Agosín, Marjorie 1955–

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Agosín, Marjorie 1955–

(Marjorie Stella Agosín)

* Indicates that a listing has been compiled from secondary sources believed to be reliable, but has not been personally verified for this edition by the author sketched.

PERSONAL: Born 1955, in Bethesda, MD; daughter of Moises (a scientist and professor) and Frida Agosín; married John Wiggins (a nuclear scientist), 1977; children: Joseph Daniel, Sonia Helene. Education: University of Georgia, B.A., 1976; Indiana University—Bloomington, M.A., 1977, Ph.D., 1982. Religion: Jewish.

ADDRESSES: Office—Department of Spanish, Wellesley College, Wellesley, MA 02181. E-mail[email protected]

CAREER: Wellesley College, Wellesley, MA, became professor of Spanish, 1982–. Member of advisory board, Ms. magazine.

AWARDS, HONORS: Fulbright fellowship; Good Neighbor Award, National Association of Christians and Jews, 1988; Latino Literature Prize, Latin American Writers Institute, 1995, for Toward the Splendid City; Letras de Oro Prize in Poetry, Ministry of Culture (Spain)/North-South Center of the University of Miami, 1995; Jeanette Rankin Award, 1995; Gabriela Mistral Medal of Honor for Lifetime Achievement, government of Chile; Leadership Award for Human Rights, United Nations Association of Greater Boston, 1998.

WRITINGS:

POETRY

Conchali, illustrations by Della Collins Cook, Senda Nueva (New York, NY), 1980.

Hogueras, Universitaria, 1986, translation by Naomi Lindstrom, with a critical introduction by Juan Villegas, published as Hogueras/Bonfires, Bilingual/Bilingue (Tempe, AZ), 1990.

Zones of Pain (also see below), translated by Cola Franzen, White Pine (Fredonia, NY), 1988.

Generous Journey: A Celebration of Foods from the World, Black Rock Press/University of Nevada Press (Las Vegas, NV), 1991.

Toward the Splendid City, translated by Richard Schaaf, Bilingual/Bilingue (Tempe, AZ), 1994.

Noche estrellada, University of Miami North South Center (Miami, FL), 1996, translation by Mary G. Berg published as Starry Night: Poems, White Pine (Fredonia, NY), 1996.

Melodious Women (originally published as Mujeres melodiosas), translated by Monica Bruno Galmozzi, Latin American Literary Review Press (Pittsburgh, PA), 1997.

An Absence of Shadows (contains Circles of Madness and Zones of Pain), translated by Cola Franzen, Mary G. Berg, and Kostopulos-Cooperman, White Pine (Fredonia, NY), 1998.

Poems for Josefina, translated by Betty Jean Craige, Sherman Asher (Santa Fe, NM), 2004.

Contributor to Mujeres mirando al sur: antología de poetas sudamericanas en USA, edited by Zulema Moret, Ediciones Torremozas (Madrid, Spain), 2004.

POETRY; BILINGUAL EDITIONS

Brujas y algo mas/Witches and Other Things, translated by Cola Franzen, Latin American Literary Review Press (Pittsburgh, PA), 1984.

Mujeres de Humo, Ediciones Torremozas (Madrid, Spain), 1987.

Circulos de locura: Madres de la Plaza de Mayo/Circles of Madness: Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo (also see above), translated by Celeste Kostopulos-Cooperman, photographs by Alicia d'Amico and Alicia Sanguinetti, White Pine (Fredonia, NY), 1992.

Sargazo/Sargasso: Poems, translated by Cola Franzen, White Pine (Fredonia, NY), 1993.

Dear Anne Frank, Azul Edition (Washington, DC), 1994, translation by Richard Schaaf, with additional poems translated by Cola Franzen and Monica Bruno, University Press of New England (Hanover, NH), 1998.

Lluvia en el desierto/Rain in the Desert: Poems, translated by Celeste Kostopulos-Cooperman, Sharman Asher (Santa Fe, NM), 1999.

At the Threshold of Memory: A Bilingual Critical Anthology of New and Selected Poems, compiled and edited by Celeste Kostopulos-Cooperman, White Pine (Buffalo, NY), 2003.

EDITOR

Las desterradas del paraiso: Protagonistas en la narrativa de Maria Luisa Bombal, Senda Nueva (New York, NY), 1983.

Silencio e imaginacion: Metaforas de la escritura femenina, Katun (Mexico City, Mexico), 1986.

Scraps of Life: Chilean Arpilleras: Chilean Women and the Pinochet Dictatorship, translated by Cola Franzen, Red Sea (Trenton, NJ), 1987.

(And contributor with Elena Gascon-Vera and Joy Ren-jilian-Burgy) Maria Luisa Bombal: Apreciaciones criticas, Bilingual/Bilingue (Tempe, AZ), 1987.

Mujeres de humo, Torremozas (Madrid, Spain), 1987, translation by Naomi Lindstrom published as Women of Smoke: Latin American Women in Literature and Life, edited by Yvette E. Miller, Latin American Literary Review Press (Pittsburgh, PA), 1988.

(With Ines Doz Blackburn) Violeta Parra, santa de pura greda: Un estudio de su obra poetica, Planeta (Santiago, Chile), 1988.

Landscapes of a New Land: Fiction by Latin American Women, White Pine (Fredonia, NY), 1989.

La literatura y los derechos humanos: aproximaciones, lecturas y encuentros, Editorial Universitaria Centroamericana (San Jose, Costa Rica), 1989.

Chilean Folk Tales Retold, translated by Celeste Kostopulos-Cooperman, Williams-Wallace (Stratford, Ontario, Canada), 1992.

Literatura fantastica del cono sur: Las mujeres, EDUCA (San Jose, Costa Rica), 1992.

Secret Weavers: Stories of the Fantastic by Women Writers of Argentina and Chile, White Pine (Fredonia, NY), 1992.

(With Ines Doz Blackburn) Violeta Parra, o La expresion inefable: un analisis critco de su poesia, prosa, y pintura, Planeta (Santiago, Chile), 1992.

Gabriela Mistral, A Gabriela Mistral Reader, translated by Maria Giachetti, White Pine (Fredonia, NY), 1993.

Las hacedoras: mujer, imagen, escritura (criticism), Cuarto Propio (Santiago, Chile), 1993.

(With assistance from Monica Bruno) Surviving beyond Fear: Women, Children and Human Rights in Latin America, White Pine (Fredonia, NY), 1993.

These Are Not Sweet Girls: Latin American Women Poets, White Pine (Fredonia, NY), 1994.

A Dream of Light and Shadow: Portraits of Latin American Women Writers, University of New Mexico Press (Albuquerque, NM), Volume 1, 1995, Volume 2, 1996.

The Alchemy of the Palate: A Collection of Kitchen Stories, White Pine (Fredonia, NY), 1995.

What Is Secret: Stories by Chilean Women Writers, White Pine (Fredonia, NY), 1995.

Furniture Dreams, Black Rock Press/University of Nevada Press (Las Vegas, NV), 1995.

(With Emma Sepulveda) Hay otra voz: Essays on Hispanic Women Poets, Maerona (Puerto Rico), 1995.

Memory of Cloth: The History of the Chilean Arpillera, University of New Mexico Press (Albuquerque, NM), 1996.

A Woman's Gaze: Latin American Women Artists, White Pine (Fredonia, NY), 1998.

A Map of Hope: Women's Writing on Human Rights: An International Literary Anthology, Rutgers University Press (New Brunswick, NJ), 1999.

The House of Memory: Stories by Jewish Women Writers of Latin America, translated by Roberta Gordenstein and others, translation edited by Rosa Horan, Feminist Press of City University of New York (New York, NY), 1999.

(With Julie H. Levison) Magical Sites: Women Travelers in Nineteenth Century Latin America (some selections translated from French, German, and Spanish), White Pine (Fredonia, NY), 1999.

Passion, Memory, and Identity: Twentieth-Century Latin American Jewish Women Writers, University of New Mexico Press (Albuquerque, NM), 1999.

Women, Gender, and Human Rights: A Global Perspective, Rutgers University Press (New Brunswick, NJ), 2001.

