page Number: 100
Explanation and Analysis:
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It seemed to me then that remaining jamona could not possibly hurt this much. That a woman alone, even if ugly, could not suffer as much as my beautiful mother did.

Related Characters: Negi (speaker), Mami, Papi, Abuela
Page Number: 104
Explanation and Analysis:
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6. Mami Gets a Job Quotes

But until Gloria asked, I'd never put it together that in order for me and my four sisters and two brothers to be born, Papi had to do to Mami what roosters did to hens, bulls did to cows, horses did to mares.

Related Characters: Negi (speaker), Mami, Papi, Gloria
Page Number: 121
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"I can't count on anyone from outside the family. Besides, you're old enough to be more responsible."
And with those words Mami sealed a pact she had designed, written, and signed for me.

Related Characters: Negi (speaker), Mami (speaker)
Related Symbols: Bras
Page Number: 123
Explanation and Analysis:
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What makes them so good and me so bad?

Related Characters: Negi (speaker), Mami
Page Number: 125
Explanation and Analysis:
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9. Casi Señorita Quotes

She was overwhelmed by what she called "the sacrifices I have to endure for you kids," and my love, expressed in demands, added a greater burden.

Related Characters: Negi (speaker), Mami, Abuela
Page Number: 181
Explanation and Analysis:
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10. Dreams of a Better Life Quotes

Each man who did a double take or pledged to love her forever, to take her home with him, to give his life for her, took her away from me. She had become public property—no longer the mother of seven children, but a woman desired by many.

Related Characters: Negi (speaker), Mami
Page Number: 190
Explanation and Analysis:
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The women suffered. Frequently they were orphaned, brought up by nuns or stepmothers who made them do all the housework. In spite of this, they were cheerful and optimistic, never doubting that if they were pure of heart, life would eventually get better.

Related Characters: Negi (speaker)
Related Symbols: Armando and Ricardo
Page Number: 194
Explanation and Analysis:
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I called up the images of Armando or Ricardo, and with Mami and Papi's shrill fights as background, I imagined a man and woman touching one another gently, discovering beauty in a stubbled cheek or a curl of hair, whispering adoring words into each other's ear, warming one another's bodies with love.

Related Characters: Negi (speaker), Mami, Papi
Related Symbols: Armando and Ricardo
Page Number: 195
Explanation and Analysis:
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Is that what you want? Marriage? What would that do? I've recognized them all. They all have my last name...

Related Characters: Papi (speaker), Negi, Mami
Page Number: 207
Explanation and Analysis:
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It didn't seem possible that he was a good man when he wasn't fighting for her or for us. He was letting us go to New York as if it no longer mattered where we were, as if the many leavings and reconciliations had exhausted him, had burned out whatever spark had made him search for us in swamps and fetid lagoons.

Related Characters: Negi (speaker), Mami, Papi
Page Number: 208
Explanation and Analysis:
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11. Angels on the Ceiling Quotes

I hadn't done any of the things women did to get men interested. I'd been minding my own business at home...It was alarming, and at once I realized why Mami always told me to be más disimulada when I stared at people, which meant that I should pretend I wasn't interested.

Related Characters: Negi (speaker), Mami
Page Number: 239
Explanation and Analysis:
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Men only want one thing, and until then, I thought it was up to me to give it up. But that's not the way it was.

Related Characters: Negi (speaker)
Page Number: 240
Explanation and Analysis:
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12. You Don't Want to Know Quotes

Mami became, even more than before, both mother and father to us. We could count on her in a way we had never been able to count on Papi, Tata, or Francisco, who had made everyone happy for such a short time before dying and becoming a ghost that haunted us all for the rest of our lives.

Related Characters: Negi (speaker), Mami, Papi, Tata, Francisco
Page Number: 245
Explanation and Analysis:
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But more and more I suspected Mami's optimism was a front. No one, I thought, could get beat down so many times and still come up smiling.

Related Characters: Negi (speaker), Mami
Page Number: 247
Explanation and Analysis:
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"Hit me, go ahead. You can kill me if that makes you feel better," I screamed loud enough for the world to hear. I stood in front of her, shaking all over, hands at my sides, martyrlike, fully aware of the dramatic moment that might backfire but willing to take the chance.

Related Characters: Negi (speaker), Mami, Tata
Page Number: 245
Explanation and Analysis:
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13. A Shot At It Quotes

"We don't have time to study the meaning of every word," Mr. Gatti said. Just make sure you pronounce every word correctly."

