Tips for Teachers and Classroom Resources

5 Books for High School Mexican-American Studies Class

By The Room 241 Team

There are many great books to choose from when looking for literature relevant for a Mexican-American studies course. Below are five of the best books related to this topic. They provide great options for extra reading assignments in a Mexican-American studies class.

‘The House on Mango Street’

This book by Sandra Cisneros should be on every reading list in a Mexican-American literature or Mexican- American studies classes. The protagonist in the story is Esperanza Cordero and the reader follows her as she grows up in Chicago.

The book is told in vignettes about Eperanza’s oppressive environment. The book includes poems and short stories describing Esperanza’s struggle to overcome poverty and to find a new and different life. Each vignette can stand alone as a short story, yet the pieces are intertwined to tell the compelling story of Esperanza’s struggle to overcome adversity.

‘Parrot in the Oven’

Author Victor Martinez’ story focuses on Manny, a boy growing up in housing projects. The reader learns about Manny’s struggles while growing up in a dysfunctional family. Martinez won several literary awards for this book, including the 1996 National Book Award for Young People’s Literature. The book is a good example of autobiographical writing and can be used as an example and inspiration for students to write their own stories.

‘Two Badges: The Lives of Mona Ruiz’

This book, written by Mona Ruiz with Geoff Borchen, is an autobiography of police officer Mona Ruiz. Using the first person, Ruiz presents her story of growing up in Southern California where she was an active member of a street gang. She presents a compelling story of how she survived an abusive marriage and eventually became a police officer. Her message is one of triumph over adversity.

‘Living Up the Street’

This book, by Gary Soto, is an autobiographical recount of Soto’s life growing up in Fresno, Calif. He provides a variety of stories that explore his thoughts and feelings as a child including one scene where he writes about watching television and trying to imitate the lives of the white people he saw depicted on the screen.

‘Rain of Gold’

This biographical book by Victor Villasenor became a New York Times bestseller in 1991. It tells the true story of Villasenor’s parents and their immigration to California from Mexico.

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