¡Mira Look!: Non-fiction resources for teachers

Used from Flickr Commons user ID: leiris202

Used from Flickr Commons user ID: leiris202

Today I thought I’d do something a little different in ¡Mira Look!. As Katrina and I are getting deep into the posts on Civil Rights teachings, I wanted to tailor today’s post towards non-fiction books for teachers about Latino history and Latino struggles for rights. Next week, I will pick up again with books for the kiddos, but I thought it may be useful to give teachers a foundational understanding of some of the events/themes we’ve been discussing in order to ease the conversation and Q/A the books for kids may present. As such, I’m not going to give an extensive review of each book like I normally do; rather, provide you with some quick information so you can decide what to get from the library or your local bookstore.

  • A Different Mirror: A History of Multicultural America by Ronald Takaki. History is written by the victorious. What gets taught then, is generally still steeped in the language, story and ‘truth’ of those who won the battle for a place on top. Not only is this just brazenly immoral and unfair, it replicates and reinforces the dominant view of people, history and war. It goes a long and destructive way towards creating “us” vs. “them” and “the other.” A Different Mirror looks to change this traditional information dissemination by providing the other side of the story if you will: the history of the US told from the view of cultures that are a few things 1) generally left out of the historical narrative; 2) stereotyped into that traditional narrative; and/or 3) blamed for conflicts in a way that denies the responsibility of the US government (this is rampant in dialogue about Native American and Japanese American history). A Different Mirror discusses the histories of Native Americans, African Americans, Jews, Irish Americans, Asian Americans and Latinos from their viewpoint in order to expose and combat veins of racism, stereotyping and injustices that have plagued the US history and what is written about it.
  • Harvest of Empire: A History of Latinos in America by Juan Gonzalez. Gonzalez takes an interesting approach to the discussion of Latino immigration to the US by analyzing the role of the US in Latin America. By studying the involvement of the US in home countries of the largest Latin American migrant populations (i.e. Cuba, Puerto Rico, Mexico, El Salvador, the Dominican Republic, Guatemala and Nicaragua) he is able to trace a path from US dominance toward migration. While not necessarily a totally unbiased nor comprehensive view of the situations in these countries (as one may get with a more scholarly book by a political scientist or sociologist), Gonzalez provides some great information on US involvement and on what happens when people’s lives change due to forces beyond their control and the dialogue that is then created around their migration.
  • Caribbean Connections: Overview of Regional History edited by Catherine Sunshine and Deborah Menkart. When people ask me what it is I do I explain that I help wonderful teachers, parents and librarians teach about Latin America in a more culturally sensitive and accurate manner. One of the things I always say is, “We’re helping to break away from ‘Columbus sailed the ocean blue and no-one was there and now everyone is Spanish.'” Oh how much more there is dear Columbus. Caribbean Connections offers a succinct history on the peoples of the Caribbean and their past with Spain, Britain and the US through oral histories, essays, poetry, fiction, maps, analysis, primary documents and more. Included with the book are teaching aids. *Bonus: Here is a Caribbean Connections dedicated solely to the Dominican Republic.

I hope these three books can be of use in providing you some solid background information on the history, peoples and struggles of Latino/as. I do want to say that we must be scrupulously careful to examine the angle from which a book is written. It is vitally important that we look at these books in the context of who wrote them, why, when and how (meaning how did they present the information). I believe it is perfectly useful to read a book that only offers one perspective, as long as that is both understood and the competing perspectives are also studied. These books add invaluable knowledge to the vast literature in traditional history texts that tends to offer a fairly narrow view. Just the same though, it would be a fallacy to only use books from this perspective: it is of paramount importance to offer all perspectives, to dissect each of them and see where the holes and falsehoods of one can be filled in and enriched by another.

–Spackling the holes of history one book at a time,


P.S. Any of these books would be appropriate and very useful for a high school classroom.


5 thoughts on “¡Mira Look!: Non-fiction resources for teachers

  1. Interesting books, particularly “A Different Mirror,” which sounds a little like Howard Zinn’s approach to history. It’s important to read everything, including our traditional text books, with a critical eye. The experience of learning about history is like being part of a trial. Students are the jury (the fact finders), who have the role of listening to witnesses (preferably different primary sources), weighing the credibility of the narratives, and then determining what the “truth” is.

    • Good eye A.M.B!! I pulled these books from the Zinn Education project’s web site. It would be a great companion to his books. Your trial analogy is interesting because it brings up what information is given, by whom, how, etc. We all have to learn how to cull through any and all information we come in contact. Devising a classroom activity, “Putting history on trial” would be a great project!

  2. It was crazy to me when I went to college and found out the majority of what I’d learned about “history” growing up was misrepresentation or outright lies. I wish I’d had the opportunity to learn some of these fundamentals and perspectives earlier, and think promoting these resources is so worthwhile!

    • Me too Molly! That Manifest Destiny, which let’s be clear has been the motto of not only the US but Empires the world and time over, was really brought to my attention in the last few years of my undergrad. We really have to start questioning our history books/dialogue with our children at a much younger age.
      Thank you for posting!

  3. Pingback: WWW: The Annenberg Learning Center | Vamos a Leer

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