(With Jacqueline C. Nanfito) Gabriela Mistral, Women, translated by Jacqueline C. Nanfito, White Pine (Buffalo, NY), 2001.

Taking Root: Narratives of Jewish Women in Latin America, Ohio University Press (Athens, OH), 2002.

(With Betty Jean Craige) To Mend the World: Women Reflect on 9/11, White Pine (Buffalo, NY), 2002.

Gabriela Mistral: The Audacious Traveler, Ohio University Press (Athens, OH), 2003.

Memory, Oblivion, and Jewish Culture in Latin America, University of Texas Press (Austin, TX), 2005.

OTHER

Pablo Neruda, translated by Lorraine Ross, Twayne (Boston, MA), 1986.

La felicidad, Cuarto Propio (Santiago, Chile), 1991, translation by Elizabeth Horan published as Happiness: Stories, White Pine (Fredonia, NY), 1993.

Sagrada memoria: reminiscencias de una nina judia en Chile, Cuarto Propio (Providencia, Santiago), 1994, translation by Celeste Kostopulos-Cooperman published as A Cross and a Star: Memoirs of a Jewish Girl in Chile, University of New Mexico Press (Albuquerque, NM), 1995.

Tapestries of Hope, Threads of Love: The Arpillera Movement in Chile, 1974–1994, photographs by Emma Sepulveda and Ted Polumbaum, translation by Celeste Kostopulos-Cooperman, University of New Mexico Press (Albuquerque, NM), 1996.

Ashes of Revolt: Essays on Human Rights, White Pine (Fredonia, NY), 1996.

Women in Disguise: Stories, Azul Editions (Washington, DC), 1996.

Las Chicas Desobedientes, Ediciones Torremozas (Madrid, Spain), 1997.

Council of the Fairies, translated by Monica Bruno Galmozzi, Azul Editions (Washington, DC), 1997.

A Necklace of Words: Stories by Mexican Women, White Pine (Fredonia, NY), 1997.

Always from Somewhere Else: A Memoir of My Chilean Jewish Father, translated by Celeste Kostopulos-Cooperman, introduction by Elizabeth Rosa Horan, Feminist Press at City University of New York (New York, NY), 1998.

Las Palabras de Miriam, Ediciones Torremozas (Madrid, Spain), 1999, bilingual edition translated by Roberta Gordenstein as Miriam's Daughters: Jewish Latin American Women Poets, Sherman Asher (Santa Fe, NM), 2001.

Uncertain Travelers: Conversations with Jewish Women Immigrants to America, edited and annotated by Mary G. Berg, University Press of New England (Hanover, NH), 1999.

The Alphabet in My Hands: A Writing Life, translated by Nancy Abraham Hall, Rutgers University Press (New Brunswick, NJ), 2000.

(With Emma Sepúlveda) Amigas: Letters of Friendship and Exile, translated by Bridget M. Morgan, University of Texas Press (Austin, TX), 2001.

Invisible Dreamer: Memory, Judaism, and Human Rights, Sherman Asher (Santa Fe, NM), 2001.

Cartographies: Meditations on Travel, translated and introduced by Adrian Hall, prelude by Isabel Allende, University of Georgia Press (Atlanta, GA), 2004.

Among the Angels of Memory = Entre los ángeles de la memoria, translated by Laura Rocha Nakazawa, Wings Press (San Antonio, TX), 2006.

(With Betty Jean Craige) Mother, Speak to Us of War/Madre, hablanos de la guerra, Sherman Asher (Santa Fe, NM), 2006.

(With Celeste Kostopulos-Cooperman and Guadalupe Morfin) Secrets in the Sand: The Young Women of Juarez, White Pine (Buffalo, NY), 2006.

(Compiler) Writing toward Hope: The Literature of Human Rights in Latin America, Yale University Press (New Haven, CT), 2007.

Author of more than forty books. Also contributor to The Power of the Word: Culture, Censorship, and Voice, Women's World (New York, NY), 1995. Contributor to New York Times, Boston Globe, and Christian Science Monitor.

