In the case of American History by Judith Ortiz Cofer, defend why you think it should be used in the literary canon?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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A defense of American History being included in the literary canon would have to rest in how it represents a narrative that is predominantly absent from the canon.  The narratives of young, female Latinas are not in abundance in the literary canon.  One reason why the work could be seen as needed to be included would rest here.  The literary canon should be representative of as many people's experiences as possible.  A literary canon is a collection of worthwhile works that embody the essence of literature.  Representation and inclusion must be seen as a part of this.  In this, one could make a case of the work to be included because it brings forth a narrative that has not been fully represented in the canon.  Including it would be a step in a right direction as opposed to its silence which would be a step in the wrong one.

Another rationale that can be used to include it in the canon would be that the novel depicts what xenophobia looks like in modern America.  Part of understanding the immigrant experience in America rests in the depiction of inhospitable attitudes and a spirit of nativism that immigrants must not only face but overcome in order for them to achieve "the American Dream."  This is an aspect of "American History" that the work represents.  It depicts a condition in which Skinny Bones must learn to deal with as part of being in America.  She cannot hide form it and her tears at the end of the narrative might be in realization of this element.  Through including this in the canon, one makes a statement about how xenophobic attitudes should not be a part of American identity even though it has been a part of "American History."  The canon should represent our aspirations as human beings.  This means that the literature included in it should address conditions that need to be changed in order "to form a more perfect union."  In this light, a case can be made for including American History in the canon.

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