Hispanic American Author
Photo: c. Michael Mouchette, courtesy University of New Mexico Press
Rudolfo Anaya, a native of New Mexico, where he was born in 1937, is considered one of the premier Chicano American writers. He is best known for a trilogy of novels published during the 1970s -- Bless Me, Ultima (1972), which won the prestigious Premio Quinto Sol national Chicano literary award; Heart of Aztlan (1976); and Tortuga (1979). All three works focus on growing up as a Hispanic American in U.S. society.
Many of Anaya's works are about faith and the loss of faith. His writing is rich in symbolism, poetry, and spiritualism as he explores the mystery of life and his cultural heritage. His novels include The Legend of La Llorona (1984); Lord of the Dawn (1987); and Albuquerque (1992), for which he received the PEN-West Fiction Award; Zia Sammer and Jalamanta (1995); and Rio Grande Fall (1996).
His most current work is My Land Sings: Stories from the Rio Grande (1999). In addition to his novels and short stories, Anaya has written plays, poems, children's books and works of nonfiction. He is currently a professor of English at the University of New Mexico.
Ana (Hernandez del) Castillo
Ana (Hernandez del) Castillo, a highly-respected Chicana poet, novelist, and essayist, has been called one of the most original voices in Chicana and contemporary American feminist literature. Her work often considers how gender and sexuality intersect with racism and cultural conflict.
Her first novel, The Mixquiahuala Letters (1986), an American Book Award winner, explores the changing role of Hispanic women in the United States and Mexico during the 1970s and 1980s. So Far From God (1993), her most popular novel, focus on the complex lives and relationships of Latino women. Castillo's poetry collections, Women Are Not Roses (1984), and My Father Was a Toltec (1988), explore the lives and gender roles of Latinas in the Hispanic community.
Massacre of the Dreamers: Essays on Xicanisma (1994), examines the situation of women of color in the United States. Over the years, Castillo has broadened her work to include musical performance.
Mexican American writer of fiction Sandra Cisneros ignited a cultural controversy in 1997 when she painted her historic San Antonio, Texas, house neon purple in violation of the city's historic preservation code -- claiming the bright color as a key part of her Mexican heritage.
The incident mirrors her most well-known work and National Book Award winner, The House on Mango Street (1984), in which she writes, "One day I'll own my own house, but I won't forget who I am or where I came from." Cisneros, born in Chicago in 1954, draws heavily upon her childhood experiences and ethnic heritage in her writing -- addressing poverty, cultural suppression, self-identity and gender roles in her fiction and poetry.
Although Cisneros is noted primarily for Mango Street and Woman Hollering Creek and Other Stories (1991), her poetry, which includes Bad Boys (1980), My Wicked, Wicked Ways (1987), and Loose Woman (1994) has also received considerable attention.
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Cristina Garcia was born in Havana, Cuba, in 1958 and fled the Castro regime to New York City with her family when she was two. In 1990 she left her job as a reporter and correspondent for Time magazine to explore the issues of her Cuban heritage and her childhood in fiction. She has written two critically acclaimed books chronicling what it means to be Cuban American.
The first, Dreaming in Cuban (1992), focuses on three generations of maternally-related Cuban women, each living her life differently as a result of the Cuban revolution. The San Francisco Chronicle called it "evocative and lush...a rich and haunting narrative." Her second, The Aguero Sisters (1997), glimpses two middle-aged siblings -- one an electrician in Havana, the other a salesperson in New York City. It, too, received glowing reviews and won her a new and increasingly devoted readership.
As one critic has noted, Garcia "has opened a portal to Cuba -- where readers enter a world of history, culture, love, yearning, and loss."
Award-winning novelist Oscar Hijuelos, born in 1951 in New York City, calls upon his Cuban American heritage in writing fictional works that have won him both critical and popular acclaim.
His first novel, Our House in the Last World (1983), tells of a Cuban American family's difficulties adjusting to life in the United States during 1940s. The Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love (1989), moved him to the first rank of American novelists in portraying two brothers who leave their native Cuba and to seek their fortunes as singers in New York City in the early 1950s, at the outset of the television era, as the Latino musical craze erupts.
Hijuelos' 1993 novel, The Fourteen Sisters of Emilio Montez O'Brien, takes a different tack, focusing on the female members of a Cuban-Irish family living in Pennsylvania. The author's heritage was only a minor theme in Mr. Ives' Christmas (1995), a tender tale of a foundling, that was greeted by the Philadelphia Inquirer as "a life-affirming novel, a worthy successor to Dickens."
However, his most recent story, Empress of the Splendid Season (1999) returns to those roots as it tells the story of a humble Cuban American from the late 1940s to the present. Hijuelos is most noted for the skilled contrasts he draws between Cuban and American life, his rich descriptions of everyday existence in Cuba, and his capacity for incorporating elements of magical realism into his novels.