Add this novel to engage more students and address topics of Colonialism and Feminism in your classroom.
Mexican Gothic, a novel by Silvia Moreno-Garcia is an update of the classic genre often taught in literature classrooms. In the novel, Noemi is sent to help her cousin Catalina who might be experiencing a mental breakdown. Noemi arrives at High Place and immediately feels out of place. The Doyles once owned and operated a successful coal mining operation, but after a disease spread through the workforce, killing many natives, and after some flooding, the mines were closed. Like all Gothic novels, Mexican Gothic has super-natural elements, a creepy estate, and a family with lots of secrets.
It’s beautifully written and an English teacher’s dream. There are many passages that are perfect for a deep dive, and thematically, Moreno-Garcia makes huge statements about the impacts of colonialism. The novel is powerful and engaging. Here are four reasons you should update your classroom library.
Mexican Gothic is a highly engaging text.
For many years, I loved (and still do) teaching Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë and Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier. However, for many students, the language, especially in Wuthering Heights is often a reason for students to check out. Also, I think we can all agree that Lockwood is insufferable, and since he opens Wuthering Heights with his narration, teachers are forced to tell students to “Stick with it because it gets better, I promise.” Similarly, with Rebecca, it takes much too long to get to Manderley and meet Mrs. Danvers. I can’t tell you how many times I have told students to just wait until page 50. That’s when it really takes off.
Mexican Gothic, however, takes off right from the start. The third-person narrator gets the action going immediately. Noemi’s motives are clear, and because she’s such an engaging character, the audience is eager to follow her to High Place, which is introduced in the second chapter.
It’s the perfect addition to incorporate lessons for Hispanic Heritage Month.
As Hispanic Heritage Month kicks off today, Mexican Gothic is a perfect addition to the English classroom curriculum. The novel brings in many cultural references that students can research and connect to the themes of the novel. The way Moreno-Garcia incorporates Mexican culture into the novel isn’t heavy-handed. It’s seamlessly worked into the novel, and for those unfamiliar with the richness of Mexican culture, leaves audiences eager to do outside research. For the teaching unit I’ve built, students complete a cultural scavenger hunt as they read.
It’s a more appropriate and updated text to teach Colonialism.
For English teachers who teach Heart of Darkness to address colonialism, Mexican Gothic is a great replacement. First, it’s told from the point of view of the colonialized versus the colonizer. It also brings the issue of colonization closer to home for students in North America. It has a lot more access points than Conrad’s Heart of Darkness which I personally love to teach but remember hating as a student.
Mexican Gothic incorporates fairy tales to reinforce themes.
Mexican Gothic also uses fairy tales in a unique way. This offers many students access to the themes and provides teachers with great fodder for supplemental materials to facilitate students making deeper connections with the text. Teachers can also use this to incorporate a Feminist reading of the novel.
If you’re looking for a no-prep teaching unit to update your curriculum during Hispanic Heritage Month, or maybe you need a break from Lockwood or Mrs. Danvers, consider this Mexican Gothic teaching unit. Students can complete it in virtual or in-person classrooms.
What are some other contemporary novels you’ve added to update your curriculum?
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