What one text, written by someone specifically from South America/Latin America, do you really enjoy and believe should be taught to high school students?
Please also briefly state why you feel this text should be included in the high school curriculum. The text can be any genre (poetry, novel, nonfiction, fiction, humor, drama, etc.).
I am looking to include a broader range of authors and texts in my students' curriculum and expose them to lesser studied individuals. Thank you!
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I teach elements of Pablo Neruda's work alongside sections of Isabel Allende's. Both are from Chile and both are directly related to the time period of the Pinochet coup and the events surrounding it.
I like teaching them both together because 1) students know virtually nothing about either Chile or the coup, and 2) Because they are both so good in different styles of writing. It's the perfect integration opportunity across two subject areas, history and literature.
I also have had very good luck with Allende's House of the Spirits. Isabel Allende knows how to tell a good story that can hook even the most reluctant of readers. The novel contains magic realism, strong female characters, and dynamic male characters against an ever changing political landscape in Chile. Students learn much about Pinochet, President Allende's assassination, the rise of socialism, and the tension among various social classes.
Another work that I'm using with my IB seniors is Gabriel Garcia Marquez's One Hundred Years of Solitude. In fact, I just finished rereading it over the holiday, and I enjoyed it as much the fifth or sixth time as I did the first. Students seem to enjoy this novel. Once they get past the names (and who really ever does, and isn't that part of what makes the novel work?), students find it surprisingly easy to read. It is more humorous than Allende's novel, but much, much darker. It can be read on so many levels that essays on it tend to be quite strong.
If you do decide to include Neruda, you might consider the film The Postman, directed by Michael Radford. It is a beautifully crafted subtle portrayal of Neruda's stay in a small Italian island in the Mediterranean and of the postman who befriends him. It serves as a nice introduction to poetry and its effect on ordinary lives. Some students may find the film slow, but most will enjoy it.
I actually teach Neruda's poetry already because I enjoy his writings so much (who can't love his "Ode to my Socks"?). I have not yet read One Hundred Years of Solitude, though I hear many good things about it. I will definitely look into Isabel Allende's works. I love incorporating history and film into my lessons, so I appreciate both of your postings - thank you!!!
Depending on the gender make-up of your class, some of the novels of Julia Alvarez are excellent for girls, in particular Yo! and The Time of the Butterflies. I have had success with some of the shorter fiction of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, especially "The Handsomest Drowned Man in the World," although personally speaking one of my favourite Latin American authors is Mario Vargas Llosa, who recently one the Nobel Prize for Literature. You would have to use his work with a mature group, however.
The Colombian writer, Gabriel Garcia Marquez and the Argentinan Julio Cortazar are favorites of mine because their short stories, "The Old Man with Enormous Wings" and "House Taken Over" contain preternatural elements that both interest students and cause them to think in uncustomary ways. Marquez's story of the old man that suddenly appears in a town, an odd creature with huge black wings, illustrates the human tendency to define the unknown in limited and mundane ways. After reading and discussing this story, many students who have been intrigued by the magical realism, realize how people confine their imaginations and feelings.
I would definately teach Isabel Allende's works! I've especially enjoyed her Zorro series of books. They bring early Spanish and California history to life, and the students find them exciting and entertaining.
After reading Zorro, two of my students took their pencils and engaged in a mock sword fight, complete with the stance. It was entirely spontaneous and showed me they were impressed with the story.
Julia Alvarez's How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents is a beautiful novel. I've not taught it myself, but I've traveled extensively in Latin America and this novel not only captures the familial and cultural essence of Latin America, but it also tackles the stress and anxiety of leaving Latin America to live in the US. The characters are rich and some chapters could even be taught in isolation as vignettes (similar to The House on Mango Street). The story is told from each sister's point of view, so that's another great way to teach POV.
Hope this helps! :)
I love Pablo Neruda's poetry and "discovered" it in Yuma, Arizona, while my husband and I were stationed there at the USMC base. My students, mostly Spanish speakers, brought his poetry to the classroom, and I was blown away! Since then, my classes read many of his love sonnets right along with Shakespeare's, and I use "Ode to My Socks" as a close-reading exercise. It's fun, and wonderful.
I have also enjoyed The House on Mango Street (Cisneros?), although I have never taught it in class; and "The Old Man with Enormous Wings" is in our sophomore literature book short story unit. The students always enjoy reading that story.
"The Old Man with Enormous Wings" sounds fabulous! And I have also considered using How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accent, though I haven't read it yet, either. I teach in a Title I school, where the majority of students are at or below poverty level and our population is approximately 60% Hispanic and 40% African American. Thank you for all of the great recommendations! I love integrating new works (and reading them for myself, too!).
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