Related Characters: Negi
Page Number: 261
Explanation and Analysis:
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Negi Character Timeline in When I Was Puerto Rican

The timeline below shows where the character Negi appears in When I Was Puerto Rican. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Prologue: How to Eat a Guava
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The narrator, adult Negi, is in her local Shop and Save examining the guavas. She inspects one that isn't... (full context)
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Negi says she had her last guava on the day she left Puerto Rico. She ate... (full context)
1. Jíbara
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Negi says that she and her family came to Macún when she was four years old.... (full context)
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Later, when Papi pulls up the floor, Negi helps him collect the nails that are still useable. Mami calls for Negi to help... (full context)
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Mami leads Negi to a thicket. A butterfly flies close to Mami's head and she swats it away.... (full context)
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Papi gives Negi some old boards and tells her to put them in the pile of wood for... (full context)
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Negi tells the reader that as children, she and her siblings slept in hammocks hung from... (full context)
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The morning after the termite incident, Negi gets out of bed and runs to her parents, who are sitting behind the shed... (full context)
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Negi wonders why her family lives like jíbaros, but she can't call herself a jíbara. Negi... (full context)
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Delsa and Norma come out for their oatmeal. Negi says that Mami calls Delsa "Muñequita" (little doll) and Norma "La Colorá" (colored one). She... (full context)
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When Papi puts in the new floor, Mami asks Negi and Delsa to find stones to plug the holes in the dirt floor of the... (full context)
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Negi and Delsa creep past Mami, who looks very angry. As they pass her, Mami hits... (full context)
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Several days later, Negi wakes to Mami groaning. Negi gets up and asks Mami if she's okay, and Mami... (full context)
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Negi doesn't understand why they have to leave and thinks that she never put Mami's swollen... (full context)
2. Fighting Naked
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Negi explains to the reader that Mami and Papi surely argued before baby Héctor was born,... (full context)
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Negi goes to look for Mami and finds her behind the house crying. Negi tries to... (full context)
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...comes home, he sits at the table and Mami angrily serves him supper. Mami puts Negi and her sisters to bed, nurses Héctor, and then puts Héctor to bed. Negi falls... (full context)
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...and says she's not stupid. Héctor begins to cry and Mami roughly changes his diaper. Negi notices that Delsa and Norma are awake, and she listens to Mami say that she's... (full context)
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Negi shrieks for Papi to not leave them and Delsa and Norma join the cry. Héctor... (full context)
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Negi often hears Mami accuse Papi of seeing another woman when he says he's going to... (full context)
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Negi thinks about Margie at night and imagines the fun they could have together, since Margie... (full context)
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Papi tells Negi that Margie moved to New York, and Negi whines. Papi gets down and hugs her,... (full context)
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Mami and Papi's fights continue, and Negi and her siblings tiptoe around their parents as to not make things worse. Negi is... (full context)
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Negi wonders how Papi manages to convince Mami to forgive him. Negi knows for certain that... (full context)
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Negi says that when she started school, her world grew bigger. However, she couldn't delve deeply... (full context)
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School also allows Negi the opportunity to compare her family to others in her neighborhood. Some classmates have "bad"... (full context)
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One day, Papi leaves and doesn't return for three days. On the fourth day, Negi arrives at home to find her belongings bundled into pillowcases and a suitcase. Mami leads... (full context)
3. Someone is Coming to Take Your Lap
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Negi explains that whenever Mami gets fed up with Macún or with Papi, she runs away... (full context)
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The following day, Negi enrolls in first grade. Her new school is large with a real playground. Mami tells... (full context)
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Around Christmas, the songs Negi hears coming from jukeboxes change: they're still about women and alcohol, but they have Christmas... (full context)
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One day, Negi's uncle, Tío Cucho, comes with a woman named Rita. Rita wears a low cut dress... (full context)
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One day, Negi asks Mami about the shiny "ribbons" strung up in the neighbor's yard, and Mami explains... (full context)
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A few days later, Negi asks Papi what a sin is. He tells her it's something that makes God angry.... (full context)
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That night, Negi worries that Mami's moans will keep the Three Magi from coming and filling her shoes... (full context)
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Negi and her family return to Macún. Negi is thrilled and wants to run all over... (full context)
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As Mami guts a chicken one afternoon, she calls Negi to come and look at the hen's unlaid eggs. Mami says that the eggs are... (full context)
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Negi introduces the reader to her friend Juanita, who lives down the road and walks to... (full context)
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...lives behind Juanita's house. He's an ancient man and spends his time sharpening a machete. Negi and Juanita sit with him often and listen to his jíbaro stories. One morning, Mami... (full context)
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...getting it and Don Berto's body ready for the wake. At the wake that night, Negi notes how strange it is to see Don Berto's hands holding a rosary and not... (full context)
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Mami dresses Negi in her best dress and they go to Juanita's house. The adults give Negi and... (full context)
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...in preparation to lead the novenas (nine days of prayer) for Don Berto. He asks Negi if she'd like to come, and Mami allows her to go with a sweater. As... (full context)
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...Lola cuddles Alicia one day, she tells her, "someone is coming to take your lap." Negi is at Doña Lola's house to trade foodstuffs, and says that Papi told her they'd... (full context)
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Negi sits in the back yard with her siblings and listens to Mami scream as she... (full context)
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...in the first May rain, and she leads Delsa and Héctor into the rain. Finally Negi and Norma join, form a circle, and sing. The children chase each other and head... (full context)
4. The American Invasion of Macún
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The new teacher, Miss Jiménez, stands in front of Negi's class and they sing a song of English words. Negi says that according to one... (full context)
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...the children, and they convince older girls to watch the younger children outside. Mami asks Negi to watch her siblings. Negi ushers the children outside but sits with Edna on the... (full context)
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...lice and how to prevent their children from getting tapeworms. The mothers are disgusted, and Negi is concerned that she has a tapeworm. (full context)
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One morning, Negi wakes up and feels something wiggling in her panties. She sees that it's a worm... (full context)
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...students that they'll be vaccinated for polio. When Mami fills out the consent forms for Negi and Delsa, she tells them how horrible polio is. On vaccination day, Negi is terrified,... (full context)
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The boy insists that Negi knows nothing about politics, but she can name the governor of Puerto Rico as well... (full context)
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Later, Negi asks Papi what an imperialist is. Papi looks spooked, and tells Negi to not repeat... (full context)
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Negi declares that she's not going to learn English so she doesn't become American, and she... (full context)
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On the first day that the community center serves breakfast, Negi and Juanita line up as the lunch matron asks them to. Inside, the walls are... (full context)
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...with varying degrees of success. She also teaches them the Puerto Rican national anthem, which Negi loves. One day she asks Papi about a particular verse that she finds sad, in... (full context)
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...clothes for herself for later. She pulls out several items of beautiful, barely-worn clothing for Negi, Norma, and Delsa to try on. Norma remarks that their cousins must be rich, but... (full context)
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Negi loves writing letters and relishes the opportunity to write to Tata. When she finishes, Mami... (full context)
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...center offers a new breakfast food: a glass full of peanut butter and hot milk. Negi and Juanita sit and regard their breakfasts suspiciously. They stir their milk and Juanita tastes... (full context)
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...flies with her mouth open, and the matron turns on the crowd and away from Negi. The matron grabs Negi, forces her out the door, and says she needs to tell... (full context)
5. Why Women Remain Jamona
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One Sunday, Mami dresses Negi in her best dress, packs some clothes for her, and tells her she's going to... (full context)
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Papi and Negi pass a woman arranging models of Jesus. Negi thinks the woman looks cold and horselike,... (full context)
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The counterman remarks that the woman is “jamona,” and he and Papi laugh. Negi asks what a jamona is later when they leave the market, and he says it's... (full context)
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At Abuela's house, Abuela greets Negi warmly and inspects her. She then leads Negi and Papi inside her house where she... (full context)
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Abuela shows Negi where she'll sleep and tells her to change into comfortable clothes. Abuela settles in a... (full context)
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Negi begins to cry, but doesn't want Abuela to think that she doesn't want to be... (full context)
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Negi describes Abuelo's sparsely furnished room and then Abuela's opulent room, decorated with Catholic imagery and... (full context)
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...sells oranges on a street corner every day. In the evenings when he comes home, Negi runs outside to meet him and he peels her an orange. (full context)
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On Sunday morning, Abuela hands Negi her good dress and says that they're going to Mass. She hands Negi a veil... (full context)
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Negi thinks the stained glass windows are beautiful and feels envious of the boys helping the... (full context)
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That afternoon, Negi packs her bag and she and Abuela eat lunch. Abuela tells Negi to not change... (full context)
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Abuela teaches Negi to pray and explains bits of the Lord's Prayer to her. She then teaches Negi... (full context)
