This curriculum unit explores the lives of Julia Alvarez and Esmeralda Santiago. These two women write about themselves using different genres and each from contrasting backgrounds. However, they are both considered to be Latina, have had similar immigrant experiences, and settled in New York in the early sixties. It is clear that both women feel torn between two cultures and express themselves with a unique vivaciousness.
Esmeralda Santiago in her autobiography, When I Was Puerto Rican, writes about her childhood growing up in the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. Despite her family’s hardships, Esmeralda is distraught for she must leave behind her father and happy memories to face new uncertainties. Esmeralda’s heartbroken mother makes the decision to move herself and her seven children to New York. This beautifully written memoir tells an immigrant story with such honesty and simplicity.
Alvarez’s How The Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents is a work of fiction; however, the author tells her life story using pseudonyms, first person persona, and third person narrative. The Garcia family escapes from the Dominican Republic to the United States seeking political asylum. She also writes a personal essay entitled Names/Nombres.
This unit comprises all aspects of Language Arts: Reading, Writing, Listening, and Speaking. It also includes objectives and suggestions for integrated Social Studies. Although it is designed for special education students, most children would benefit from the structure provided. The objectives accomplish the use of three modalities of learning: visual, auditory, and kinesthetic. Students learn differently and must be taught accordingly both in theory and practice. I estimate that it will take approximately four to six weeks to present a historical and literary overview, to read, write and discuss When I Was Puerto Rican and specific chapters of How The Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents.