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Chicano literature

challenges + ideas + resources

Teachable Texts

Always Running by Luis Rodriguez is an autobiographical account of one man's journey from gang life to peacemaker. He tells his story in order to bring awareness to the problem of gangs and to help his son avoid them. by Jeff Patterson

Barrio Boy by Ernesto Galarza is an intriguing tale of how families slowly migrated from Mexico to the United States. Galarza gives us a story that focuses on the historical and psychological aspects of the journey. This article contemplates whether high school students will become engaged in Barrio Boy's indigenous flavor. by Peter VanGorp

Bless Me, Ultima, by Rudolfo Anaya, is a fictional, yet autobiographical, Bildungsroman story of Antonio Marez-Luna, who grows up in New Mexico during the time period of WWII. This article deals with questions about authenticity of experience and the use of the Spanish language and is based on teaching Bless Me, Ultima to a group of ninth or tenth grade high school students. The article also includes ideas for prereading and creative writing in conjunction with the novel. by Lindsay Steenbergen

Cool Salsa: Bilingual Poems on Growing Up Latino in the United States edited by Lori M. Carlson
Cool Salsa is one of my favorite finds from browsing the Spanish language section at Barnes and Noble. It's a $5 collection of poems in a small paperback, and it includes pieces by YA authors including Sandra Cisneros (author of The House on Mango Street) , Cristina Moreno, Luis J. Rodriguez (author of Always Running), Gary Soto, Ana Castillo, and Judith Ortiz Cofer (author of An Island Like You). All of the poems are written in both English and Spanish, with a note as to the language of the original piece as well as the translator. There is also a glossary of "untranslatable" slang, as well as cities and people referenced, in the back of the book. Finally, the book contains a brief description about each of the twenty-nine authors included. It's worth the $5 purchase! by Lindsay Steenbergen

The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros, is a Bildungsroman written about Esperanza, a young Latino girl living in Chicago. This article addresses the issues associated with teaching this book in the classroom, specifically with the style and structure of the novel as well as cultural issues that may cause students to have a difficult time understanding the text. Along with these challenges in teaching, the article also addresses ideas for instruction that will aid student comprehension and appreciation of the material. by Kyle Krol and Christy Yingling

Jesse, by Gary Soto, is the coming of age story of Jesse, a young Chicano man, who leaves home during his senior year in high school to live with his brother, Abel. Set in Fresno, California during the Vietnam War era, these two young men work in the fields on the weekends and go to the community college during the week, hoping to better their lives through education. This article focuses on the challenges that may arise when teaching this text to 7-10th grade students. Readers will also find teaching ideas and resources to help meet these challenges. by Nicole Ziegler

The Last of the Menu Girls by Denise Chavez follows the maturation of Rocio Esquibel from an imaginative girl interested in the stories of those around her into a young adult who becomes engaged in creating a story of her own. This text can be enjoyed from ninth grade up to freshman English.
by Michelle Ringle-Barrett

Always Running: Living La Vida Loca by Luis Rodriguez
The story of Luis Rodriguez, an activist and former gang member. Rodriguez wrote Always Running in an attempt to keep his son, Ramiro, from making the same mistakes he did growing up as a gang member.
by Mandy Browning

Also recommended:


And the Earth did not Devour Him by Tomas Rivera
Before We Were Free by Julia Alvarez
How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents by Julia Alvarez
Sammy and Juliana in Hollywood, Saenz, Benjamin Alire (2006)
When I Was Puerto Rican by Esmeralda Santiagoexternal image cleardot.gif


(be sure to preview for appropriateness in your setting)
"La Bamba" dir. Luis Valdez (1987)
Banging For the Calles: The Roots of Chicano Rap
"Chicana" dir Silvia Morales (1979)
La Familia, dir. Gregory Nava (1995)
Frontierland dir Jesse Lerner (2005)
"I am Joaquin" dir Luiz Valdez (1969)
"El Norte" dir Gregory Nava (1983)
"Salt of the Earth,"dir Herbert Biberman (1954)
"Zoot Suit" dir Luis Valdez (1981)