Growing Up Puerto Rican Critical Context - Essay

Critical Context

(Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction)

Cooper’s collection is enlightening. The fact that the young people speak for themselves, giving simple, honest accounts of their sometimes very painful experiences, is deeply moving in a way that a more fictionalized account might not be. White young people reading the book must confront the darker side of their own culture, seeing it from an unfamiliar angle. Because these voices are so real and so honest, the speakers evade stereotyping. Because the book does not romanticize Hispanic culture and, in fact, exposes its limitations, it leads readers to a critical analysis of the values of their own cultures and to a consideration of the way identity is and is not tied to a particular heritage.

Teachers and students will find ample material here to encourage reflection on a number of issues central to everyone’s lives. The quest for personal identity is always an issue for young people. The need for success and for self-respect is central to these interviews. Prejudice and its enormous toll is clearly a problem all Americans need to face. The book compels the reader to confront the inadequacy and the hypocrisy of the schools, the police, the courts, and the drug treatment facilities as they were experienced by these young Puerto Rican Americans. The need to find one’s own value system and to accept what is positive and rise above what is not in one’s environment is a need shared by all human beings.