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Teaching Multicultural Literature : A Workshop for the Middle Grades
Workshop 1 Workshop 2 Workshop 3 Workshop 4 Workshop 5 Workshop 6 Workshop 7 Workshop 8
Workshop 7: Social Justice and Action - Alma Flor Ada, Pam Munoz, and Paul Yee
Overview
Authors and Literary Works
Alma Flor Ada
Biography
Work
Interview
Pam Munoz Ryan
Biography
Work
Paul Yee
Biography
Work
Key References
Video Summary
Teaching Strategies
Commentary
Student Work
Resources
Interactive Workbook -- Explore two poems using strategies from these workshops. Go.
Channel-Talk -- Share your views on the discussion board. Go.


Authors and Literary Works
Talking with Alma Flor Ada
(as interviewed by students in Laura Alvarez's class)

What was it like when you immigrated?

When I immigrated to Peru, my hope was to be able to study. And eventually I was able to do that. It wasn't easy at the beginning. I think I immigrated there a little bit more [from] needing to go to someplace rather than having made all those expectations. Sometimes people immigrate because they have those dreams and they say, "I'm going to go to this place where I'm going to be able to have a better life," and all that. Sometimes they immigrate because they have to. My family moved from Cuba, so I couldn't go back and I didn't really have much choice. So it was kind of that situation.

When I came to the United States, it wasn't my choice either. It was just a circumstance that brought me here. I was married at the time. It was my husband who wanted to come. And, if I must be truthful, I wanted to raise my children in a Spanish-speaking country and I would have stayed in Peru even if the economic conditions were lower and the material life was not as good. It would have been originally my choice.

Once I came into this country, then I was very fortunate because I was highly educated so I had wonderful opportunities. But then I realized the reality of my people in this country. And then it became a true reason to be here, to try to work with the community, to try to help them achieve what they had always dreamed [of] -- which is better education for their children. So then it became more of a mission, and it's been a wonderful mission.


Do you feel different when you write in Spanish and when you write in English?

I feel like when I write in Spanish I focus more on the feelings and I take more time with the feelings. And when I do it in English, I feel like I have to think more of the plot and moving the story quicker -- and it's because the two cultures are different. And that's what's exciting about being bicultural. To be able to do it well in one language and to do it well in the other language. It's like moving from two very different places, like at the beach and in the mountains. You do different things in the two places. And the good thing is to be able to do both.

Why are books important to you?

I think reading is so important because we get to know ourselves better and to understand other people better. We can begin thinking ahead. We can begin asking ourselves, "What can I do the next time I see a kid that just arrived that doesn't know English?" And we can begin asking ourselves, "How can I help this new student? How can I be her friend, his friend?" That's what's so powerful [about] reading, that it helps us become better people. We become not only brighter, but also more generous, kinder, stronger.


You're coming as immigrants or children of immigrant families to a country that is made up of many different cultures. And one way in which this country can be stronger is if everyone learns about each other's different cultures and learns not only about their celebrations and their food but also about their values, their ideas, their history, their dreams -- so that we can learn to not only celebrate but also deeply respect and appreciate others. And just as we want them to learn about our Latino cultures -- because we are one major part of this nation -- also we should learn about all the other cultures that exist here.

And one of the wonderful things about books is that they really [help you] understand other people. And through the wonderful multicultural literature that exists, you can really make friends with children of other cultures. Maybe if you've never met them in person, you meet them through the characters in the books, you see the inside of their homes, and you see their families and how they interact with each other. It's the great way, by reading that wonderful multicultural literature, that we have available to get to know the different people in this nation.

back to top Next: Pam Muñoz Ryan: Biography
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