Book: I Am My Language 

Discourses of Women and Children in the Bordelands

Author: Norma Gonzalez

Rating: 4/5

I Am My Language-Norma Gonzalez

Research anthropologist and poet Norma Gonzalez writes ‘I Am My Language’. Gonzalez’ book is a study about mothers and their children. It presents readers with a rich linguistic anthropological analysis of Mexican-origin women and children’s language socialization in the borderlands of Tucson, Arizona. This book is anchored in answering the questions, “What happens when a person has more than one language?” and “Is there an overlay of language on identity, and what identities do children construct for themselves when they use different languages in particular ways?” To understand language, Gonzalez adopted an ethnographic methodology that consists of ethnographic observations and audio cassette recordings. She samples 12 households from both the barrio and non-barrio locations of Tucson. Each was given tape recorders and cassettes and was asked to record their interactions within the households, in particular during mealtime, bedtime, and homework sessions. At the beginning of the study Gonzalez taped the parents and some grandparents during in-depth, open-ended interviews on child rearing, language habits, and household child-rearing ideologies.  

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Social/Historical context:

The social/historical context of the book is set in Tucson, Arizona. Norma Gonzalez was born and raised in Tucson. Although some of the data was retrieved in 1988, this book wasn't published until January 2006. Gonzalez visited and recorded the families up until 1991. She pulled her samples from the federally funded Parent and Child Education (PACE) program for low-income schools of the Chapter I of a local school district. The households struggled economically. The border economy produced low wages. Therefore, these working-class families suffered significant economic instability.  

Writing Style:

‘I Am My Language’ is written in the women’s own narrative from their daily lives as mother’s and borderland natives. The language used by the mothers is easy to understand and comprehend. The background information on each family defines the families very well by sketching the characters vividly. Therefore, the narratives interwoven with the sketch of the characters meshed very well. The rest of the book is scholarly written and aimed for college students and educators.  

My Thoughts:

In this book, Gonzalez does a fine job in presenting us with cutting-edge ethnographic research. The every day lives are well rooted in the women’s narratives and Gonzalez’ portrayal of the women’s families are brought to life vividly. Through the use of these narratives, Gonzalez transported me into the everyday lives of these households and I could feel their struggles with identity construction, discourse patterns, and language socialization of their children while living in borderlands. I could also hear the struggle in trying to live in two cultures and how it shaped and influenced the way their community and children learned. It also captured the influence the two cultures had on how the families engaged with their children’s schools. Gonzalez argued and demonstrated that living in a borderland presence could affect the practices and ideologies of these women and children. If you are a fan of ethnographic research this will sure peek your interest.  

Book Reviewed by Elizabeth Garcia-Leal

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