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Finally, days later, Mami arrives at Abuela's house. Mami is so pregnant Negi can barely hug her. Abuela greets Mami and offers her a chair and lemonade. Mami... (full context)
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...belly and mentions that it's hard with Papi gone all the time. Abuela sternly tells Negi to shower and change. Negi doesn't want to leave Mami and Abuela. She tries to... (full context)
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Negi wonders if men ever talk about their sorrows like Mami and Abuela are doing now.... (full context)
6. Mami Gets a Job
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Negi's family and neighbors prepare for Hurricane Santa Clara, which is supposed to be the worst... (full context)
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After the hurricane, Mami talks with Doña Lola about the damage. Negi's family lost their kitchen shed and their latrine. Nobody in Macún died, but most families... (full context)
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One day, Mami asks Negi to help hook her into a brassiere that's nearly too small. She already squeezed herself... (full context)
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...gets up to go to work and gets the children off to school, but when Negi returns, Mami is at home. Mami explains that Gloria "escaped," which means she eloped. Nobody... (full context)
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One day, Negi and Mami are at Doña Lola's house. Mami tells Doña Lola with pride that she... (full context)
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Tato suggests that he and Negi go play outside. Mami suspiciously allows Negi to go, and Negi fears that Mami knows... (full context)
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Tato refuses to pull his shorts down again. Negi insists she's seen enough of her brothers' penises and therefore doesn't need to see Tato's,... (full context)
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On another day, Negi and Tato are behind a latrine, Tato crouched in front of Negi trying to get... (full context)
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...and Mami run to see what the fuss is about, and Tato tells them that Negi kicked him for no reason. Negi tries to explain what happened, but Mami drags Negi... (full context)
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...lives with her new husband behind her mother's house. Mami goes back to work, and Negi and her siblings spend their days at Gloria's house. One day, Gloria hands Negi a... (full context)
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Gloria asks Negi if she knows where babies come from and how they're made. Negi thinks that she's... (full context)
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...to get a job outside the home, Mami's family begins to attract gossip and resentment. Negi understands that Mami is breaking a taboo, but she doesn't understand it. Mami says that... (full context)
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...proud and happy with her work, though her days are very long. Eventually, Mami tells Negi that she's old enough to help out and be responsible. Negi tries to get her... (full context)
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Negi wishes she could trade places with Jenny, a cousin who's an only child and therefore... (full context)
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...comes home and says that Jenny got a bike and is giving everyone a ride. Negi drops her mop and runs after Delsa. Jenny is showing off her bike as Negi... (full context)
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Jenny lifts Raymond onto the handlebars. Negi tries to tell Jenny that Raymond is too young, but Jenny insists. Negi yells at... (full context)
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Two women shoo the crowd away from Raymond and Negi gathers the rest of her siblings. Someone tears the bike apart and pulls out Raymond's... (full context)
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After school one day, Negi tries to take shelter from the rain under a tree. Negi finally runs home, but... (full context)
7. El Mangle
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Negi tells the reader that her new neighborhood floats on a lagoon filled with sewage. On... (full context)
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Doña Andrea appears at the door and asks what's going on. Mami explains that Negi is afraid of the bathroom, and she and Doña Andrea laugh. Negi cries uncontrollably and... (full context)
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Later, as Doña Andrea feeds Negi, Norma, and Delsa, she tells them that if you hit your mother, you can't be... (full context)
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Negi describes Doña Andrea. She's short and round, and Raymond is scared of her. Her house... (full context)
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When Negi finally gets to go to school, the uniform is ugly and the school is made... (full context)
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Negi stands at the board thinking until Señora Leona asks if she needs help. Finally, Señora... (full context)
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The walk home from school is very long. Negi passes cement houses and wishes she lived in one of them. She watches mothers greet... (full context)
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One day, Mami takes Negi by the hand and points out the pipe connected to the faucet. She leads Negi... (full context)
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Sometimes Mami lets Negi sit on a boat beside Doña Andrea's house. Negi sits in the boat and watches... (full context)
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One day, Mami asks Negi to do something very special. She tells Negi that a woman's baby boy died, and... (full context)
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Negi gets dressed and comments that she looks like she's going to make communion. Mami chuckles,... (full context)
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Negi is so scared she feels like she's floating when they reach the house. Two women... (full context)
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Mami speaks to the women for a minute as Negi keeps saying she wants to go home. Negi then hallucinates that a seagull tells her... (full context)
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Negi tells the reader that she'd never hated going to school before, but she and Señora... (full context)
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Papi appears at the door and Negi runs into his arms. They sit outside and Negi tells him about how mean Señora... (full context)