SIDELIGHTS: Marjorie Agosín's writing demonstrates a unique marriage of cultures. The author grew up in Chile, and her work has drawn many comparisons to the "magic realist" style of other South American writers. She is also Jewish and often writes about the Holocaust and anti-Semitism in her native land. "What distinguishes the writing of Marjorie Agosín from that of so many other human rights activists is her focus on inner strength rather than victimization and capitulation…. Agosín's essays … fill the reader with hope and faith in the human spirit," asserted Barbara Mujica in an Americas dual review of Ashes of Revolt: Essays on Human Rights and Tapestries of Hope, Threads of Love: The Arpillera Movement in Chile, 1974–1994 "two uplifting books that explore human rights issues in a positive light." Mujica continued, "Inspiring and beautifully written, these essays remind us that in spite of the depravity and malevolence that have brutalized civilized nations repeatedly during this century, courageous men and women have struggled against evil and won."

In A Cross and a Star: Memoirs of a Jewish Girl in Chile Agosín wrote about her family from the perspective of her mother's life as a young girl in Osorno, a town in southern Chile inhabited primarily by German immigrants. According to Mujica's review of the book in Americas, it is "so unsettling, yet so hauntingly beautiful, that it is difficult to write about." Because of her faith, Agosín's mother was barred from attending the German school, the Catholic school, and the English school; the only school that would accept her was an institution for orphans and Indians. "There she was accepted and loved, for Indians, like her own people, were poor, excluded, persecuted, spat on," related Women's Review of Books contributor Mary Lowenthal Felstiner. "She learned silence and resignation, being unable to imagine a place—not Europe, not the forests of Chile—where people wouldn't condemn Jews. The family's suppression is captured in an image: the long gloves always worn by the narrator's grandmother to conceal a concentration camp tattoo."

A Cross and a Star's narrator describes a journey back to Osorno during the 1990s; her initial feeling of homecoming was tainted when she saw that portraits of Hitler were still a popular item, displayed and sold everywhere. "There is poetry in Agosín's descriptions of everyday life in Osorno—the customs, the food, the warmth and security of family life. Yet the horrors of the Holocaust are never far from mind," maintained Mujica. "Agosín shows anti-Semitism echoing through the Chilean population," related Felstiner, adding: "The distinctive 'foreigners' in Chile, by the way they spoke, ate and kept to themselves, were not the Spanish-speaking Jews but the many German Christians. Chileans respected them—and despised the Jews." "Ultimately, A Cross and a Star transcends the time and place it describes," according to Mujica, who wrote that the book "is about exile and alienation, but it is also about the resilience of the human spirit. It is a protest against violence and a plea for compassion, but above all, it is a song of triumph."

In the memoir The Alphabet in My Hands: A Writing Life Agosín again tells of her childhood in Chile, but continues on to give readers a glimpse into her life after emigrating to the United States. During her high school years, following Salvador Allende's assassination, Agosín moved to Georgia with her family. Agosín gives "a highly insightful portrait of life in exile," reported a Publishers Weekly critic, who praised The Alphabet in My Hands as an "intensely poetic memoir." The 2000 publication was also recommended by Library Journal contributor Lawrence Olszewski, who described Agosín's text as a "poignant, moving, and sensitive narrative of loneliness and an outsider's quest for identity and acceptance."

Always from Somewhere Else: A Memoir of My Chilean Jewish Father goes back in time to show the struggles of not only her father in Chile but also of his parents in Europe. Agosín's paternal grandparents married in Odessa and eventually moved to Turkey and France, where the author's father was born, before finally having to move to Chile. Moises Agosín experienced considerable prejudice in Chile, and did not escape it when he took his family to America. Booklist critic George Cohen appreciated how the author "writes of his gentleness and dignity and of the tenacity of his hope" throughout the work. And a Publishers Weekly writer called it a "beautifully composed tribute" to Agosín's father.

