an island like you

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An Island Like You Stories of the Barrio:

An Island Like You Stories of the Barrio By: Judith Ortiz Cofer Presented by: Mercedes Davis English 4 Honors Short Stories

Author Information:

Author Information JUDITH ORTIZ COFER When she was a child, Judith Ortiz Cofer's family alternated between living in Puerto Rico and New Jersey, and she felt that she didn't belong, no matter where she lived. When Cofer's family lived in Puerto Rico, she was part of her mother's extended family, even though she was accused of sounding like a "gringa" when she spoke Spanish. There Cofer listened to her grandmother's stories, free in the tropical surroundings of Puerto Rico and at one with the rich gifts of nature. When Cofer's father moved the family to New Jersey, she was made fun of for her Spanish accent. In the cold, northern city where she lived, she became an avid watcher of television. She also read for hours on end and developed a passion for fairy tales.

Brief Summary:

Brief Summary An Island Like You, Stories of the Barrio, is a collection of twelve stories set in a Latino neighborhood in Patterson, New Jersey. Each story captures the life of a Puerto Rican community, but in the United States. The stories have their own plot, but constantly intertwine with one another. The main theme in the novel is about being an individual and standing up for what you believe in.

Short Story #1 Bad Influence:

Short Story #1 Bad Influence Setting: The setting was in the Summer in Puerto Rico. At times it was at Rita’s grandparents house, the beach, or at Angela’s house.

Bad Influence cont.:

Bad Influence cont. Characters: Rita: The main character and narrator in the story. Sees her as a modern, American teenager. Papa Juan: A spirit seeker. The husband of Mama Ana. Mama Ana: The wife of Papa Juan. She helps him with his work throughout town. Ramon: A rooster that mixes up the difference between day and night. Meli: Rita’s best friend in Paterson. Johnny Ruiz: Rita’s popular boyfriend who plays basketball at Central High. Joey: Johnny Ruiz’s friend who had a crush for Meli. Maribel Hernandez: A famous and rich toothpaste commercial actor who dates a male who brings a bad spirit into her home. The mother of Angela. Angela: The daughter of Maribel. Sixteen years old and was very sick and skinny until her mother got rid of the bad spirit. Mala Influencia: The boyfriend of Maribel. The agent. Has brought bad ways with him.

Bad Influence cont.:

Bad Influence cont. Plot: Rita was sent from her home in New Jersey to spend the summer with her relatives in Puerto Rico. Rita, who is almost fifteen, and her best friend had been caught attempting to sleep overnight with their boyfriends. Although nothing “happened” between the two girls and their boyfriends that night, their parents still believe the boys to be a “bad influence” on them. Ultimately it is the grandfather’s spirituality that gives direction to Rita’s life, first by introducing her to the spirituality of the island. At the end she finally realized her ways and changed them. Her and her mom got back on great terms.

Bad Influence cont.:

Bad Influence cont. Point of view: The story is told through the first person point of view, meaning that the story is told through the voice of a character in the story. Theme: The theme is basically viewed as being “Fantasy vs. Reality”. Rita comes to the island with what she sees as a realist perspective. Her smart-aleck, know-it-all attitude is authoritatively adolescent and grounded in her American upbringing, as evidenced upon her arrival when she reports, “My friend from Central High would have died laughing if they had seen the woman with their fans going back and forth cross their shiny face fighting over… who was going to sit next to whom.” She makes light of her grandparents’ spiritual work by calling it Ghost busting and assets that her grandfather must be senile.

Short Story #2 Arturo’s Flight :

Short Story #2 Arturo’s Flight Setting: The setting was in Patterson, New Jersey in a low income neighborhood. Some parts of the story takes place in St. Joseph’s Catholic Church while others were at Arturo’s apartment or his school.

Arturo’s Flight cont.:

Arturo’s Flight cont. Characters: Arturo: Impatient young men who feels trapped. Johann: Old men from Germany who cleans the church late hours. Lost his son in a war after being forced to fight for his country by Hitler and his wife in a hurt bypass. Dona Monina: A member of St. Joseph’s Spanish mass. Clara: Arturo’s mother who dislikes his purple spiked hair and leather jacket wearing phases. Father: Arturo’s father. Has a bad heart and is upset with some of his sons actions. Don Manuel: Arturo’s boss. He doesn’t like the way Arturo dress and ends up firing him in the process after many confrontations. Miss Wrathbone: Arturo’s English teacher. Kenny Matao: A friend of Arturo. As the story progresses he ends up having to recite one of Shakespeare’s sonnets after Arturo reached in the garbage to get it.

