When reading a book or story, the title is often the first thing that catches our attention. It sets the tone for what is to come and gives us a glimpse into the author’s intentions.
Judith Ortiz Cofer’s short story, “American History,” is no exception. But why did she choose this particular title? In this article, we will explore the significance of Ortiz Cofer’s choice and how it relates to the themes of her story.
What Is “American History” About?
Before we dive into why Ortiz Cofer titled her story “American History,” let’s first take a brief look at what it’s about. The story follows Elena, a young Puerto Rican girl living in America during the 1960s.
Elena struggles with her identity as she navigates through racial tensions and cultural differences. Her teacher assigns her class to give presentations on important events in American history, leading Elena to reflect on her own place in this narrative.
Why Did Ortiz Cofer Choose This Title?
So why did Ortiz Cofer choose to title her story “American History”? At first glance, it may seem like an odd choice given that the main character is not white and has roots outside of America. However, upon closer inspection, we can see that the title is actually quite fitting.
One interpretation of the title could be that it speaks to Elena’s struggle with feeling like an outsider in America despite being born there. By including herself in the narrative of American history through her school assignment, Elena is attempting to claim her place in this country and make sense of where she fits in.
Another interpretation could be that Ortiz Cofer is commenting on how American history often ignores or erases the experiences of people of color. By having Elena give a presentation on Columbus Day (a holiday that celebrates a man who committed atrocities against indigenous peoples), Ortiz Cofer highlights how certain perspectives are privileged over others in the retelling of history.
The Themes of “American History”
The title “American History” also ties into the themes that Ortiz Cofer explores in her story. One major theme is identity and how it is shaped by both personal experiences and larger societal forces. Elena’s struggle to reconcile her Puerto Rican heritage with her American upbringing speaks to this theme.
Another theme is the idea of cultural assimilation versus preservation. As Elena’s mother tries to force her to straighten her hair and speak English without an accent, Elena grapples with whether she should conform to American norms or hold onto her cultural roots.
In conclusion, Ortiz Cofer’s choice to title her story “American History” is not only fitting but also significant. It speaks to the themes of identity and cultural assimilation that she explores in her writing.
By including herself in the narrative of American history, Elena attempts to claim her place in this country and make sense of where she fits in. However, Ortiz Cofer also comments on how certain perspectives are privileged over others in the retelling of history. Overall, “American History” is a thought-provoking story that forces us to question our own understanding of what it means to be American.