ETHS 360: Cultural Dialogue & Ethnic Literatures

T Th 12:35pm - 1:50 pm

Professor Catrióna Rueda Esquibel

Office: Ethnic Studies Ethnic Studies & Psychology 411

Office Hours: Tuesdays 3:00 - 4:30 and by appointment


 Course Website:

ilearn is a new course management system for online course support (readings, grading, discussion lists, etc).  Go to the ilearn homepage <> and login using your university id and password. This should show you the ilearn component for all classes in which you're enrolled.  Click on our course number and that will take you to the class website.  You can download readings from the file section, post comments on the discussion lists, coordinate group work, etc.  I'll be recording assignments, grades, et cetera on the website, so that you can get feedback in a timely fashion.

Official Course Description for ETHS 360:

Ethnic literature as a comparative dialogue between cultures, in relation to other forms of artistic expressions, and within the context of the humanities, cultural patterns, aesthetic experiences, and political activism.

Specific description of our course:

This class is an introduction to the diversity of literature by US people of color; immigrants, sojourners, refugees, African Americans, Asian Americans, Chicanas/os, Latinos/as, and Native Americans.  We will be studying the works of authors and the characters they write about: from those who come to America to those whose land shifts beneath their feet, from Korea, to Hispaniola, to Los Angeles, and the Channel Islands, working-class, middle class, urban and rural, fathers, mothers, daughters, and sons, heterosexuals, gays, lesbians, two-spirit peoples, first generation, third generation, sixth generation, and all the spaces in between.  These exciting and powerful works, are read and studied in the US and internationally.


I. Course Goals

II. Course Objectives

Students will

III. Required texts:


In addition, each student is required to choose one of the optional texts for group research and presentation:

Additional readings will be available online through ilearn or Online Reserves


IV. Course Requirements:

Attendance & Participation:  10 points

Weekly assignments (including journals, blogging, quizzes): 10 points

Midterm: 25 points

Final Exam: 30 points

Group Presentation: 25 points


Attendance and Participation in class discussions is an important element of this class. If you're not here, you can't participate.  Missing three or more classes will adversely affect your grade.
Appropriate behavior in the classroom includes:
Weekly assignments: We will be doing creative, interpretive and analytical exercises in relation to the readings.  For the first few class sessions, I have assigned specific writing prompts.  You may follow the prompts or chart your own  path.  You should strive for writing about 500 words (equivalent of two typewritten pages) every week. 

The Midterm and Final Exams will include identification of characters and elements from the readings and films, short-answer questions, and essays.  These are closed-book exams.     Note:  You must bring a blue examination book for each exam. 

Group presentations:

The final four class sessions will consist of student-led presentations on the four optional novels.  Attendance at these four classes is mandatory.  Part of your grade is based on your active participation in the other groups' presentations.

Each presentation will involve research on the historical context of the novel, the author, critical reception, and intertextual relationships between and among texts.  For example, Comfort Woman and No-No Boy present dramatically different images of World War II, and both show important histories erased by mainstream representations.  The student group presenting on No-No Boy will want to address the history of the period, previous restrictions on Japanese immigration and naturalization, Executive Order 9066, the relocation camps, anti-Japanese attitudes, and how the relocation camp experiences affected Japanese Americans' relationship to the US.

How have the books been received critically? For example, Linda Hogan's novel Mean Spirit depicts a series of murders against the Osage in the early twentieth century.  In discussing the critical reception of the article, it would be important to note Robert Allen Warrior's argument that Hogan's novel shifts from an Osage-specific history to a pan-Indian portrayal.

One approach would be to envision the presentation as preparation for teaching the novel in a high school setting: how would you use history to introduce the novel? How would you use the novel to teach history? What other sources would be important to bring in?  What kind of assignment would you design for the students?

Finally, each presentation must include an exam question (identification, short answer, or essay) for our own class.  Your presentation must have provided everything your classmates need to get an A on your question.  Thus, by actively participating in the last four classes of the semester, you are guaranteed to get eight questions correct on the final exam. 

Extra credit

You may earn additional points as listed below. All extra credit work is due no later than the last day of class.  Minimum length for prose: 750 words (three full typed pages)

V. GE Requirements

This class fulfills a Segment II Humanities and Creative Arts Area requirement, (HCA), Category B: Disciplines and Interdisciplines.
In the humanities and arts curriculum, students are urged to explore fundamental questions regarding human values, aesthetics, and expression.  It is dedicated to stimulating reflective thinking, imagination, and creativity; to increasing civic and global responsibility; to cultivating moral action; and to building the communication skills needed to express the best of what it means to be human. (SFSU Bulletin 2005-06, 96).

VI. Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Accommodation:

The University is committed to providing reasonable academic accommodation to students with disabilities.  The Disability Programs and Resources Center provides university academic support services and specialized assistance to students with disabilities. Individuals with physical, perceptual, or learning disabilities as addressed by the Americans with Disabilities Act should contact Services for Students with Disabilities for information regarding accommodations.  Please notify your instructor so that reasonable efforts can be made to accommodate you.  If you expect Accommodation through the Act, you must make a formal request through Disability Programs & Resource Center in SSB110, Telephone 338-2472.

VII. Statement on Cheating and Plagiarism

Cheating is the actual or attempted practice of fraudulent or deceptive acts for the purpose of improving one's grade or obtaining course credit; such acts also include assisting another student to do so. Typically, such acts occur in relation to examinations.  However, it is the intent of this definition that the term "cheating" not be limited to examination situation only, but that it include any and all actions by a student that are intended to gain an unearned academic advantage by fraudulent or deceptive means.

Plagiarism is a specific form of cheating which consists of the misuse of the published and/or unpublished works of others by misrepresenting the material (intellectual property) so used as one's own work.  Penalties for cheating and plagiarism range from 0 or F on a particular assignment, through F for the course, to expulsion from the university.  For more information on the University's policy regarding cheating and plagiarism, refer to the University Catalog ("Policies and Regulations").

VIII. Changes

This syllabus is subject to change as necessary. Any additional policies are covered in the SFSU bulletin.

IX. Schedule

Week One - Introductions

Thursday, August 25: Introduction of Course Themes, Syllabus, Student Introductions, "Introducing Us to Culture": How have dominant society's definition of "Art" "Literature" and "Culture" shaped our relationship to the Arts and Humanities?  What is Literary?

online: Login to ilearn and edit your profile, including an introduction and a photo.  Due: by Monday 11:59 pm

Read for next class:

Teresa Palomo Acosta, "My Mother Pieced Quilts"
Melvin Dixon, "Aunt Ida Pieces a Quilt"
Alice Walker, "Everyday Use"

Week Two - Art and Artifact

Tuesday, August 30:

Discussion: quilts as history, art, artifact

Thursday, September 1:

Film: Toni Morrison (1987, 51 minutes)
Blog Prompt


Week Three - African American Women and Racialized Motherhood

Tuesday, September 6: selections from Uncle Tom's Cabin

Thursday, September 8: Beloved Part 1


Week Four

Tuesday, September 13: Beloved Part 2

Thursday, September 15: Beloved Part 3

Week Five - "Vanishing Americans," "The End of the Trail" and other Erasures of Native America

Tuesday, September 20: US policies toward Native Americans: Genocide, Removal, Acculturation
Selections from The Last of the Mohicans
Film: Imagining Indians

Thursday, September 22:  Gardens in the Dunes, Part 1 


Week Six

Tuesday, September 27: Gardens in the Dunes, Part 2
Film: The West: Ghost Dance                    

Thursday, September 29: Gardens in the Dunes, Part 3

Week Seven

Tuesday, October 4: Gardens in the Dunes, Part 4

Thursday, October 6: Midterm Exam

Week Eight

Tuesday, October 11: Film: Breaking the Silence: Korean Comfort Women by Dai Sil Kim-Gibson

Thursday, October 13: Comfort Woman, Part 1


Week Nine

Tuesday, October 18: Comfort Woman, Part 2

Thursday, October 20: Comfort Woman, Part 3

Week Ten

Tuesday, October 25:
Lecture: Civil War in Guatemala, The Citizen Subject, Neutrality in the New World
Film: The Long Road Home

Thursday, October 27:
Discussion: Sister Dianna Ortiz, Chapter 1, Chapter 3, Chapter 4 from The Blindfold's Eyes  

Week Eleven:

Tuesday, November 1: The Tattooed Soldier

Thursday, November 3: The Tattooed Soldier

Week Twelve

Tuesday, November 8: The Tattooed Soldier

Thursday, November 10: Helena Maria Viramontes "The Cariboo Cafe"
Film: Discovering Dominga

Week Thirteen

Tuesday, November 15: Group meetings with Instructor, Collaborative work on fifth novel

Thursday, November 17: Group meetings with Instructor, Collaborative work on fifth novel


Week Fourteen

Tuesday, November 22, Group meetings with Instructor, Collaborative work on fifth novel

Thursday, November 24, NO CLASSES


Week Fifteen

Tuesday, November 29: Student Presentations: No-No Boy, The Farming of Bones

Thursday, December 1: Student Presentations: Fools Crow, Mama Day


Week Sixteen

Tuesday, December 6: Student Presentations: Bone, West of the Jordan

Thursday, December 8: Student Presentations: The Kite Runner, The Hummingbird's Daughter

Final Exam Period

Tuesday, December 13,