Arturo’s Flight cont.:

Arturo’s Flight cont. Plot: In a time of crisis Arturo is befriended by a church custodian named Johann. Johann saw Arturo feeling down and decided to give him some friendly support and good advice, which, ended up making him think twice about running away. The story unfolds with a classroom recital of poetry that causes Arturo much embarrassment. He is asked to stand in front of his peers and read. They mock and laugh at him, and to add to grief, the torment extends to community perimeters outside the classroom. In response to animosity he takes on the “punk look”, perhaps in hope that others will not see him as a vulnerable target. However, his peers still threat him with disrespect and neighbors act like he was a nuisance and complained to his parents about looks. Johann told him about personal tragedies him and his family experienced during WWII which made Arturo’s problems fee undersized. Arturo was impressed with this older man’s ability to overcome struggle and acquired a new found hope to tackle his own problems. He remembered Johann words: “It does not matter where I go, I can always find peace in myself.”

Arturo’s Flight cont.:

Arturo’s Flight cont. Point of View: The story is told through the first person point of view, meaning that the story is told through the voice of a character in the story. Theme: A teenage punk poet ridiculed at his school for being different, learns something about being true to himself from an old men he meets in a church. The theme is sort of self-idealization and is a major component of this work and is further developed throughout the story of the struggles he goes through. It also shows how stereo-typing hurts people. It is important not to look at people’s differences as distancing factors, rather, as unique attributes. After all, if we all acted the same and did the same thing, this world would be so dull.

Arturo’s Flight cont.:

Arturo’s Flight cont. Key points: In Sonnet 112, Shakespeare says that the only person that matters in the world is his love; only how he appears in her eyes, and how she thinks of him. He uses the poem to show how important she is to him because his motivation is love. The Flea, Donne on the other hand uses the example of a flea who’s taken blood from both him and his reluctant-to-yield love interest, as a symbol of there “union” and asks her to spear the flea’s life as it is actually a combination of its own life and both of theirs since he has taken both of their blood. Both are directed to their love interest, but both have different motives.

Short Story #3 Beauty Lessons cont.:

Short Story #3 Beauty Lessons cont. Setting: The setting of this story is in Patterson, New Jersey at Sandra’s high school. As the story goes on it then leads to her home in the Barrio Apartments to the last scene in the story which is the Basketball court in a nearby park.

Beauty Lessons cont.:

Beauty Lessons cont. Characters: Paco- A smart kid who acts bad to fit in the crowd. Sandra- Low self-esteem young girl who is smart, but at the same time feels like she is not beauty enough. Anita- Takes up for her friend, Sandra, when she feels down. Luis Cintron- Paco popular friend and member of the “social club”. Jennifer Lopez- Beautiful teenage girl who feels like she has to hurt everybody else's feelings to make herself look good. Mrs. Laguna- Math teacher. Ms. Landers- Anita’s PE coach. Ms. Jackson- Swimming coach teacher who has high beliefs in Sandra and wants her to join the swimming team. Mami- Sandra’s stay at home mom. Papi- Divorced from Sandra’s mom because they cant stand ten minutes with each other from arguing. Love’s Sandra and do as much as he can for her. Modesta- Acts as a high-maintenance woman who goes through the make-up process to hide who she really is.

Beauty Lessons cont.:

Beauty Lessons cont. Plot: The conflict is Women vs. Society. Sandra feels that she is not as beautiful as the women who surrounds her in her everyday life. Her friends have a sort of checklist for great looks: breasts, legs, skin, smile and clothes. After all that is how she feels since she see that her first crush, Paco, is even into women with the “Checklist”. Paco is a popular kid who Sandra like, but is scared to tell him because of the way she look. Watching her friends and family put on make-up and everything to look pretty was something she had never done before. Her newly divorced aunt, Modesta, moved in with her and her family. Modesta struck everyone in town as a hot, beautiful high-maintenance women. One day while deciding to take beauty lessons from her aunt, it revealed a scare that even Sandra wasn’t looking forward to seeing. She found out that her aunt wore fake eyelashes, and false teeth. Her glamorous aunt had became an old women after cleaning the make-up off of her face. After seeing that her aunt was not really who she provoked herself as to the public, Sandra became proud of the way she looked because it was the real her and finally stepped to Paco.

Beauty Lessons cont.:

Beauty Lessons cont. Point of view: The story is told through the first person point of view, meaning that the story is told through the voice of a character in the story. Theme: This theme is of Appearance vs. Reality. At the end of the short story Sandra learns the valuable “beauty lesson”. Sandra reevaluates her situation and how to approach Paco and with doing so, she reflect the lessons she has learned about self-esteem. I think about how Cofer wants young girls to appreciate their natural assets and not try to live up to an often racially-constructed beauty ideal.

Short Story #4 Catch the Moon:

Short Story #4 Catch the Moon Setting: The setting of this story was taken place at an Auto Parts & Salvage place, then it leads to the Cintron’s home and then lastly to Naomi’s house.

Catch the Moon cont.:

Catch the Moon cont. Characters: Luis Cintron- A troubled young men who works at his father Auto Parts place as community hours that was directed by the court and tries to change his life. Leader of the group called “Tiburones”. Jorge Cintron- Lost his wife in a cancer struggle. Single father raising his troubled son, Luis, and owns his own Auto Parts store. Kenny Matao- A member of the Tiburones. Was caught sneaking in Anita locker to get her Diary. Mr. Williams- A teacher who suspected that the “social club” (what Luis and the group calls it in school, but really was the “Tiburones”) was a fake. Naomi Ramirez- Explained in the book as a hot, young girl who group up in a rich home. Her family owned the Ramirez Funeral Home which is where Luis’s mother body was taken before burial.

Catch the Moon cont.:

Catch the Moon cont. Plot: Luis Cintron who lost his mother from cancer and has a shaky relationship with his father is a trouble-making juvenile that just got home from a detention center for breaking and entering. Although, he dislikes the joy of working or dedication, the court ordered him to serve his community hours at his father’s Auto Part’s store. While working a girl named Naomi, who also brings the remembrance of his mother who passed away from cancer, came to the junkyard looking for a hubcap to go on her car. That same night his father allowed him to take the car out, while driving around Luis found himself getting emotional. He parked the car and started crying, to his surprise he had parked in front of Naomi’s house and she was drawing a picture of him, showing him holding up the hubcap. Right away he went to the junkyard determined to find her hubcap. After searching long and hard he found her match and brought it to her door.

Catch the Moon cont.:

Catch the Moon cont. Point of view: This story is told through an omniscient point of view, meaning that the narrator speaks the thoughts of many characters. Theme: The story shows how people tend to hide how they really feel because they went to be tough or they don’t want people thinking something else about them. People can influence people with positive or negative ways. Also I feel that Naomi’s picture was him reaching for the moon or a star which can be interpreted as him being able to reach any goal as long as he puts forth the effort.

Short Story #5 An Hour with Abuelo:

Short Story #5 An Hour with Abuelo Setting: The setting of this story is at the Golden Years Nursing Home.

An Hour with Abuelo cont.:

An Hour with Abuelo cont. Characters: Arturo- Young men who loves to read and have strong doubts about going to visit his grandfather. Abuelo- An old mean who’s dream was to become a teacher but was forced to fight in the army instead. He resides at a nursing home where he doesn’t have too long to live. Mom- Auturo’s mother who is very determined to get her son to go visit his grandfather. Mr. Williams- Arturo’s principle at Central High School.

An Hour with Abuelo cont.:

An Hour with Abuelo cont. Plot: Man vs. Men. In this story, Arturo, the grandson visits his grandfather in a nursing home. At first Arturo was very reluctant about going to visit his grandfather or better yet smelling the weird ammonia that hits him by walking through the nursing home doors. While meeting with his grandfather, Arturo actually timed his visit for an hour. As the minutes progressed his grandfather read him a story that he had written about his life. He learned all his Abuelo’s struggles and excitements throughout his life. Before he knew it, the hour was up and he really didn’t want to leave because he was entertained about his grandfather’s life story.

An Hour with Abuelo cont.:

An Hour with Abuelo cont. Point of view: The story is told through the first person point of view, meaning that the story is told through the voice of a character in the story. Theme: It is not good to judge anyone before getting to know or spending time with them. For instance, Arturo was very skeptical about going to meet his father, but in the end he didn’t want to leave. Also within this story you will learn that in many family relationships that span generations as well as cultures, understanding one another’s problem, hopes, and dreams can be a challenge.

Short Story #6 The One Who Watches :

Short Story #6 The One Who Watches Setting: In an expensive shopping store in downtown Patterson, New Jersey.

The One Who Watches cont.:

The One Who Watches cont. Characters: Doris- A young sixteen year old who follows Yolanda while she do bad things. Yolanda- Mira best friend who is very daring, causes chaos and is trouble. Tito- Super of the building. Mom- Part of the Latino music band called “Caliente”. Only stops singing to yell and argue. Dad- Part of the Latino music band called “Caliente”. Doesn’t say much. He either sleeps or practice his drums.

The One Who Watches cont.:

The One Who Watches cont. Plot: Women Vs. Society. Doris has a best friend who is trouble. She follows after everything she does. One day Yolanda is caught stealing a beaded black evening bag with a long strap. After that day, Doris vouches to never follow Yolanda into trouble again.

The One Who Watches cont.:

The One Who Watches cont. Point of View: The story is told through first person, in Doris’s eyes. Theme: Teaches you to not be a follower and to be a leader. If you know that someone is doing wrong, don’t continue to follow there actions. “I am sick of following you in trouble”, said Doris.

