AP Skills in Mexican American Literature

By Isai Cabrera

This post was contributed by a student in READ 6310 Children’s and Adolescent Literature.

When reading La Linea I was taken back to my Mexican American Studies courses at a time that I discovered my passion for Chicano Literature, Chicano Movement, and Chicano History.  This type of literature breaks through the ordinary English Language Arts class, Reading Class, or Social Studies class, and cuts at the heart of Political Agenda, Religious Dogma, and Cultural Revolution still relevant today.  It allows the reader to flow through aspects of today’s Political, Socio Economic, and Social Issues and not just stagnate in a story plot. We can tie all these high interest-engaging themes to AP skills that our students can master. 

 The novel allows English teachers to teach the skill of Juxtaposition within the main characters-Miguel and Elena.  The comparison that the author uses to show the different qualities each possess lends to allowing students to identify juxtaposition within Mexican American literature.  In the past when I have tried to use a short story, novel, or poetry to teach juxtaposition my students can only show mastery if the skills is isolated.  I have found this year after reading the short story La Linea my students seem to be more receptive to the concept of Juxtaposition.   This demonstrates that Mexican American reading can be used for Pre AP curriculum.

Another AP skill that I taught using the short story was the use of minor characters within the story to build the plot-character types in the genre of fiction.  In AP classes students must know the importance of minor characters to the plot, conflict, and theme to any story.  The author utilizes the minor characters in the story enhance and move the characters along with the plot and subplot, and add to characterizations of the main characters.  Our students should be able to know the types of characters in the genre of fiction such as dynamic, flat, round, foil, static, and stock characters adheres to the short story.     

Javier seems to play off very well next to Miguel as a foil character-which is the opposite qualities of the protagonist.  Javiers demonstrates “Compadrismo (Camaraderie) or Solidaridad (Unity)” in the short story.  While when we first get introduced to Javier, Miguel already builds a barrier between both. This example among several throughout the short story allows our young readers to master the concept of types of characters in the fiction genre.   

Another type of character we can teach is flat character.  Moises’s is a character that doesn’t go through changes in the story and remains with the same qualities.   We meet Moises as a dry straight to the point coyote and remain the same through the reading.  As we present these examples our students can become familiar with types of characters. 

Another AP skill we can teach is allusion. For example the allusion to Moses from the Bible is created by the author with Moises is leading his people (Miguel, Javier, and Elena) to the Promised Land –the United States.  Moises’ journey through the desert is like Moses who led the Jewish people for forty years, and Moises also has the same fate as the biblical figure, which was not to reach Israel (or in their case the United States). Both figures die before getting their people to the Promised Land, even though they guided them to it.  Our students can make connections and start to master these skills with the use of a short story.

I strongly believe that we can teach AP skills to our students with literature that can relate to their culture, identities, and language.  Teachers, we can definitely start to introduce these skills to our students and can set them up for success in the future.

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