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Lorna Dee Cervantes        

Award-Winning Voice in Chicana Literature, Feminist & Activist Poet

One of the major voices in Chicana literature, poet Lorna Dee Cervantes’s writing evokes and explores cultural difference—between Mexican, Anglo, Native American, and African American lives—as well as the divides of gender and economics. Born in San Francisco in 1954 to Mexican and Native American ancestry, Cervantes was discouraged from speaking Spanish at home in an attempt to protect her from the racism prevalent at that time; this loss of language and subsequent inability to fully identify with her heritage fueled her later poetry.

By the age of fifteen she had compiled her first collection of poetry. In 1974 she traveled to Mexico City with her brother, who played with the Theater of the People of San Jose at the Quinto Festival de los Teatros Chicanos. At the last moment, Cervantes was asked to participate by reading some of her poetry. She chose to read a portion of “Refugee Ship,” a poem that enacts the major dilemma of being Chicano—feeling adrift between two cultures. This reading received much attention and appeared in a Mexican newspaper, as well as other journals and reviews. The poem was later included in her award-winning debut, "Emplumada." Cervantes’ life was tragically transformed when her mother was brutally killed in 1982. This incident and Cervantes’s subsequent mourning and rebuilding of her life, affected her next work, "From the Cables of Genocide: Poems of Love and Hunger."

Cervantes has been much anthologized—most notably in multiples volumes of the Norton Anthology—and has been the recipient of many honors and awards, including a Lila Wallace-Reader’s Digest Award, the Paterson Prize for Poetry and a Latino Literature Award. She is director of the creative writing program at the University of Colorado-Boulder.

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