Laurie Lomask – work-in-progress

1. For my Spanish creative writing class, I would like students to challenge conceptions and stereotypes about poverty (including their own). The assignment I am working on now is a reading of "Es que somos muy pobres" by Mexican writer Juan Rulfo. In this story the author describes the difficult choices an impoverished family has to make, though he only ever says they are poor in the title. I would like students to analyze what is said and not said in the story, and then write their own piece about a difficult decision without explicitly naming the circumstances. 
2. I am struggling with contextual materials for this piece. I have an interview with the author where he talks about how hard it is for people from Mexico to travel to any other country because of economic differences, as well as the role of literature, what is taboo, and other things. I also have a video about the Mexican Revolution that gives some idea about economic disparity in Mexico, especially in rural areas. But I am not sure if this is enough, or how to present it to students. This is the first time I am teaching this class. I feel like a lot of the discussion will depend if anyone in the class has a personal connection to Mexico, but at the same time I worry about those (relatively few) students becoming spokespeople for the country. 


  • Mahatapa Palit

    Laurie, I like the assignment of having students challenge conceptions and stereotypes about poverty is great. And analyzing what is said and what is not said without any other reference except what is on the title could be a great way for students to work on their empathy. I found an interesting guide in NY Times on ‘How to Be More Empathetic’ — see link: If students wrote their analysis before discussing it, could allow Mexican students in your class reflect on their own biases.

  • Angela Ridinger-Dotterman

    Laurie, I teach a couple of books that address poverty/immigration in connection with Mexico. One is the biography Spare Parts by Joshua Davis, which focuses on a high school robotics team consisting of (mostly) undocumented Mexican immigrants who win a robotics competition, beating out a team from MIT. The book is an easy read, but if you didn’t want to take on the reading, there is a documentary focusing on the team–Underwater Dreams–that could be used instead. The documentary is actually really cool, because it challenges the notion of the US as a meritocracy, and shows how the team members from MIT go on to have amazing lives based on their privilege, and while the ingenuity and hard work of the students on the winning team does little to improve their lives.

    A fictional text that I have used is a YA novel called The Book of Unknown Americans by Cristina Henriquez. The book focuses on a middle (or, at least, very comfortable working class) family from Mexico who comes to the US to get medical treatment for their daughter who has had a TBI. They start off as legal immigrants brought on an exploitative visa, only to wind up with undocumented status; they also leave behind a much better life in Mexico to come to the US and live in a run down apartment. The book features the immigration stories of many fictional immigrants from South and Central America, and the longer narrative is interspersed by a series of self-contained narratives, so it can be excerpted relatively easily.


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