Voices in First Person: Reflections on Latino Identity

Voices in First Person: Reflections on Latino Identity

by Lori Marie Carlson, Flavio Morais
     
 

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WANTING TO BELONG. WANTING TO GO HOME. LOVE. REGRET. FAMILY LEGENDS. DREAMS. REVENGE. ENGLISH. SPANISH.
This eclectic, gritty, and groundbreaking collection of short monologues features twenty-one of the most respected Latino authors writing today, including Sandra Cisneros, Oscar Hijuelos, Esmeralda Santiago, and Gary Soto. Their fictional narratives

Overview

WANTING TO BELONG. WANTING TO GO HOME. LOVE. REGRET. FAMILY LEGENDS. DREAMS. REVENGE. ENGLISH. SPANISH.
This eclectic, gritty, and groundbreaking collection of short monologues features twenty-one of the most respected Latino authors writing today, including Sandra Cisneros, Oscar Hijuelos, Esmeralda Santiago, and Gary Soto. Their fictional narratives give voice to what it's like to be a Latino teen in America. These voices are yearning. These voices are angry. These voices are, above all else, hopeful. These voices are America.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"While Laura Amy Schlitz introduced younger readers to voices from a medieval village in her recent Newbery Medal winner, Carlson, editor of the bilingual poetry anthology Cool Salsa (rev. 11/94), returns here with a superb collection of contemporary voices from the Latino community. All the contributors are Latino, and a few, such as Gary Soto and Sandra Cisneros, should already be familiar to young adults. While there is quite a range of style and content in these vignettes, they all evince pride in a cultural heritage that celebrates faith and tradition, food and language, and the importance of family." — Horn Book Magazine
Horn Book Magazine

"While Laura Amy Schlitz introduced younger readers to voices from a medieval village in her recent Newbery Medal winner, Carlson, editor of the bilingual poetry anthology Cool Salsa (rev. 11/94), returns here with a superb collection of contemporary voices from the Latino community. All the contributors are Latino, and a few, such as Gary Soto and Sandra Cisneros, should already be familiar to young adults. While there is quite a range of style and content in these vignettes, they all evince pride in a cultural heritage that celebrates faith and tradition, food and language, and the importance of family."

VOYA - Leslie Wolfson
The title of this collection of poems, essays, short stories, and monologues is at first misleading. One expects the teen-oriented selections to be biographical, written by teens for other teens. In fact, each piece is fictional and has been written by several adult Latino authors. Two of the most famous, Sandra Cisneros and Gary Soto, are well known in young adult literature. Others will not be as familiar to most readers. With twenty-two stories in all, they are written in varying degrees of "giving voice to what it's like to be a Latino teen in America," as the book jacket proclaims. Mujeriego by Michael Mejias for instance, sounds like an actual teen speaking as he sits in custody for burning down a South Bronx social club and killing thirty-three people. Susan Guevara's realistic Last Night I Wanted to Die also explores a teen girl's contemplation of suicide. Other selections do not ring as true in terms of capturing the teen voice. The topics covered in the selections vary: teen pregnancy, crushes, immigrating to the United States, abusive fathers, evil spells, and how to cook a pig. Overall the subjects are serious, although a few have a humorous bent. The book also includes black-and-white photographs, interior illustrations, and short bios of each author. Reviewer: Leslie Wolfson
School Library Journal

Gr 6-10

As in Moccasin Thunder (HarperCollins, 2005) and Red Hot Salsa (Holt, 2005), Carlson has drawn from both established and new writers, focusing on finding Latino voices that speak to contemporary readers. Collected here are poems and short stories whose subjects range from finding God in the clouds to a lust for eating chicken, from someone's fingers on the hole in your jeans in a crowded café to someone asking, once again, "So, where are you from?" This collection sparkles more than its predecessors because of its dynamic design, featuring black-and-white photographs and line illustrations incorporated with the text in a collagelike magazine layout. Few pieces are longer than a spread or two, and the entire package encourages endless browsing, flipping, and double-dipping. Too bad this is a hardcover-only release, and too bad someone thought it needed the odd synopses that float like loud subtitles, prosaically describing and overburdening the pieces. Why does the title "Last Week I Wanted to Die" need a caption that reads: "A girl, plagued by thoughts of not fitting in, contemplates the meaning of death"? Why diminish "Poultrymorphosis" with the explanation "A boy describes eating his favorite food," thereby soddening the appetite? But forgive this book its overzealousness-it still sings, and nudges its readers to do the same.-Nina Lindsay, Oakland Public Library, CA

