High School Latinx Counternarratives

Experiences in School and Post-graduation

by Juan A. Ríos Vega (Author)
©2020 Textbook X, 122 Pages


This book represents an ethnographic study of the experiences and counternarratives of twelve Latinx young adults. All of the participants in this study are first generation immigrants to the United States, representing different cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds and immigration statuses. Drawing from Latino Critical Theory (LatCrit) and Queers of Color Epistemologies as a theoretical framework, this book analyzes the personal experiences of Latinx during and after finishing high school. This book uses a classroom project (dialogue journals) to reconnect with twelve former English language learners (ELLs) from the Southeast after ten years. Through the use of dialogue journals as an English as a second language (ESL) strategy to support writing, the participants in this book document personal and communal experiences as Latinx immigrants in the United States. This book will represent an excellent asset for teachers, school administrators, counselors, staff, preservice teachers, practicing educators, graduate students, scholars, and policymakers.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • In memory of Sheila Sixtos and William Hernandez
  • Contents
  • Figures
  • Chapter One: Latinx Voices Counternarratives
  • Introduction
  • Summary
  • Chapter Two: (Im)migration Journey
  • Introduction
  • Border Crossers
  • Leaving the Island(s)
  • Parental Support
  • Chapter Three: Navigating High School
  • Discrimination and Racism
  • Tracking and Low Expectations
  • Undocuqueers
  • ESL Class
  • Chapter Four: Post-High School
  • College and DACA
  • New Families and Jobs
  • Broken Dreams and Resilience
  • Chapter Five: Conclusions, Implications, and Final Words
  • Introduction
  • Book Questions
  • Major Implications
  • Final Words
  • Series index

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Latinx Voices Counternarratives

As a high school teacher, I had no idea how to save my students from their own lives except to include them in my writing, not for their sake, but for my own. I couldn’t undo myself from their stories any other way. How do you get any sleep at night if you witness stories that don’t let you go? (Cisneros, 2015, p. 39)


It was in the summer of 2017 when I went back to the semi-rural county in North Carolina where I had worked as an English as a second language (ESL) teacher for over 15 years in two different high schools. It was a strange feeling while driving down the streets and recalling familiar places with nostalgia and mixed feelings. I felt like a ghost coming back to visit and to reconnect with my former students. My students and I agreed to meet at the local library, my favorite place since I came to live in the county. I have to admit that reconnecting with my students after 5–10 years was very exciting but at the same time painful. It was also exciting since I wanted to find out what had happened with their lives after they finished high school but painful to hear about their struggles and challenges. I still recall how I went home one night and could not sleep at all after seeing one of students ←1 | 2→crying for not accomplishing her dreams of becoming a professional in this country. Instead, she ended up working in construction.

Between 1999 and 2012, I taught in a semi-rural county in North Carolina. As a native of Panama, I was able to communicate in both Spanish and English. Although I was aware of my privileged position as a legal immigrant and male teacher, I experienced the same layers of discrimination and racial profiling that most of my students and parents faced in the community. Talking about our personal experiences allow us to develop reciprocal confianza (trust). I also learned to respect my students and their families since they gave me a sense of belonging. In other words, we became a big familia.

After ten years, I feel the urgency to document twelve of my former students’ narratives and to discuss what happened to them after high school graduation. Since moving into higher education, I have kept most of their writing journals as a personal treasure. During this time, I have been in touch with most of them; some have pursued higher education, some have joined their parents and relatives, working two or three jobs, and others have become new parents. As a new faculty member, I feel the need to analyze these twelve students’ journals. I understand the importance of sharing what my students wrote in order to echo how their school experiences prepared or did not prepare them to face life’s challenges and/or higher education. Due to the fact that students of color represent the highest dropout rate in the nation, I see my study with urgency and relevance. I feel this book can be an excellent asset for teachers, school administrators, parents, community leaders, and for anyone who is interested in the educational experience of communities of color in the United States.

The most exciting part of this reencounter with my former students was to show them how I had kept the dialogue journals they wrote when they were in my ESL classroom. Some of them were surprised to realize that I had kept their writing projects for so long. Others even cried while reading their narratives and some others laughed and said things like, “I was so wrong when I wrote it.” However, the most important thing about my data collection was the promise I made to my students to document and to publish their histories in this book. Throughout all of these years my students and I have developed a strong friendship through confianza (trust) and respeto (respect). In this book, I will be using the term “Latinx” as a non-conforming male-female binary.

Theoretical Frameworks

Drawing on critical race theory (CRT), Latino critical theory (LatCrit), and queers of color (QOC) critique, this book analyses how twelve Latinx ←2 | 3→counterstorytelling narratives intersect multiple layers of oppression in school and society. CRT focuses on the intersectionality of subordination, including gender, class, and other forms of oppression. Challenging Eurocentric epistemology and questioning dominant notions of meritocracy, objectivity, and knowledge have particular application to the field of education, and offer a liberatory pedagogy that encourages inquiry, dialogue, and participation from a wide variety of stakeholders. “Counterstorytelling and narrative serve as a pedagogical tool that allows educators to better understand the experiences of their students of color through deliberate and mindful listening techniques. Learning to listen to these stories and figuring out how to make them matter in the educational system is potentially invigorating and validating” (Taylor, 2009, p. 10). As a highlight, this book also explorest the use of dialogue journaling (Peyton & Reed, 1990) as a classroom writing strategy. When revisited after ten years, to critically analyze the educational experiences of the participants in the study; thus, allowing them to become creators of their own narratives with issues of oppression and resistance during and after they completed high school.


X, 122
ISBN (Softcover)
ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2020 (October)
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Oxford, Wien, 2020. X, 122 pp., 12 b/w ill.

Biographical notes

Juan A. Ríos Vega (Author)

Juan Ríos Vega is an assistant professor at Bradley University, Department of Teacher Education, Counseling, and Leadership. He earned an M.A. in curriculum and teaching with an emphasis in ESL from The University of North Carolina at Greensboro; a women’s and gender studies certificate from The University of North Carolina at Greensboro; and a Ph.D. in philosophy in educational studies with a cultural studies concentration from The University of North Carolina at Greensboro. In 2014, he received the Daniel A. Solórzano Mentoring Program Award. In 2015, Dr. Ríos Vega published his first book Counterstorytelling Narratives of Latino Teenage Boys: From Vergüenza to Échale Ganas.


Title: High School Latinx Counternarratives