8. Letters From New York
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Negi listens to a song about a man having trouble in love. She thinks that the... (full context)
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...bar. Mami tells the children to never go in the bar or talk to anyone. Negi again walks to school alone. At night Negi's family sleeps in the crowded space and... (full context)
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...let them. She comforts Raymond one night and vows to find a specialist for him. Negi wishes she could go back in time and never let Raymond ride Jenny's bike. (full context)
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One day, Mami receives a letter from Tata. She gives Negi a personal note from Tata, which is unusual. Negi takes the letter outside to read... (full context)
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Negi hears her parents murmuring in bed one night. Papi sounds angry and gets out of... (full context)
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One day, Negi comes home to see laundry strung up in their front room. Mami explains that she's... (full context)
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Several weeks later, Mami tells Negi that she's taking her to spend a few days with her cousins, Gladys and Angie.... (full context)
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Negi asks Gladys if she has a radio, and Gladys explains that her mother is Evangelical... (full context)
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...before dinner and then Tío Lalo asks Mami how long she'll be in New York. Negi is in disbelief that Mami didn't tell her she was going to New York. Mami... (full context)
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As Negi lies in bed with Gladys that night, Gladys tells Negi about how her parents beat... (full context)
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When Negi and Gladys finish eating the next morning, Tío Lalo presents them with boiled potatoes and... (full context)
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Mami finally returns with presents. Negi gets a yellow handbag with a mirror. Mami gives Angie, Gladys, and their parents presents... (full context)
9. Casi Señorita
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Negi begins babysitting, but stops quickly: an old lady looking in the window catches her sliding... (full context)
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...the house. Though it was once a private home, it was refurbished with pews. When Negi and her siblings enter the churchyard, the ladies declare that Negi is old enough to... (full context)
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Negi mentions her dreams of playing piano to Papi. He and Mami fight over whether she... (full context)
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Mami begins walking Negi to her lessons. She only insists that Negi wear clean clothes, but Don Luis often... (full context)
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Don Luis compliments Negi's dress and Negi begins her scales. Don Luis puts his arms around Negi to reposition... (full context)
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Negi's new home is minutes away from Abuela's house. Negi often visits to eat guanimes, a... (full context)
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After Mami leaves, Titi Generosa comes to stay with Negi and her siblings. Negi likes her a lot: she speaks openly about taboo subjects with... (full context)
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Papi allows this to go on for a while, but one morning he takes Negi to Tío Lalo's house to stay. When Negi asks when Mami is coming home, Papi... (full context)
10. Dreams of a Better Life
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When Mami returns for Negi at Tío Lalo's house, she tells Negi and Angelina that when she returned from New... (full context)
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As Mami and Negi walk to the bus, men stare, whistle, and catcall Mami. Mami ignores them. Negi is... (full context)
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...a golf course and next door to an aunt and uncle with a television set. Negi and her siblings watch Tom and Jerry, Mickey Mouse, Superman, and Tarzan. Rather than watch... (full context)
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Negi gets her own room in the new house, which she's allowed to decorate with cut... (full context)
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Negi tells the reader that love makes people do crazy things, and lists some violent newspaper... (full context)
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As Negi dreams these fantasies, Mami and Papi's relationship gets even worse. Though they've been together 14... (full context)
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One day, a boy named Johannes Vélez offers to carry Negi's books for her. Negi snaps at him, even though she likes when he looks at... (full context)
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Negi asks Mami what to do if a boy offers to carry her books. Mami says... (full context)
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Mami tells Negi to invite Johannes to the house, but Negi starts to cry when Mami mentions that... (full context)
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Negi describes the space under the house, which she and her siblings divide up into clearly... (full context)
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Mami appears with the rest of Negi's siblings and greets Johannes. Negi is embarrassed and, at Mami's prodding, asks Johannes in. He... (full context)
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Negi reenters the living room and asks Johannes if he'd like to "see a tree." Mami... (full context)
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One day Mami leaves Negi at home to watch the children while she takes Edna and Raymond shopping. Negi reads... (full context)
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When Negi goes back outside, the man is lying down with his sombrero over his face. Negi... (full context)
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Negi buttons her blouse and the man walks back towards a rich man's house. Mami asks... (full context)
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The fighting between Mami and Papi escalates even further. Negi hears them breaking things as they yell, but she finds no broken pieces when she... (full context)
