In the Classroom
Based on the sequel to Esmeralda Santiago's best-selling memoir When I Was Puerto Rican, Almost a Woman tells the story of a young girl's journey, from Puerto Rico to New York and from childhood to adulthood. Esmeralda (known as Negi) struggles to find her way between two cultures in order to define her identity -- as a Puerto Rican, an American, and a woman. The obstacles she faces and her determination to overcome them will resonate with young people who are facing many of the same issues in their own lives.
Almost a Woman's authentic portrayal of the immigrant experience, told in Negi's distinctive voice, makes the film an ideal companion or introduction to a variety of topics in the classroom. Coming of age, pursuing the "American dream," the power of education, class and gender issues, prejudice, assimilation, and bilingualism are just some of the issues explored in this moving and eloquent film.
English teachers have used the books When I Was Puerto Rican and/or Almost a Woman to launch a study of the coming-of-age genre, autobiography and memoir, or multicultural literature. Since the content of the film is taken from both books, it is useful when studying either title. Because Santiago's writing covers many political and social issues, her works are also well-suited to interdisciplinary or team teaching in social studies, world history, humanities, and Spanish classes. Media teachers will find the film an excellent way to study filmmaking techniques.
A growing body of American memoir and fiction deals with the complexity of the coming-of-age story as it intersects with the immigrant journey. Santiago noted in an interview, "I'm so happy when I can tell young people who are hungry to read about their lives that there is a literature that addresses their lives." These titles include:
Silent Dancing by Judith Ortiz Cofer
Breath, Eyes, Memory by Edwidge Danticat
Dreaming in Cuban by Cristina Garcia
Lost in Translation by Eva Hoffman
Annie John by Jamaica Kincaid
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