Julia Alvarez was born in New York City on March 27, 1950, and shortly after her birth moved to the Dominican Republic. When Julia was ten years old, she and her family emigrated to the United States. They had to flee the Dominican Republic because of her father’s involvement in a failed attempt to overthrow the Trujillo Dictatorship. She would later go to college, pursue a career as a writer, and teach English at Middlebury College in Vermont. Julia is a writer of fiction. In an interview with Marny Requa she expresses her responsibility to make people aware of the culture and events during the dictatorship in the Dominican Republic.
Esmeralda Santiago was born in Puerto Rico in 1948 where she spent her childhood. She is the eldest of eleven children. In 1961 she, her mother, and siblings moved to Brooklyn. Esmeralda graduated from the High School for the Performing Arts, then studied at community colleges while working full time. She later attended Harvard University with a full scholarship, earned an M.F.A. from Sarah Lawrence College, is a journalist, and owns a film production company, Cantomedia, based in Boston.
As mentioned earlier Esmeralda had had an immigrant experience. However, according to the Oxford American Dictionary she truly is not an immigrant. Geoffrey Fox expresses in his book entitled Hispanic Nation that there have been many New York Puerto Rican memoirs; however, Santiago’s When I Was Puerto Rican can be closely compared to the experience of many immigrants who arrive in the United States from poorer countries. The title has disturbed some descendants for they feel that it implies that one can cease being Puerto Rican. According to Fox Esmeralda was merely trying to “describe what was for her an obvious transformation.” Recently, Esmeralda was a keynote speaker and discussed writing When I Was Puerto Rican, her first book. She states, “But as I’ve traveled around the country talking about it, people tell me that while the culture I’m describing may not be the same as the one they grew up in, the feelings and experiences are familiar, and some of the events could have been taken from their own lives.” Julia Alvarez also recognizes the similarities among all people and feels it is her responsibility to express and share these insights. She states, “I am a Dominican, hyphen, American. As a fiction writer, I find that the most exciting things happen in the realm of that hyphen--the place where two words collide or blend together.”
I feel that it is important for students to draw from their own experiences and through reading, reflection, and discussion demonstrate the ability to communicate their own opinions. I have designed several critical-thinking questions for students to respond to either orally or in written form. I suggest introducing a Response Journal for this unit alone, so that students can keep their notes and reflections organized. They can then have something to pull from when writing their autobiographies.
Students will discuss the different styles of narration as it relates to the unit
“ I “ = first person
An autobiography is written in first person.
“ I “ = first person persona
A made–up character who tells a story in first person.
Julia Alvarez uses this style of writing.
“ he, she, it, they “ = third person
The narrator is not in the story.