Department of Teaching, Learning and Teacher Education


Date of this Version

February 1998


Published in Linguistics and Education 10:2 (February 1998), pp. 237-240. Copyright © 1999 Elsevier Science. Used by permission.


Intended both for ethnographers and for scholars of literacy and rhetorical studies, Juan C. Guerra’s Close to Home: Oral and Literate Practices in a Transnational Mexicano Community is at once groundbreaking and important, though because of the sophistication and detail of its reasoning, it may not be accessible to a broad audience. The book—the fortieth title in the Teachers College Press Language and Literacy Series—is pioneering in a number of ways. Most notable is Guerra’s refusal to fit the group he is focusing on—the multigenerational social network of an extended Mexican-origin family—into a single geographic frame of reference. Guerra explains that both rural Mexico and urban Chicago inform the way members of this social network read, understand, and interact with the world. He documents their overlapping uses of bilingual orality and literacy within three main “home fronts”—two ranchos in Mexico and a neighborhood in Chicago— and also in the “contact zones”—those places and formats in which members of the social network encounter the society outside of their network (e.g., at school, in the newspaper, and on television).