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781416906353
Publisher:
Atheneum Books for Young Readers
Publication date:
08/26/2008
Pages:
96
Product dimensions:
6.25(w) x 8.38(h) x 0.44(d)
Age Range:
12 - 16 Years

Read an Excerpt

EDITOR'S NOTE

by Lori Marie Carlson

THE TEENAGE YEARS ARE YEARS OF EMOTION, ALL KINDS OF EMOTION.

Love, hate, betrayal, hilarity, loss, longing, feeling mad, feeling sad...these are but some of the emotional states given voice by accomplished Latino authors — among them Esmeralda Santiago, Melinda Lopez, Trinidad Sánchez Jr., Oscar Hijuelos, Sandra Cisneros, and Quiara Alegría Hudes — in this book. In a sense Voices in First Person is a collection of monologues that can be read aloud in the classroom — in theater workshops, social studies, English language labs, ESL, literature courses — or in the privacy of your room, at a community center, in a field of flowers, in the basement of a church, or on the street. But I think this collection of narratives, some short and others long, can also be considered a multitestimonial of lives in inner cities, rural communities, suburbs, and villages. These pieces speak truths — sometimes hard truths — about the incredibly diverse life experiences of youth in America today, Latino or otherwise. With their sometimes biting potency and bouncing lyricism, they are earthy and powerful. They grab at the heart and the mind because they say it like it is. And there is something here for everyone. These fictional narratives are proclamations of pride, cries of despair, funny reflections on food and family, angry shouts, fearful thoughts of giving birth, revelations about God, whispers of hopelessness, declarations of violence, admissions of passion, love, and hope.

RITUAL

by Claudia Quiroz Cahill

A GIRL IMAGINES THE HOMELAND OF HER MOTHER.

Mami, come sit down. The day is over. Let's smile a bit. Do you think you'll have that flying dream again? The one where you open all the glittering windows, float out above the rose-painted casitas, the opaque trees, the soft llama grass, to Bolivia, back to your home, before I was born. I can only imagine the sound of flutes, the sound of women singing. Ancient song. Andean villancicos. A metronome ticks in my chest. Bolivia, Bolivia, the Spanish sounds, Bolivia, my tongue snails over, Bolivia, Bolivia, making my teeth clean. In a room full of notes I rise up, good as new.

RECLAIM YOUR RIGHTS AS A CITIZEN OF HERE, HERE

by Michele Serros

A GIRL OF MEXICAN ANCESTRY WHO WAS BORN IN CALIFORNIA IS FED UP WITH PEOPLE ASKING HER WHERE SHE IS FROM.

I can't get by one week without a white person asking me the Question:

"So, where are you from?"

"From Oxnard," I answer.

"No, I mean originally."

"Oh, Saint John's Hospital,the old one over on F Street."

"No, you know what I mean!"

No, what do you mean? And why is it important to you and why do you really need to know? When Latinos ask me where I'm from, it really doesn't bother me. I can't help but feel some sort of familiar foundation is being sought and a sense of community kinship is forming. "Your family's from Cuernavaca? And what? They own the IHOP on Via San Robles? Wow, we really need to do lunch sometime!"

But when whites ask me the Question, it's just a reminder that I'm not like them, I don't look like them, which must mean I'm not from here. Here in California, where I was born, where my parents were born, and where even my great-grandmothers were born. I can't help but feel that whites always gotta know the answer to everything. It's like they're uncomfortable not being able to categorize things they're unfamiliar with, and so they need to label everything as quickly and neatly as possible. Sometimes when I'm asked the Question, I like to lie and make up areas within the Latin world from where I supposedly originated:

WHITE PERSON #1. So, where did you say you're from?

ME. From Enchiritova, it's actually a semipopulated islet off the coast of Bolivia.

WHITE PERSON #2. Yep! I knew it! I knew it! Kevin, didn't I tell you I thought she was an Enchirito!

WHITE PERSON #1. Tag her!

SPENDING MONEY

by Gary Soto

A BOY, AGE FOURTEEN, IS HOLDING A RAKE. A FEW LEAVES ARE SCATTERED AROUND HIM.

Ben Franklin said something like "A penny saved is a penny earned." I think a lot of people lived by this rule. Let me go back three days.... Uncle Joe was waking up on his couch, poor old Uncle with more hair in his ears than on his head. I walked up the steps, looked in the window of his little house, and I caught him sleeping, two sweaters on 'cause he's so cheap the thought of body heat escaping makes him shiver. I called, "Uncle," and he rose straight like a corpse in a coffin, spooky like. He rubbed his eyes, looked at me, and said, "You were supposed to be here this morning!" You see, my mom and my aunts had told me if I was a really good boy, I should do volunteer work — work for the family, is what they meant. (Pause.) So Uncle let me in the house, real quick because he didn't want the furnace heat to escape — he was tight there, too. He let me in the house to get to the backyard — no gates on the side of his house 'cause that cost money. But first, in the kitchen, he swallowed three prunes like goldfish and said, "You can have one if you want." He thrust a nasty-looking jar at me, and I said, "Nah, Unc, I had my Cap'n Crunch this morning. I'm here to work." (Pause.) So then out in the yard he was asking if he had ever told me the story 'bout how the tips of his boots got run over by a German tank in World War II. I told him, "Yeah, lots of times, and the one about making a broom out of twigs in 1932." All mad, he turned his dentures upside down like fangs. He said, "I don't know how your teeth stay in your face, always talking that way. Do you talk like that with your friends?" I almost said, "Yeah, about the same as you talking 'bout the war." Then those prunes made him fart, and I jumped away and got to work stirring up the leaves for some air sweeter than the wind he just released. He went away, and I raked the yard clean, then poked an orange down from the tree. Uncle came out happy and stood on the back porch. He had put on yet another sweater and righted his dentures so his fangs were gone. "Pretty days don't cost nothing," old Stingy quipped. I twirled the rake and muttered, "That's why you never had a girlfriend. They cost money." He made his bushy eyebrows go up and down, and said, "I didn't hear what you said, but I know it was something smart-alecky." He told me that he was in such a good mood that nothing was going to make him mad, especially a snotty teenager like me. He then started telling me stuff like when to plant tomato seeds, and I made a thousand faces to show how interested I was. He gave me three quarters for my work, and I said, "Gee, Unc, I just might go buy me some tomato seeds." "What?" he asked, and I answered, "Nothing, Unc." Then, with one hand on the rail, he climbed down the porch steps, farting every other one. I backed away and crumpled a leaf in my hand for some neutralizing odor. He gave me a look and said, "Nephew, how far do you think you'll go from the money I've given you over the years?" I looked around the yard, with a smirk playing on my face, and I said, "Maybe to that rosebush there, or far as the orange tree." With that, Uncle turned his dentures upside down again like fangs. He twisted open my palm and rolled those quarters back into the leathery pouch of his tightfisted hand. (Pause.) I don't know who's older, Ben Franklin or my uncle in three sweaters.

Text copyright © 2008 by Lori Marie Carlson

Meet the Author

Lori Marie Carlson is the author of two novels, two landmark bilingual poetry anthologies, and many other young adult and children's books. Oscar Hijuelos is a first-generation Cuban American and the first Latino to win the Pulitzer Prize for fiction. He has written six novels, the most recent of which is A Simple Habana Melody. They live in New York City.

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