What Genre Is American History by Judith Ortiz Cofer?

American History by Judith Ortiz Cofer is a short story that explores the experiences of a young Puerto Rican girl living in America during the 1960s. The story has elements of both fiction and non-fiction, blurring the lines between the two genres.

Genre of American History

American History is a work of creative non-fiction, which means it is based on real-life experiences but also includes fictional elements. The story is narrated by a young girl who shares her personal experiences as an immigrant in America. The author, Judith Ortiz Cofer, draws on her own experiences as a Puerto Rican growing up in New Jersey to create a rich and vivid portrayal of life in America during the 1960s.


The story explores several themes that are relevant to immigrants and their families. One of the main themes is identity, as the protagonist struggles to find her place in American society while also staying true to her cultural roots. Another theme is prejudice, as the girl faces discrimination from her classmates and teachers due to her ethnicity.


Throughout American History, the protagonist struggles with her identity as a Puerto Rican living in America. She tries to fit in with her classmates by adopting American customs and speaking English fluently but feels like she must suppress her cultural heritage to do so. For example, she changes her name from Elena to Helen because it sounds more American.


The protagonist also faces prejudice from those around her due to her ethnicity. Her teacher assumes she cannot speak English well because she is Puerto Rican, and some of her classmates taunt her with racial slurs. These experiences highlight the challenges faced by many immigrants who must navigate an unfamiliar culture while also dealing with discrimination.

Writing Style

Cofer’s writing style is simple yet powerful, using vivid imagery and sensory details to bring the story to life. The use of first-person narration allows readers to empathize with the protagonist and understand her struggles on a personal level.


American History by Judith Ortiz Cofer is a poignant and thought-provoking work of creative non-fiction that explores the experiences of a young Puerto Rican girl living in America during the 1960s. Through its themes of identity and prejudice, it illuminates the challenges faced by immigrants and their families as they strive to adapt to a new culture while also staying true to their heritage. Cofer’s simple yet powerful writing style makes this a must-read for anyone interested in the immigrant experience.