Short Story #7 Matoa’s Mirror:

Short Story #7 Matoa’s Mirror Setting: In Patterson, New Jersey at Harry’s apartment in Kenny’s room. Also some part of the story is taken place in the alley leading to the El Building.

Matoa’s Mirror cont.:

Matoa’s Mirror cont. Characters: Kenny Matoa- A young male who has goals in life which makes him hangs with older friends. Harry- A guy who throws parties. Mother- A maid at a home in the suburbs. Father- A cook at the Carribean Moon restaurant.

Matoa’s Mirror cont.:

Matoa’s Mirror cont. Plot: Kenny is frustrated with his mom cause he thinks she is holding him hostage. But i think his mom is doing the right thing. He looks in the mirror and sees the bad in and then the good him.

Matoa’s Mirror cont.:

Matoa’s Mirror cont. Point of View: The story is told by 3 rd person point of view. Throughout the story they use she/him. Theme: “Drinking is bad for your health”, as my favorite teen movie would say. It can lead to many mental problems to complications.

Short Story #8 Don Jose La Mancha:

Short Story #8 Don Jose La Mancha Setting: At the El Building in Patterson, New Jersey. Some part of the story takes place at St. Mary’s Church.

Don Jose La Mancha cont.:

Don Jose La Mancha cont. Characters: Yolanda: A young troubled girl who feels that has to look out for her mom since her father is dead. Will do what’s best for her mom no matter what the circumstance is. Mami: A widow after so long being single finally seeks new love. Don Jose: Mother’s boyfriend from the island. He believes Patterson, New Jersey is “Nueva York”. Doris & Arturo: Yolanda’s friends. Hangs out at the record shop.

Don Jose La Mancha cont.:

Don Jose La Mancha cont. Plot: Yolanda is a girl we have heard of from the past story about shop lifting, he mom made her change her ways and stuff. So now she stays at home more. Well one day they run into a bum looking country man and all of a sudden her man and the man hooks up, Yolanda doesn't like it but she gets over it.

Don Jose of La Mancha cont.:

Don Jose of La Mancha cont. Point of View: 1st person point of view through Yolanda’s eyes. Theme: It’s not good to dwell on the past. It hurts losing a father and I know that from my own experience. You grow to learn that death is a part of life and that someday it will happen to you. One may not stop living their life because of a lost. “Don’t forget me”, like the voice of Yolanda’s father said in her head.

Short Story #9 Abuela Invents the Zero:

Short Story #9 Abuela Invents the Zero Setting: El Poto Norte (North Pole) at the New Jersey Spanish Mass.

Abuela Invents the Zero cont.:

Abuela Invents the Zero cont. Characters: Constancia- Sometimes known as “Connie”. A young girl who feels embarrassed about her grandmother. Abuela- An old lady is the grandmother of Connie and is visiting New Jersey for the first time. Mother- Connie’s mother who is supposed to show abuela a good time until she catches the flu.

Abuela Invents the Zero cont.:

Abuela Invents the Zero cont. Plot: Connie is use to going out with her friends all the time. Her grandma comes into to town and her father makes her take her grandma to church. Connie is scared she is gone run into her friends and she is gone get picked on. Later on she gets over it all.

Abuela Invents the Zero cont.:

Abuela Invents the Zero cont. Point of View: The story was told through 1 st person point of view, in Connie’s eyes. Theme: Although some people may be weird or have unusual ways, you should never discouraged someone. Never treat someone like a nobody or feel embarrassed to be around them. You would have to remember everyone has feelings. Always treat someone like you would wont to be treated.

Short Story #10 A Job for Valentin:

Short Story #10 A Job for Valentin Setting: In Patterson, New Jersey at the city pool.

A Job for Valentin cont.:

A Job for Valentin cont. Characters: Theresa- St. Mary’s scholarship student. Bob Dylan Kalinowski- Olympic size poor lifeguard Mrs. O’Brien- Mrs. Carey’s mother. Senior assistant at St. Mary’s. (Park Director) Anne Corey- Director daughter and Theresa’s friend. Valentin- Thirty year old, mildly challenged, handicapped person who works aside Theresa.

A Job for Valentin cont.:

A Job for Valentin cont. Plot: Terry starts working at this store near the pool. She knows this boy name Bob that works there and her manage wants her to keep a eye on him cause he don't do his job as a lifeguard half the time. But later on in the story a boy that is mental comes alone to work with her and she helps him cell these animal things. Bob ends up leaving the pool to go flirt and a kid drowns and Terry and the mental boy saves him.

A Job for Valentin cont.:

A Job for Valentin cont. Point of View: 1st person point of view. Theme: No matter how much disability one may have, there is a job out there for everyone. It also teaches how not to discriminate people because of their features.

Citations:

Citations The novel “An Island Like You” Wikipedia

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