Response to "American History"
The story "American History" by Judith Ortiz-Cofer is one that many people can relate to. It is not merely a Latina girl's experiences with prejudice and growing up in New Jersey. The story rings true for many.
In "American History," Elena is a ninth grader at a large public school in Paterson, New Jersey. On this day, a cold gray November day, President Kennedy has been shot. The reader can see how all the adults in the story are immensely affected by this event.
However, Elena may show a little sadness, but her primary concern that day is her "date" with the Southern white boy, Eugene. Elena, on the other hand, is of Puerto Rican descent. She has had a crush on Eugene for months. He's the "new kid" in town, living in the small house next to Elena's apartment, El Building. She feels normal teenage feelings about acceptance and love. She feels out of place at school, and even at home to a degree. The reader sees Elena as a typical teenage girl. "There was only one source of beauty and light for me that school year
That was seeing Eugene" (202). How many of us had crushes like that when we were her age? We may even have planned "dates" and "meetings" like she did. "After much maneuvering I managed to run into him' in the hallway where his locker was (203). They have much in common. Both are bright, love to read, and feel like outsiders. Although Elena has lived there for many years, she is still not completely accepted. She and Eugene are called "Skinny Bones" and "Hick." That probably creates more of a bond. However, like other "star-crossed lovers," their relationship is halted before it can really begin. Elena's mom tells her, "You are forgetting who you are
You are heading for humiliation and pain" (207). Then Eugene's mom tells her, "I don't know how you people do it...Eugene doesn't want to study with you
It's nothing personal" (208). How much clearer can it be to Elena and the reader? Elena doesn't fit in to what...
Cited: Ortiz-Cofer, Judith. "American History." Iguana Dreams. Eds. Delia Poey and Virgil Suarez. New York: Harper Perennial, 1992. 199-209.
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