The problems of acclimatizing to a new culture are evident throughout Always from Somewhere Else, as they are in Agosín's Amigas: Letters of Friendship and Exile. This unique work, somewhere between correspondence collection and novel, is about the relationship and challenges faced by Agosín and her friend Emma Sepulveda. Despite their education in Latin America, both women became disadvantaged and looked down upon when they arrived in the United States. Sepulveda, for example, had to work as a waitress; yet, both women determinedly worked their way up and became university professors. "Amigas goes much deeper than the quest for identity and sexuality," related Gabriella Guitierrez y Muhs in the National Catholic Reporter. "This is a historical novel in a very nontraditional sense, with testimonial value, pictures and all. Any immigrant who arrived in this country as an older child, teenager or adult can relate to the nostalgia on display in Amigas."

In addition to being a focus of her memoirs, Agosín's preoccupation with human rights manifests itself again in Happiness: Stories, a collection of short fiction. Many of the stories deal with imprisonment and torture. Often, the characters are women on the fringe of society: beggars, prostitutes, and others who are shunned by society. Their stories are full of strange and fantastic events: flowers blooming amid a frozen landscape; cannibalism. Naomi Lindstrom, a reviewer for World Literature Today, called Agosín's prose "lyrical," and declared: "Agosín excels at evoking painful scenes, not only of such physical miseries as hunger, cold, and torture but also of extreme feelings of estrangement."

Although Agosín's long list of publications characteristically have a humanitarian theme, her titles include text in various formats: poetry, short fiction, autobiographies, essays, longer works of nonfiction, as well as collections of other writer's work. Agosín's writing includes Scraps of Life: Chilean Arpilleras: Chilean Women and the Pinochet Dictatorship, a work that examines the lives of the Chilean arpillersitas—the women who make the wall hangings known as arpilleras that depict the hardships of their daily lives under the Pinochet dictatorship. Writing in the Women's Review of Books, Linda Rennie Forcey stated that Agosín "shows how [the women] learn to surmount fear, to survive economically and to create a collective voice."

As an editor, Agosín has collected many different volumes of work from other women, primarily Latin Americans. In 1999, several volumes edited by Agosín were released, two of which are A Map of Hope: Women's Writing on Human Rights: An International Literary Anthology, which includes essays and poetry by women who tell of the effects of violence and political oppression on women in the twentieth century, and The House of Memory: Stories by Jewish Women Writers of Latin America, a work about which a Publishers Weekly reviewer concluded: "The power of memory and regeneration is the root of this story tree, as is the writers' determination to bear witness and lay claim to their heritage." Another edited work by Agosín along these lines is Women, Gender, and Human Rights: A Global Perspective, which contains thirteen essays by various contributors touching on subjects such as activism, women's health, and cultural issues. Ethics & International Affairs critic Alyssa R. Bernstein found the essays inconsistent in quality but concluded that Women, Gender, and Human Rights "is wide-ranging, thought-provoking, and a good starting point for further research." Agosín is also the author of Invisible Dreamer: Memory, Judaism, and Human Rights, a collection of the author's essays, speeches, and previously published journal articles covering a wide scope of Agosín's thoughts on human rights. Calling the work "extremely ambitious in scope," Library Journal writer Nedra C. Evers considered it perhaps "a little too spread out to do justice to the author's colorful writing."

