Lives in Limbo : Undocumented and Coming of Age in America

Book Review Guidelines for Textbook
There are five parts to writing a critical review of a piece of literature:

  1. purpose, focus, perspective;
  2. summation of content;
  3. coherence of analysis;
  4. contributions to knowledge;
  5. a personal assessment and/or opinion.

Purpose, Focus, Perspective
In two to three well-organized paragraphs answer the following questions:

  1. Purpose: Why is the book being written?
  2. Focus: What major themes does the author propose to cover?  What issues will be dealt with?  Who or what is to be examined or studied?  What is the time frame?  Where will it take place?  (It is not necessary to have all of these questions answered, nor do you have to follow the order given, but it is important to make sure all relevant information is included).
  3. Perspective: Who is the author arguing for or against?

Summation of Content
Summarize the contents of the book in three to four concise paragraphs.  Pay attention to how the chapters of the book provide important information that supports what you think the author is arguing for or against.  Take notes on each chapter’s themes.  Can you find meaningful examples which support the author’s purpose, focus, and perspective above?  Avoid re-telling the story.  Write short summary statements that identify the themes and topics of the important chapters that convey the author’s purpose, focus, and perspective.  Always connect the ideas presented in the chapters you judge are central to the author’s intent.  Provide examples from the author’s writing that help you understand the major arguments being made.  A useful summation of content succinctly conveys the author’s organizational structure and presentation of ideas, relaying important thoughts that are central to the author’s argument.  After taking extensive notes based on the information above, you are prepared to write a brief summary of the information in three to four well-organized paragraphs.  Remember: avoid re-telling the story.
Coherence of Analysis
Address any conclusions you judge the author reached.  Perhaps several chapters provided a conclusion.  Or, the last few chapters may have emphasized major points reached.  In one or two paragraphs state the major conclusions reached.  After writing what you judge the conclusions are, in one paragraph, assess the author’s work based on how the parts of the story relate to the whole.  After connecting the parts to the whole, come to an assessment of the work by answering the following question: Given the purpose, focus, and perspective, and understanding how the subject matter was presented, are the conclusions warranted?
Contribution to Knowledge
In one paragraph, address how the work helped you understand the historical concepts introduced in class.  How did the information assist you in appreciating the historical experience of Mexicans and Latinas?  Assess the work’s value in relationship to the content of the course and the concepts used to understand the Mexican and Latina experience.  Look at the instructor’s presentation of the subject matter to date.  Address any information provided by the course textbook, if relevant.  Understand how the text under review relays the subject matter via the course presentations and the course readings.  Connect the sources of information together.
Personal Assessment
Now you are ready to conclude with your personal opinion.  The previous sections dealt with the author on his/her terms, not yours.  In a very concise paragraph, address the following questions: What was positive and negative about reading the piece of literature?  How valuable was it in your quest to gain knowledge? Would you recommend the work to others?
By following the steps above, you should be able to write a nice four to six page review of the book.  There is no need to use headers for each section of the review.  Just write out a nice assessment that addresses the five parts listed above in the order given.  If you follow the order given, you should have a smooth flowing critique.  As you are writing, always return to the instructions to guide you or get you back on track.  Do not stray from the task at hand.   Pay attention to the steps.  Pay attention to vocabulary and its use.  Pay attention to the themes/ issues/ideas you are addressing.  Stay focused.

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