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‘Radical Bilingualism’: Language Borders and the Case of Puerto Rican Children’s Literature

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Puerto Rican children’s literature reflects the complex history of Puerto Rico, an island that has been perpetually under colonial rule. Island and US Puerto Ricans represent a cultural identity with indefinite geographical, national and linguistic borders. Although both groups have created distinct communities, both remain loyal to Spanish as a marker for identity, making the inclusion of Spanish necessary in literary representations. Children’s writers such as Pura Belpré, Nicholasa Mohr, Judith Ortiz-Cofer and Carmen Bernier-Grand underline the tension involved when depicting this group of US citizens in two languages: the language of the conqueror and the conquered. Yet, even while acknowledging foreign languages, US children’s literature as an institution often upholds monolingual discourse. In this essay, I present the case of Puerto Rican children’s literature to argue that children’s literature has yet to adopt a bilingual perspective.
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Keywords: Puerto Rican; bilingualism; children’s literature; colonialism

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: English Department,University of Florida, GainesvilleFlorida, USA

Publication date: December 1, 2011

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