When Jesus Montaño stood before us and asked "What if Hamlet’s father was a cholo?" it shifted the class of educators from the early morning trying-to-show-energy-through-the-Mondays coffee chat to very-grad-student-brain serious faces and "Hmmms..." covering for the internal "What's a cholo? I hope he doesn't ask me" worries surely sprinkled throughout the room. Luckily for the afeared, there was no pop quiz, but there was an important base laid for this day's class.
Before then moving into approaches to examining masculinity in Bloodline by Joe Jiménez, Dr. Montaño gave us one of those "I've never thought of that" lit bits: the only audience not comprised of academics that reads Shakespeare is young adults; thus, Shakespeare is very much YA literature. So, when pairing a Shakespeare play with a modern YA text, that's pairing two YA pieces.
So, yeah, Hamlet certainly has a certain set of masculinity issues, but if he was a Latino teen such as Jiménez's Abram, examining those issues would require an understanding and framing of machismos and a working toward healthier masculinities, and Dr. Montaño provided us with very helpful resources on those approaches and constructions, including a discussion of rasquache/rasquachismo when using a text like Bloodline. In small groups we engaged in a very interesting activity of examining how four female characters from that novel are doing something to help Abram be a better man or to understand being a better man (or not)? My group discussed the letter Ophelia's mom writes to her that Ophelia reads aloud to Abram--how the act of writing a letter is specifically more meaningful and purposeful than, say, composing a text message; how the intimacy of letter-writing is one that Abram has never known and one that makes him very uncomfortable in Ophelia's lack of discomfort in sharing it (yet something that needs to be protected as he opens an umbrella to protect her reading of the letter from the rain). Dr. Montaño even noted how sometimes writing a letter to someone is really writing a letter to oneself.
In the afternoon, the class had its first group teaching demo from Julia, Jahna, and Jordan (alliteration surely coincidental). The bar was set high (though my group vowed to crush their memory into a fine powder to be scattered by the winds of amnesia with our upcoming demo), and as "students" we picked up some really cool approaches to teaching a text like The Steep & Thorny Way either before or after an accompanying Shakespeare play. I appreciated the activity involving asking questions of an image we had not seen before and without context, questioning our own questions and how we might then apply them to Hamlet and how we could then make our own adaption of the play based on the "movie" from which our assigned image was a still frame--definitely something I plan to apply to my classes back home.
Dr. Montaño then took us through a helpful exercise in deciding how to pair a modern YA text with a Shakespeare play (and how we shouldn't default to deciding what modern text choice should come from a chosen play--why not vice versa?). There are justifications for multiple Shakespeare plays being related to a given YA novel, and I was glad he brought up I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika L. Sánchez, which I've taught for three years prior and had success with but had never considered in conjunction with a Shakespeare play.
"The tragedy is not Othello's," Dr. Montaño noted as we shifted to that play and its "Potential and Promise," as his presentation slide read. "It is ours." Today's class ended with not shying away from an inevitable elephant that will appear in our classrooms and how to teach issues of race. Pairing that play with readings and resources that show race through an honest lens and framing the experiences of Americans of color (often involving the violence of the state) not as "spectacle," as our classmate Rachel put it, but as ongoing patterns and realities, put a poignant cap on a very full day of learning how to better adapt Shakespeare in our classrooms.