LITR 5731 Seminar in Multicultural Literature

American Immigrant Literature


Part I

How I came to this topic

v  American Minority Literature course

o   Bless Me, Ultima

o   Woman Hollering Creek

v  Independent Study

o   Finding other texts for the classroom

o   Class presentation

Teaching Mexican-American Literature

(see Objective 5)

·        Why incorporate it in the classroom?

Education is deeply implicated in the politics of culture. The curriculum is never simply a neutral assemblage of knowledge, somehow appearing in the texts and classrooms of a nation. It is always part of a selective tradition[.] . . . [T]he decision to define some groups’ knowledge as the most legitimate, as official knowledge, while other groups’ knowledge hardly sees the light of day, says

something extremely important about who has power in society. (Apple 1996, p. 22 qtd in Vasquez)

·        What can be gained by incorporating it?


“... ‘multi-directional cross-cultural acculturation’ was taking place in the classroom as students learnt about the Chicano culture in an educational space that did not uphold white, middle class American values as the pinnacle of achievement.” (Vasquez 919)

·        What makes a “good” text?


o   Emic constructs: things expressed in terms that are meaningful to native members of a culture

o   Etic constructs: things expressed in terms that are meaningful to outside observers of a culture



“…many books seemingly affirm a Hispanic perspective, such as through the sporadic use of Spanish terms or names, but the frequent use of stereotypes does not inspire the development of a critical perspective. The interpretation of Latinos in multicultural literature sometimes accommodates the popular discourses of predominantly white readers…” (Godina, McCoy 174)

Lists of Popular Texts

·        Frankson, Mary Stewart. “Chicano Literature for Young Adults: An Annotated Bibliography.” The English Journal, 79.1 (1990): 30-38. National Council of Teachers of English. JSTOR. Web. 14 June 2010.

(Stable URL:

·        University of New Mexico PhD Reading List for Chicano/a Literature


Questions to Consider

1.      Can Mexican-American literature fit into the category of immigrant literature? If yes, give examples of how it follows the course objectives and formula you’ve seen in previous readings. If not, what is it, and is it possible to categorize at all?


2.      Does it have a place in the literary canon,


  • i.e. being taught in more “mainstream” classes like Forms of Literature or American Literature, or


  • should it remain to in “multicultural” classes like Immigrant Literature or Minority Literature?


3.  What is your experience studying Rudolfo Anaya (Bless Me, Ultima), Richard Rodriguez (Hunger of Memory), and Sandra Cisneros (The House on Mango Street)—texts that often constitute the Mexican American "canon" in the USA's literary curriculum?


4.   What strengths and limits to this canon?


5.  How do today's texts reinforce or diversify that canon?



Part II

Short stories

“Last of the Menu Girls”

Ø  The story portrays a wide range of Mexicans in America—new immigrants, those who straddle the line between the two cultures, and the fully assimilated, as well as illegal and legal immigrants. What attitudes do the members of these groups have towards each other? What about the Anglos—where do they fall? What about Rocio?


Ø  How do Rocio’s experiences stack up to other immigrant narratives you’ve read this semester? Was it a case of “same story, different names” or was it unique in some way?

Ø  Adolescents seem to crop up often in immigrant narratives. Why is this so common? Consider possible parallels between coming of age narratives and immigrant narratives (see Objective 2c).


o   Cielito Lindo YouTube Video; translation of lyrics; Why is this song mentioned three times through the story?


“Romero’s Shirt”

Ø  The allure of the American Dream figures prominently into this story. How has harboring this ideal affected Romero? Consider the Langston Hughes poem “A Dream Deferred” and how this might relate to Romero; also Objective 3.


Ø  What is the significance of Romero’s shirt, both to him and to the story?

o   Pendleton Wool Plaid Shirt


Ø  Ambiguous ending—does anything change for Romero?



“La Tere Smelled of Fish”


“Poema para los Californios Muertos”

Ø  History of Californios


Works Cited and Consulted

Godina, Heriberto, and Rachelle McCoy. "Emic and etic perspectives on Chicana and Chicano multicultural literature." Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy 44.2 (2000): 172. Education Research Complete. EBSCO. Web. 21 May 2010.

Vasquez, Jessica. "Ethnic identity and Chicano literature: How ethnicity affects reading and reading affects ethnic consciousness." Ethnic & Racial Studies 28.5 (2005): 903-924. Academic Search Complete. EBSCO. Web. 24 May 2010.

Leal, Luis. "Into the labyrinth: Chicano literature in search of a theory." Aztlan 22.2 (1997): 107. Academic Search Complete. EBSCO. Web. 24 May 2010.

Martin-Rodriguez, Manuel M. "'A Net Made of Holes': Toward a Cultural History of Chicano Literature." 1. Duke University Press, 2001. Education Research Complete. EBSCO. Web. 21 May 2010.

Chavez, Denise. The Last of the Menu Girls. New York: Vintage Contemporaries, 2004.

Gilb, Dagoberto. The Magic of Blood. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1993.

Urrea, Luis Alberto. The Fever of Being. Albuquerque: West End Press, 1994.

Ramazani, Jahan and Richard Ellmann (eds). The Norton Anthology of Modern and Contemporary Poetry, Volume 2. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2003.