How do I summarize the book Harvest of Empire by Juan Gonzalez, chapter by chapter

Expert Answers
laurniko eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Chapter Four of The Informed Writer, Charles Bazerman says: 

Summary, like paraphrase, allows you to reproduce another writer's thoughts—but in shortened form. In writing a summary, you focus on the most important statements of the original statements of the original passage and eliminate the less important material. Three techniques—selection and deletion, note taking, and miniaturizing—can help you shorten the material. (50)

Keep this in mind as you prepare to summarize Harvest of Empire.

Harvest of Empire by Juan Gonzalez has 14 chapters divided into three sections: Roots, Branches, and Harvest. The first section addresses the history of colonization in the Americans and American political impacts in Latin American countries. The second deals with different groups of Latino people. The third is about Latin Americans and their influence on the culture and politics of America, as well as the issues facing them.

Start by reading a chapter—for example, "Chapter One: Conquerers and Victims: The Image of America Forms." As you read it, determine what his thesis for that chapter is. Gonzalez actually states it directly in chapter one, saying:

This first chapter seeks to probe how both Latin American and Anglo American cultures were shaped from their colonial beginnings in the 1500s to the independence wars of the early 1800s, particularly how each culture took root in seprate regions of what now makes up the United States. (3–4)

Once you've noted the thesis, write it down in your own words. Continue reading, making notes about important points that Gonzalez makes to support the chapter thesis. For example, in chapter one, Gonzalez discusses:

  • The immigration of European settlers to the Americas.
  • The influence of Spanish settlers and how their effects have lasted to this day in nomenclature, Spanish-speaking populations, and culture.
  • How Spain's Catholicism influenced the actions of the Spanish settlers and their interactions with the population. 
  • How Latin and Anglo American cultures were shaped differently based on who colonized each place.

Once you have the thesis and the points, you can write a summary in your own words explaining what the chapter was about. For example:

In chapter one of Harvest of Empire, Juan Gonzalez discusses the rise of Latin and Anglo American cultures from the 1500s to the 1800s. He cites different types of interactions with native populations, different cultures at home, and different colonization strategies as some of the reasons for cultural differences that persist to this day. Gonzalez discusses the decimation of the native populations, laws that shaped the rise of the new communities, and how the wars for independence in the 1800s had an effect on different groups.

Taking this approach to every chapter in Harvest of Empire will help you quickly and easily summarize each chapter of the book.

mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

As the title suggests, the unifying idea of Gonzalez's book is that the United States is solely the cause of the great wave of Hispanic immigration because of its nearly two centuries of colonialism, imperialism, and economic exploitation. Thus, the focus of the chapters is upon explanation of this history, and in summarizing, the student can use Gonzalez's perspective as the directing point to the main ideas of each chapter.

As an example, Chapter 1, "Conquerors and Victims," presents the history of the arrival of the Europeans in the Western Hemisphere; the English and Spanish had the greatest impact. Gonzalez explains how Latin American and Anglo American cultures were formed in this part of the world. Then, Gonzalez describes the sophisticated cultures of the Aztec and Mayans that the Spanish discovered and described,

Some of our soldiers who had been in many parts of the world, in Constantinople, in Rome, and all over Italy, said they had never seen a market so well laid out, so large, so orderly, and so full of people.

Further, Gonzalez explains how the Spanish and the English began to desire to expand their empires. After Spain discovered so much wealth in the New World, Henry VII sent John Cabot, and English explorer to the Americas. Once there, the English also imparted their concepts of government and their domestic conflicts, thus leaving an "imprint" upon the New World.


So, in summarizing chapters, the student should consider answering these questions: When? What? How and Why?  because doing so for each chapter will adequately cover the key ideas of that segment of the book.

bgeorgiev eNotes educator| Certified Educator

When summarizing Harvest of Empire by journalist Juan Gonzalez, it is important to note that he is not a historian, so most of what he writes in his book is a compilation of research done from a journalist’s perspective. The general idea of the book is to examine the effect that the US military and economy has had on Latin America. Therefore, in summarizing each chapter, the student should make certain to recapitulate the most important points the author has made to further emphasize this main idea.

In summarizing each chapter, the student must take into consideration to answer the following questions:

  1. What was the author’s purpose in writing this chapter?
  2. What aspect of the authors main argument did he support in this chapter?
  3. Who are the main parties in the chapter, and how were they affected by the information provided?
  4. How does this information work with the rest of the book?
  5. Why is this important information for the reader of your summary to retain?


I have attached a link to the Purdue OWL website, which has some tips on summarizing books.