Teaching Hispanic Literature in High School
Implications for teaching in the high school:
At the high school level it is typical to have a diverse student population both physically and cognitively. At this level students are expected to read and learn the â€śclassicsâ€? that are published in the anthologies or British and American literature. One reason that Hispanic literature is not being taught in the high school core curriculum is because it is almost completely excluded from our anthologies. Many teachers and administrators operate their classrooms based on what is found in the anthologies and unknowingly deprive their students of another perspective on America and another valid contribution to American literature. Patricia Ann Romero argues that excluding works that are not found in anthologies harms students in her article â€śExpanding the Circle: Hispanic Voices in American Literatureâ€? found in The English Journal: â€śA curriculum comprised only of standard anthology works fails to provide students the opportunity to see the intimate connections between literature and culture that naturally occur when a poet [...] who comes from outside the dominant culture and, hence, outside the anthology, is brought into classâ€? (26). Teaching Hispanic literature gives it value. Its exclusion from anthologies does not mean that it should be barred from our classrooms as well.
There are many examples of classic Hispanic literature that could be incorporated at the high school level. To begin, The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros, probably the most widely taught Hispanic novel, should be taught in the high school classroom if it has not been included in the middle school curriculum. This novel correctly targets the growth of adolescents and deals with universal issues that affect all students. Also, When I Was Puerto Rican by Esmeralda Santiago is an autobiography of a young girlsâ€™ struggle with identity in two different worlds (Puerto Rico and New York City). This novel accurately depicts the conditions and situations for many Puerto Ricans who move to the United States. Santiagoâ€™s novel honestly looks at politics, adolescence, and family. For high school students who have never traveled outside of the United States, this novel is a great first hand relation of the hardships and prejudice one can encounter.
You may be thinking, what about world literature classes, donâ€™t they teach hispanic literature along with other cultures? This is true in some instances; however, at some schools a world literature class is not required and students can graduate from high school without ever experiencing literature from diverse cultures. Also, if a student is taking a multicultural literature class, the books are chosen without a clear cultural connection many times, and if this happens they lose their power. Unfortunately, a typical trait of multicultural/world literature classes is that they try to cover every ethnicity with one sweep. For example, they will pick one novel, play, or set of poetry from one culture and then another novel from a different culture. Many times these curriculums lack any coherence except for the fact they are all pieces of multicultural literature. Instead of choosing one Hispanic novel to include and one African American novel, etc. we should try to tie our literature together under one overarching theme. For example, the theme of identity could work and be applicable across the different culture. Another good topic could be immigration. A class could look at different immigrant experiences through out different cultures. It would also be effective to link this topic to what students are studying in their social studies classes and foreign language classes. Making connections helps students comprehend and see that the world is really a complex network of cultures and people.
A few recommendations I would give to high school teachers looking to incorporate Hispanic literature into their classrooms are to think outside of the anthology. There are many great Hispanic-American and Hispanic poets and novelists that can enrich a curriculum. Authors like Julia Ă?lvarez and Sandra Cisneros are excellent examples of authors that are â€śoutsideâ€? of the traditional anthologies. Additionally, reading works by Gabriel GarcĂa MĂˇrquez, Isabel Allende, and Pablo Neruda (all Hispanic writers) should be considered when looking at great works of fiction or poetry (although be careful when reviewing some of these works for appropriateness in the high school classroom!).