American History is a short story written by Judith Ortiz Cofer, an award-winning Puerto Rican author. The story was first published in 1993 and it revolves around a young Puerto Rican girl named Elena who moves to the United States with her family. The story explores various themes such as cultural identity, racism, and assimilation.
The Theme of Cultural Identity:
One of the central themes of American History is cultural identity. Elena struggles to find her place in the American society while also maintaining her Puerto Rican identity.
This struggle is evident when she describes her mother’s attempts to make traditional Puerto Rican food in their new home in America. Elena’s mother tries to hold onto her culture by cooking traditional food, but Elena feels embarrassed by this and wishes that her mother could cook “American” food like the other mothers.
This theme of cultural identity is also highlighted when Elena’s teacher mispronounces her name as “Ellen” and refuses to correct it despite Elena’s repeated attempts to correct him. This incident shows how people from different cultures are often forced to conform to the dominant culture and how their identities are erased or ignored.
The Theme of Racism:
The theme of racism is another prominent theme in American History. Throughout the story, we see instances of racial discrimination against Elena and her family.
For example, when Elena’s mother goes to buy a house, she is told that they don’t rent or sell houses to “Spanish people”. Similarly, when Elena goes shopping with her mother, they are followed around by a store employee who assumes that they will steal something.
These incidents show how racism is deeply ingrained in American society and how people from minority cultures are often subjected to discrimination and prejudice.
- The Theme of Assimilation:
Another important theme in American History is assimilation. As Elena tries to adjust to life in America, she is forced to adopt American customs and values. For example, she starts to speak English without an accent, changes her name to “Helen”, and tries to dress like the other American girls.
This theme of assimilation shows how people from minority cultures are often pressured to conform to the dominant culture in order to be accepted and successful.
In conclusion, American History by Judith Ortiz Cofer is a powerful story that explores various themes such as cultural identity, racism, and assimilation. Through Elena’s experiences, Cofer shows how people from minority cultures struggle to find their place in American society while also maintaining their cultural identities. The story serves as a reminder of the importance of respecting diversity and embracing different cultures.