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By Arthur Dorros


Rosalba boards a bus with her grandmother, Abuela. Rosalba talks about how her Abuela’s first language is Spanish. Her grandmother immigrated to the United States. Spanish words are scattered throughout the story and Rosalba translates these words for the readers. While they are in the park looking at the birds, Rosalba wonders what it would be like if she could fly. All of a sudden, Rosalba is soaring in the sky and her Abuela joins her on this newfound adventure. The rest of the story follows Rosalba and her Abuela as they fly across New York City, sightseeing, and enjoying their time with one another.

Guidelines for Philosophical Discussion

By Daniel Quintero and Emma Goidel

Abuela is a great bilingual children’s picture book that raises important questions about human enhancement and immigration. The majority of the story is spent following Rosalba and her Abuela as they fly through the sky. I am sure that many people have wondered what it would be like if they could fly. Flying is only one kind of human enhancement. Human enhancement can be thought of as an improvement that conquers the limitations of the human body. There are many human enhancements that exist in the world that we might not initially consider as enhancing humans. To give some examples, think about wearing glasses for better eyesight, getting braces for straighter teeth, working out to become stronger and faster, or even practicing to get better at some action.

The example provided by the book is a great kick-off for philosophical conversations. Ask the children, have you ever imagined that you can fly? Would you like to fly like Abuela and Rosalba? If you could have any power in the world, what would it be? If you do have a power or an ability, are you still human? How would others see you? Is it better to fly or be invisible? Or perhaps to never die? Is it fair for only you to have this power, or should everyone have the same power? These are just some questions that could get you and your kids thinking about concerns involving human enhancements. Questions about status and state control are at the center of immigration as a topic in philosophy. Why should someone like Abuela leave her home to go somewhere? What roles do immigrants play in society? How are they treated and why are they treated in this way? Why is there backlash against immigrants? How do countries decide who can immigrate into the country? What is a permissible system that countries can use to determine the admittance of immigrants? Do we need to allow immigrants, like Abuela, into our country in the first place? Is it our obligation to help them out and let them in? Do they have a right to come in? These are all questions that can be considered when thinking about immigration. Some people consider immigrants as “non-humans” or “aliens” because the country they currently reside in is not their original home. In Abuela, the author embraces immigrants through the pictures. When Rosalba is on the bus, the people around her are of all different ethnicities. This trend of diversity continues throughout the entirety of the story, evident in the illustrations.

The two very different topics of immigration and human enhancement are presented in Abuela. Human enhancement can involve very playful examples, as well as dive into serious topics that ask questions about morality and ethics. Immigration can be a very personal topic, so classmates should be reminded to respect one another’s responses and experiences.

Questions for Philosophical Discussion


Rosalba mentions that, “Abuela speaks mostly Spanish because that’s what people spoke where she grew up, before she came to this country”. She says, “Abuela and I are always going places.

  1. What are some reasons that people go places, or in other words, immigrate?
  2. Do people sometimes immigrate even though they do not want to?
  3. Has anyone here ever moved? Why did you and your family move?
  4. What can happen when people leave their home? Are there good things about moving? Bad things?
  5. Why is immigration controversial?
  6. Do people have a right to move?
  7. Are we required to let people people from other countries in?
  8. Are other countries required to let us in if we move there?
  9. There’s a border between our country and other countries, like between United States and Mexico. What’s the purpose of this border? Is it okay to have the border? Or is it a bad thing?
  10. If someone is in danger and needs to come to our country, do we have to let them in?
  11. Is it our responsibility to aid others when they come to our country looking for help?

Human Enhancement

Rosalba wonders, “What if I could fly?” Rosalba and her Abuela soar through the sky, over New York City, as they continue on their adventure

  1. Would it be good if we could fly?
  2. What would happen if everyone could fly?
  3. What would happen if only you could fly?

Flying can be referred to as a “human enhancement”. “Human enhancements” are things that change the way humans are able to act or live. Usually, people want an enhancement because they think it would improve their lives.

  1. What if instead of flying, it was something else. What if we enhanced ourselves to never die?
  2. What if humanity enhanced ourselves to always be moral? What if we were always good to one another and never lied or hurt anyone?
  3. Would this fix all the problems in the world?
  4. What effect would this have on you? Your family? The greater world?
  5. Would you consider wearing glasses, to improve one’s eyesight, a human enhancement?
  6. How is wearing glasses similar or dissimilar from flying?
  7. Is there one enhancement that is greater than another? For example, would you rather be able to fly or be invisible?
  8. What human enhancements appear to be problematic?
  9. If an enhancement makes you better at something than your other non-enhanced peers, is this problematic? Is this fair?
  10. If some enhancements are bad, does that mean we should stop all kinds of enhancements?
  11. If most people had enhancements, would those that do not feel forced to obtain some? Would they feel as part of the society?
  12. Glasses are normal today, for example, but at some point they were new and exciting. Will the enhancements of tomorrow be normal in the future?
  13. How far can we enhance ourselves until we are not longer human?

This book module deals with existentialism and multiculturalism. You can buy this book on Amazon.

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