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Papi tells Negi that she'll be a teenager next week and explains how Americans came up with the... (full context)
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...begins to prepare for the move to New York. She buys suitcases and decides that Negi, Raymond, and Edna will go with her, while Delsa, Norma, Héctor, and Alicia will stay... (full context)
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Papi drives Negi, Mami, Raymond, and Edna to the airport. He unloads their bags and kisses them goodbye.... (full context)
11. Angels on the Ceiling
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Mami admires the airplane stewardesses and suggests that Negi might want to be a stewardess one day and travel the world for free. Negi... (full context)
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In Brooklyn, Negi's plane lands. Mami gathers her children and they join the exiting passengers. Mami points them... (full context)
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...Mami tells him they're from Puerto Rico, and the driver begins a long speech that Negi doesn't understand. Negi presses her face to the window and looks out while Tata and... (full context)
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...their belongings. Tata leads them into a hallway and into a small room. She introduces Negi to Chico, her brother. He met Negi when she was a child, but she doesn't... (full context)
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Negi describes waking up in their apartment on her first morning in Brooklyn. The ceiling is... (full context)
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Mami takes Negi to Williamsburg. Negi wonders what "kosher" means, and Mami buys Negi pizza. She tells her... (full context)
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Mami takes Negi to school on her first day. Negi has her report card and Mami has Negi's... (full context)
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Mami is impressed with Negi. Negi proudly tells Mami that she can walk home from school by herself later, but... (full context)
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Negi's school is huge and loud, with a confusing social structure. There are Americanos, who are... (full context)
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Negi comes home from school one day to find Mami packed and waiting. Tata helps Mami... (full context)
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The children are all sent back a grade in school to learn English, so Negi is the only one attending junior high. She disobeys Mami once and cuts across the... (full context)
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One day, Negi asks Mami for a bra. Mami laughs and says she can have one when she's... (full context)
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...it gets colder, Tata begins lighting the oven and leaving the door open. One evening, Negi tells a story as she sits by the oven with her siblings, Tata, Mami, and... (full context)
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After school, Negi goes to the library and checks out children's books to teach herself to read. She... (full context)
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Marilyn Monroe kills herself that summer. One day Negi sits at her window, watching the activity at the soft drink warehouse across the street... (full context)
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Negi thinks that she's grown up knowing that men want one thing, and it's up to... (full context)
12. You Don't Want to Know
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Negi tells the reader that she wrote to Papi for several weeks after arriving in Brooklyn.... (full context)
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Though Chico doesn't live with Negi's family, he spends time in their apartment regularly. He drinks all the time and offers... (full context)
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One day, Mami tells Negi that she has to go with her to the welfare office the next day. Negi... (full context)
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Negi often translates for other women in the welfare office. These women are little different from... (full context)
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When Negi arrives home one day with a stack of books, Mami screams at her for being... (full context)
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Negi's neighborhood is especially violent. One day, Don Julio comes home after being mugged in the... (full context)
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Negi realizes that though Mami had enforced similar rules in Puerto Rico to keep the children... (full context)
13. A Shot At It
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During Negi's first week of high school, she takes tests that show that she can write and... (full context)
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Negi walks home with another Puerto Rican ninth grader who knows just as little English. They... (full context)
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Mr. Barone reads the write up for the Performing Arts school, which says that Negi must audition. Negi mentions that she performed in a school show and read poetry in... (full context)
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Every day, Negi walks home telling herself that she's not afraid. She decides one day that she has... (full context)
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Mami buys Negi a red plaid jumper. The night before the audition, she curls Negi's hair, and Negi... (full context)
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In the classroom where auditions are held, three women sit at a table. They greet Negi as she carefully seats herself in front of them. Suddenly flustered, Negi immediately forgets her... (full context)
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Mami asks Negi what happened. Negi tries not to cry. She studies a bulletin board full of newspaper... (full context)
Epilogue: One of These Days
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A decade after Negi graduated from the Performing Arts High School, she returns to visit her mentor, one of... (full context)
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Negi is now a scholarship student at Harvard. She tells her mentor that she's the only... (full context)
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Negi's mentor tells Negi a story: on Negi's first day at Performing Arts, she was absent... (full context)
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Negi's mentor says she has to teach a class, hugs Negi, and tells her to take... (full context)