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Hispanic American/Latino(a)
Multicultural, Poetry and Literature for Young Adults

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Read one book by Gary Soto

Soto, Gary. 1991. Taking sides. New York,NY: Harcourt Brace & Company. ISBN: 0-15-284076-1.

Taking Sides is an excellent story which uses code switching. The words are a part of the story without forcing it, it feels natural. The names of the characters are also authentic. The situation is believable and includes a number of themes that many students can easily relate to: basketball, single parent family, changing schools etc. Gary Soto has placed in this book his insider view which strengthens the characters and the story itself. The setting is also familiar to him as he has lived in various parts of California all his life. While the descriptions of the characters are alluded to through clues, one does not really get a detailed description of things like hair, skin tone etc. This doesn't detract from the book but in a way adds to the universal appeal. Students will listen to or read this book easily. In fact, it might be a perfect one to start for the students and let them finish on their own, once they have been hooked.

Read one picture book or poetry collection by Pat Mora

Mora, Pat. 1997. Tomas and the library lady. Illus. by Raul Colon. New York, NY: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. ISBN: 0-679-90401-8.

This picture book is a delightful story of a young boy, Tomas, who migrates with his family from Texas to Iowa each year. His storyteller grandfather tells him to go to the library and find new stories to tell the family. This he does with the help of the library lady. The book itself uses authentic names and presents in a small way the traveling of a family for work each year. It also lets the reader begin to taste the life of the migrant worker. Code switching is used to a small extent. The cover of the book is attractive as well as the illustrations covering one to one and a half of each page throughout the book. This allows the writing to be in the white space and not to detract from the illustrations. The library lady is not described in the text itself but she is depicted in the illustrations as a blonde white lady. While this is a bit of stereotyping, it is not in the text itself. I found the book to be authentic as I know the plight of the migrant worker. I found that the special bond that developed between the library lady and Tomas was an excellent example of what each of us could be doing: learning the language from our students while we show them the fascinating things they can find in books. This can be used as a read aloud or for independent reading.

Read one nonfiction book (with Hispanic focus) by George Ancona

Ancona, George. 1993. Pablo remembers: the fiesta of the day of the dead. New York: Lothrop, Lee & Shepard Books. ISBN: 0-688-11250-1.

The use of real photographs along with the description of the preparation and celebration of this holiday by one family is very interesting and informative. I was taken to the market, I got to see how the decorations were done and their meaning, and even got to join in on the celebration itself. Unfamiliar words were immediately translated for me which made it easier to comprehend. A glossary is also provided at the back of the text. The bright colors found on the cover and on each page makes the book very attractive to the student as well as making the entire experience more real. I really liked the authors notes at the back that also mentioned other parts of the world that celebrate this holiday and their different ways of observing this custom. The color photographs coincide with the reading on that page and help the reader visualize the entire experience, as well as document the authenticity of the celebration. This book could be used to read to a group or as a research source.

Read one children's or YA book of your choice by a Hispanic/Latino(a) author

Alvarez, Julia. 2002. Before we were free. New York, NY: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc.

This book is one of the most informative and enlightening books I read for this section. While we read about the main character, Anita de la Torre, we are taken into the cultural and political activities in the Dominican Republic surrounding the year 1960. The story itself is drawn from the personal experiences of the author so we benefit from an autobiographical as well as a historical fiction base. The characters are well described by skin tone, hair color etc. so they can be visualized by the reader. The plot itself leads the reader through the political oppression of a people and their efforts and risks to obtain freedom for their country. While we are on that journey, we are also a part of Anita becoming a woman and dealing with adolescence, her friends and the members of her family, including all those in the compound which involve employees and neighbors who are a part if her extended family. The authenticity of the experiences is noted in the author notes and in the section of the book that draws from Anita's diary. Also mention of historical happenings in America at the same time help the reader place the story in perspective. This book could easily be taught or read in conjunction with The Diary of Anne Frank which would help students understand that these types of situations are still going on around the world, not just in the past. It will also help them understand political asylum. Stories like this can bring the reality of the desire for freedom much closer to home both in time and in a geographical sense.