University of Notre Dame

Dangerous Reads: Banned US Latino/a Literature

Course Number: LLRO 13186-1
Instructor: Marisel Moreno

The recent termination of Mexican-American Studies classes by the Tucson Unified School District (AZ) has provoked a national debate regarding the importance of ethnic studies in our schools. While each side—proponents of the law and defenders of ethnic studies—continue to argue their case, dozens of literary works have been banned in the classrooms. From Shakespeare’s The Tempest to Junot Díaz’s Drown, the list of books “removed” from classrooms reveals that what is at stake is more than just the future of Mexican-American studies. In this course, students will examine the present controversy surrounding HB 2281, grassroots movements that have emerged in response to it, and a number of the canonical US Latino/a literature works that were placed on the list of banned books, such as Tomás Rivera’s …and the Earth Did Not Devour Him and Sandra Cisnero’s House on Mango Street. We will also read works by other “banned authors” such as Junot Díaz’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, and Martín Espada’s poetry. We will finish the semester with a discussion of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Broadway hit Hamilton: An American Musical, which provides a counter-example to other works discussed, and allows us to reflect on the issue of canon formation and how certain works are included or excluded from “American” letters.

The course has a required community-based learning (CBL) component that entails tutoring K-6th grade children at La Casa de Amistad once a week (Mondays through Thursdays) from 3:00-5:00 pm. There are alternative days/times options available. Students will choose which days to sign up for according to their schedules. Transportation and carpooling will be arranged through the Center for Social Concerns, and with the help of the professor (see attached form).
Previous knowledge of Spanish is not necessary.