47 pages 1 hour read

Judith Ortiz Cofer

American History

Fiction | Short Story | Adult | Published in 1993

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“American History”

  • Genre: Fiction; historical short story
  • Originally Published: 1993
  • Reading Level/Interest: Grades 9-12; college/adult
  • Structure/Length: Approx. 9 pages; approx. 18 minutes on audio
  • Protagonist and Central Conflict: Fourteen-year-old Elena finds it challenging to feel sadness for President John F. Kennedy on the day of his assassination; she opts to follow through with plans to study with Eugene, a boy in her history class.
  • Potential Sensitivity Issues: Racism and discrimination

Judith Ortiz Cofer, Author

  • Bio: 1952-2016; born in Puerto Rico; emigrated to the United States at a young age; became a bilingual teacher after college; published first poetry collection in the 1980s; taught English and creative writing at the University of Georgia; author of full-length fiction and nonfiction as well as short fiction and poetry
  • Other Works: The Latin Deli (short story and prose collection; 1993); Woman in Front of the Sun: On Becoming a Writer (2000); The Meaning of Consuelo (2003); Call Me Maria (2004)
  • Awards: Anisfield-Wolf Book Award (for The Latin Deli, in which this short story appears; 1994)

CENTRAL THEMES connected and noted throughout this Teaching Unit:

  • ·Migration and Displacement
  • Changing Demographics in Northern Communities
  • Racism and Ethnic Discrimination


STUDY OBJECTIVES: In accomplishing the components of this Unit, students will:

  • Gain an understanding of the social, racial, and historical contexts of immigration and Changing Demographics in Northern Communities at the heart of the conflict in “American History.