By Sara Martínez
Disturbed by the high rates of Latino students dropping out of school in the United States, Dr. Jacqueline Zaleski Mackenzie wondered what could be done to help both the students and the teachers gain success in the classroom.
She knew she had to get to the root of the problem and there was only one place to start — Mexico. Dr. Mackenzie traveled south of the border to research the reasons why some Latino immigrant students don’t do well in American schools. What she found compelled her to write Empowering Spanish Speakers. Answers for Educators, Business People, and Friends of Latinos.
A passionate, easy-to-read guide, this book is a helpful tool for anyone interested in gaining a better understanding of the Spanish-speaking community in the U.S.
Although Dr. Mackenzie is not Latina, she draws on her experience in Southern Arizona and rural Mexico to examine how the culture of Latin American immigrants, especially from rural areas, affects their success or failure in the U.S. education system.
She seeks to inspire educators and others by providing them with the information they need to implement change that will improve Latino immigrants’ chances for success in the U.S.
Dr. Mackenzie’s first person narrative style dominates and drives the book which, although ultimately grounded in her subjective experience, is supported by solid research and an extensive bibliography.
She uses anecdotes and stories about real people to make her case and poignantly illustrates pertinent sections with photos taken during her time in Mexico. She strategically employs symbols to highlight specific passages – a raised hand to denote students’ traits; a stylized Aztec heart indicates information of use to the instructor; a seedling denotes students’ acquired knowledge.
While Dr. Mackenzie’s book is a helpful characterization of immigrants from the poverty-stricken rural areas of Latin America, it should be noted that not all Spanish-speaking people and Latinos come from this type of background.
The demographic she covers may be widespread, but not comprehensive. Ultimately, the valuable insights and extensive research that Dr. Mackenzie has poured into this labor of love make this an invaluable addition to any collection. Highly recommended.
Reviewed by Sara Martínez, Hispanic Resource Center Coordinator, Tulsa City-County Library, OK.