Call Me Maria by Judith Ortiz Cofer

Summary: Ages 9-12 Maria is a girl caught between two worlds: Puerto Rico, where she was born, and New York, where she now lives in a basement apartment in the barrio. While her mother remains on the island, Maria lives with her father, the super of their building. As she struggles to lose her island accent, Maria does her best to find her place within the unfamiliar culture of the barrio. Finally, with the Spanglish of the barrio people ringing in her ears, she finds the poet within herself. In lush prose and spare, evocative poetry, Cofer weaves a powerful novel, bursting with life and hope.

Themes: Identity, Family, Community, Clashing Cultures

Classroom Implications: Poetic novels are a wonderful addition to classroom libraries. They build off of the alluring nature of poetry and reframe it in the context of a novel. Judith Ortiz Cofer is a must-have author in the classroom and speaks to the Puerto-Rican/American experience.

Judith Ortiz Cofer has an interesting outlook on language and identity. This excerpt may be an enriching addition to use with students while reading her works:

"People ask me: If I am a Puerto Rican writer, why don't I write in Spanish?" noted poet, essayist, and author Judith Ortiz Cofer in the online publication, The Global Education Project. "Isn't writing in English a sellout? I respond that English is my literary language. The language of the country my parents brought me to. Spanish is my familial language, that lies between the lines of my English language. Because I am a daughter of the Puerto Rican diaspora, English gives life to my writing." (


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