Identity is one of the first themes we’ll be tackling in our upcoming posts for the new year. It’s an important topic that connects to so much of what we do in education, but it’s not always an easy one to discuss or teach about. In our posts we hope to both provide resources to help bridge this topic in the classroom, and generate dialogue on how you as educators are already talking and teaching about this topic in your classrooms. It’s certainly a theme that remains relevant throughout the year, but it was always one that I liked to address from the very beginning of the school year. It easily lends itself to other topics common to August and September lessons, such as how to be yourself, acceptance, and community. It also provides a nice way to lead in to Hispanic Heritage Month (another theme we’ll be writing about soon) which allows for the discussion of identity to continue in a more specific context.
First, please allow me to say that I hope you are celebrating Martin Luther King, Jr. Day well. Usually, we wouldn’t post on a holiday. However, the issue of civil rights is so large that there is simply so much literature available for review that relate to the topic. So today, we have a book for you! For this week, we will be discussing Teresa Cárdenas’s Letters to My Mother. While it does not necessarily deal with civil rights, this book includes a discussion of race and racism that is appropriate for young adults.
Letters to My Mother is a book about a young, Afro-Cuban girl who goes to live with family members after the death of her mother. In this book, this young lady communicates with her dead mother by writing letters to her. In fact, this whole book is a compilation of letters, each of which begins with “Mamita” or “Querida Máma.” While it is clear that the narrator is struggling to deal with the loss of her mother, she is finding it equally difficult to acclimate to her new surroundings. While the death of one’s mother, especially at a young age, is a difficult situation, her family’s attitude towards her compounds the issue. This young lady is taunted by her own family because of her dark skin. They utilize stereotypes regarding people with dark skin, and they make her feel like an alien in her own skin. As she begins to find a life outside of her family, she meets other young people who are also suffering from issues of identity. Continue reading
Well, it’s that time already! It’s time for Thanksgiving, and while we here at Vamos a Leer encourage people to take a step back from traditional notions of this holiday that promote stereotypes, we do acknowledge that this holiday does represent family time. In keeping with this tradition, this week I would like to share with you a book about what happens when family comes for a visit and they are different than us–or so we think.
This week, we will be looking at Alma Flor Ada’s Dancing Home. In this book, which is most appropriate for students in grades three to six, ten year old Margie is ecstatic to learn that her cousin, Lupe, will be coming from Mexico to join their family in Texas. However, once Lupe (who doesn’t speak English) joins Margie in her class, Margie becomes embarrassed by her cousin. Margie has worked hard to fit in with her classmates and to be an American, but by default Lupe’s arrival reminds people of Margie’s Mexican roots. While one girl tries to shake the image of what it means to be Mexican, the other tries to adjust to life in the United States. Continue reading