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Eight Grade English Language Arts News

Eight Grade English Language Arts News
Posted on 10/21/2014
By: Caryn Collins

In Eighth Grade English Language Arts, students have endeavored to strengthen their literary community. With shared literary objectives securely in place, we read the whole-class text The Revolution of Evelyn Serrano by Sonia Manzano (our English companion novel to the Spanish Language Arts class’ study of The House on Mango Street). Students groped their way through the uncharted territory of the formal literary analysis with this novel, surprising even themselves with their solid debut essays. Featured here is Sylvia Fresco’s exemplar piece.

Sylvia Fresco
October 1st, 2014
Analysis Essay: The Revolution of Evelyn Serrano

ELA 8The novel The Revolution of Evelyn Serrano is an exceptional representation of what it means to grow up and how to find one’s identity. In the book, the author, Sonia Manzano tells the story of Evelyn Serrano, a fourteen year old Puerto Rican living in “El Barrio,” New York. Based on the early chapters, it seems as though Evelyn’s biggest goal is to do anything her mother disagrees with, working at the local five and dime, hiking her skirt up, and most importantly, supporting the Young Lords.
The Young Lords were a real group of college students in Chicago and New York who fought for equality during the Civil Rights Movement. Mami, the name the narrator and protagonist, Evelyn, uses to refer to her mother, and Pops, her stepfather, both agree primarily that the Young Lords are a group of crazy hippies. Evelyn and her grandmother, whom she met for the first time in the third chapter of this book, think that the Young Lords are just what their neighborhood needs. Throughout this book, Manzano shows readers that to maintain individualism with social pressure around, people should try to understand their own opinions before fighting for any cause.

Social pressure is always around, often making it hard to discover one’s identity; this is no different for Evelyn Serrano. Evelyn is unsure who she is, but she is certain she isn’t her mother. Therefore, she tries to disagree with everything her mother does. Evelyn thinks Mami’s taste in decor is horrendous, “Did my mother really think those tacky flowers looked good against her greasy turquoise walls?” (Manzano 3). One Sunday, Evelyn refuses to go to church, for her church was something her mother loved.
When the Young Lords first appear in the book, readers might be able to correctly predict that Evelyn will support them. Before she even knows who they are, and what they’re fighting for, Evelyn is interested. In the same amount of time after seeing them, Mami thinks they’re stupid youngsters. Abuela is helping out the college students and is encouraging Evelyn to do the same. Mami, who doesn’t see eye to eye with her mother on anything, is persuading Evelyn to stay clear of the street sweepers. ¨`Ignoring them will not make them go away’¨ (Manzano 97) Abuela says this to Mami regarding the Young Lords. However, this can be true in many situations. While already facing social pressure, Evelyn Serrano is suddenly facing pressure to conform within her own house.

Going through the adolescent years is never easy, especially for Evelyn who is trying to forget her heritage while fighting for equality with and for Puerto Ricans. Due to society’s consistent reminders that we must be unique individuals, as well as society’s tendency to group people together based on just about any physical feature they may posses, Evelyn struggles to conjure an identity that will satisfy her needs while also presenting her as an admirable person. Evelyn has always resented that she had to endure the ignominy of living in impoverished and malodorous East Harlem. However, when she sees it featured in the newspaper after the Young Lords burn garbage to protest the uncleanliness of the neighborhood, her remorse vanishes. “I could barely believe it. People had noticed East Harlem. We were in the newspaper.” (Manzano 75) This demonstrates that despite Evelyn Serrano’s resilient attempts to hate “the El Barrio fart smell of garbage,” (Manzano 9), she not only wants to live in a sanitary place, but also, in supporting the Young Lords, she becomes proud of her heritage as a Puerto Rican. Evelyn realizes that she is special the way she is and doesn’t have to change her name from the popular Rosa to the less popular Evelyn, or disobey her mother. Once she understands what the Young Lords are fighting for, she can help fight with them and contribute her own stories and experiences to inspire more people.

Evelyn struggles with but is still able to maintain her individualism, even though society is trying to make her conform. At first, Evelyn likes the group because her mother didn’t. However, when she discovers that they are giving free food, medical tests, and clothing to those in need, both Mami and she start to fight with the Young Lords, because they too want to help achieve equality for Puerto Ricans. ¨But I guess a revolution has come to El Barrio.¨ (Manzano 80). A revolution did come, with newscasters and famous people coming to the Methodist church in East Harlem. Abuela tells Evelyn horrific stories of her life in Puerto Rican when the police shot innocent people because they had different opinions, but it’s getting better for Puerto Ricans in New York and Puerto Rico, slowly but surely. Listening to stories from people around her and stories of her past, Evelyn becomes able to piece together her identity and learn who she really is.

People are struggling with what Evelyn faced everyday, and it’s never easy. If they were to ask Sonia Manzano how she thinks they can maintain their individualism with constant social pressure hitting them back and forth like a ping pong ball, she would most likely remind them that they must understand what they’re fighting for before choosing a side.