Self Reflection and Discovery: A Review of Mi Voz, Mi Vida: Latino College Students Tell Their Life Stories

By Jimenez, Anthony R. | Harvard Journal of Hispanic Policy, Annual 2013 | Go to article overview

Self Reflection and Discovery: A Review of Mi Voz, Mi Vida: Latino College Students Tell Their Life Stories


Jimenez, Anthony R., Harvard Journal of Hispanic Policy


SELF REFLECTION AND DISCOVERY

A Review of Mi Voz, Mi Vida: Latino College Students Tell Their Life Stories

Edited by Andrew Garrod, Robert Kilkenny, and Christina Gomez

(Cornell University Press, 2012)

In celebration of the digital publication of Mi Voz, Mi Vida: Latino College Students Tell Their Life Stories, a publication that signals a hunger to understand Latino students, and knowing that American education will soon hinge both on digital publications and Hispanic students, I dive into this touchstone for understanding the Latino college experience.

The editors of Mi Voz, Mi Vida did an exceptional job of weaving fifteen disparate narratives into a coherent, comprehensive look at the struggles and triumphs of the student authors. The book is a collection of memoirs by student autobiographers between the ages of eighteen and twenty-two who attended Dartmouth College. Since these events took place at only one institution, one might question how generalizable or representative the students' Latino college experiences are. However, this inspiring book of stories, or cuentos, is one that anyone who ever attended college or embarked on a serious journey of self-reflection and discovery can relate to regardless of ethnicity. As a Latino myself, I found many of the experiences described by the authors not only intriguing, revealing, and promising, but reflective of my upbringing and life events. In many instances, the stories capture the raw emotions of those who feel disenfranchised, yet through perseverance, ultimately prevail; Joseph Rodriguez's story of visiting his father in jail is a good example.

The essays represent only a select few completed as part of the requirements of a sociology course. The objective of the course was to increase the students' understanding of Latino history, politics, and public policy. For many of the student authors, this would be their first serious foray into these areas. While the editors went to great lengths not to unduly influence the students' stories, the authors were provided with a number of "guiding questions" to help convey their personal stories; these questions undoubtedly served as a useful framework for promoting the reflective process for each student author. A representative sample of those questions is provided below.

* What gives purpose to your life?

* What relationships have been of major significance to you?

* When and how did you become aware of the concept of ethnicity?

* What have been some of the major struggles in your life?

* What role does your "Latinoness" play in how you identify yourself?

To ensure the integrity of the stories, the editors followed a thorough review and vetting process for the essays. Independent reviews were employed by those not directly engaged in the story development process to ensure each essay received a more objective reading. Changes to the written texts by the editors were minimal. With a goal of facilitating each student to ultimately find "their voice" and tell their story in their own words, this approach helped ensure each author retained "ownership" of his or her story. The "sense making" aspects of their individual and very personal experiences were left to the authors. After all, it is only through that sort of analytical and reflective process that individual meaning and "truth" can be derived. In the end, the story must be their story as they believe they lived it. Mi Voz, Mi Vida: Latino College Students Tell Their Life Stories effectively leverages this personalized perspective.

It was a good decision to package the essays and present them under the auspice of four major themes: resilience, biculturalism, mentoring, and identity. While on the surface the four themes appear to be discreet, independent topics, the reality is that the themes are present in the stories. Not surprisingly, the themes evident in each essay only help the reader gain an increased appreciation and understanding of the students' collective experiences. …

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