Agosín has also published a number of collections of poetry. In one volume, Toward the Splendid City, Agosín writes about a number of cities around the world, including Jerusalem, Rome, and Santiago. Agosín's poetry in 1998's An Absence of Shadows "reveal a mastery of the personae lyric, in which Agosín becomes the instrument for another's song," Robert Bonazzi asserted in the National Catholic Reporter. "Agosín's sense of shared connection inspires compassion for victims of political oppression," stated Bonazzi, who concluded: "Because human rights are abused daily on a global scale, Agosín's tone is ever vigilant and deadly serious; because this tragedy is so heartbreaking, her poems throb with pain. She will not debate the niceties of ethical discourse or analyze the politics of diplomatic immunity, but simply cry out against the injustice. She is too humane to rationalize one moment of the horror and too sensitive to look away from the suffering."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Americas, November-December, 1990, Barbara Mujica, review of Landscapes of a New Land: Short Fiction by Latin American Women, p. 62; May-June, 1992, Barbara Mujica and Mark Holston, review of Circles of Madness: Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo, p. 62; November-December, 1992, Barbara Mujica, reviews of Generous Journey: A Celebration of Foods from the World and La felicidad, p. 61, and Secret Weavers: Stories of the Fantastic by Women of Argentina and Chile, p. 62; July-August, 1995, Barbara Mujica, review of These Are Not Sweet Girls: Latin American Women Poets, p. 61; March-April, 1996, Barbara Mujica, reviews of A Dream of Light and Shadow: Portraits of Latin American Women Writers, p. 60, and A Cross and a Star: Memoirs of a Jewish Girl in Chile, p. 61; September-October, 1997, Barbara Mujica, reviews of Tapestries of Hope, Threads of Love: The Arpill-era Movement in Chile, 1974–1994 and Ashes of Revolt: Essays on Human Rights, p. 62; July-August, 2002, Barbara Mujica, "Messengers across Dimensions," review of Among the Angels of Memory = Entre los ángeles de la memoria, p. 62.

Booklist, October 1, 1994, Elizabeth Gunderson, review of Toward a Splendid City, p. 230; December 1, 1998, George Cohen, review of Always from Somewhere Else: A Memoir of My Jewish Chilean Father, p. 646; June 1, 1999, Mary Carroll, review of Map of Hope: Women's Writing on Human Rights: An International Literary Anthology, p. 1772; September 15, 1999, George Cohen, review of Uncertain Travelers: Conversations with Jewish Women Immigrants to America, p. 200; December 1, 1999, Vanessa Bush, review of The Alphabet in My Hands: A Writing Life, p. 680; April 15, 2004, Allen Weakland, review of Cartographies: Meditations on Travel, p. 1417.

Ethics & International Affairs, October, 2002, Alyssa R. Bernstein, review of Women, Gender, and Human Rights: A Global Perspective, p. 162.

Journal of Women's History, spring, 1997, Francie R. Chassen-Lopez, review of Surviving beyond Fear: Women, Children and Human Rights in Latin America, p. 174; summer, 2001, Mary McCune, review of Uncertain Travelers, p. 204.

Latin American Research Review, winter, 1999, Philip Oxhorn, review of Tapestries of Hope, Threads of Love, p. 255.

Library Journal, February 1, 1997, Judy Clarence, review of Starry Night: Poems, p. 84; January, 1998, Lawrence Olszewski, review of Melodious Women, p. 103; March 15, 1998, Judy Clarence, review of Dear Anne Frank, p. 67; December, 1998, Frank Allen, review of An Absence of Shadows, p. 112; February 1, 1999, Olga B. Wise, review of Always from Somewhere Else, p. 101; June 15, 1999, Jeris Cassel, review of Map of Hope, p. 80; July, 1999, Molly Abramowitz, review of The House of Memory: Stories by Jewish Women Writers of Latin America, p. 139; November 1, 1999, Lawrence Olszewski, review of The Alphabet in My Hands, p. 79; February 1, 2001, Frank Allen, review of Miriam's Daughters: Jewish Latin American Women Poets, p. 100; March 15, 2002, Nedra C. Evers, review of Invisible Dreamer: Memory, Judaism, and Human Rights, p. 79; April 15, 2004, Mary V. Welk, review of Cartographies, p. 84.

MELUS, summer, 2000, Kamala Platt, review of A Dream of Light and Shadow, p. 222.

National Catholic Reporter, December 11, 1998, Robert Bonazzi, review of The Absence of Shadows, p. 17; October 26, 2001, Gabriella Guitierrez y Muhs, review of Amigas: Letters of Friendship and Exile, p. 38.

Publishers Weekly, September 26, 1994, review of Toward a Splendid City, p. 60; November 16, 1998, review of Always from Somewhere Else, p. 63; June 21, 1999, review of The House of Memory, p. 55; November 8, 1999, review of The Alphabet in My Hands, p. 53; March 15, 2004, review of Cartographies, p. 64.

Women's Review of Books, May, 1988, Linda Rennie Forcey, review of Scraps of Life: Chilean Arpilleras: Chilean Women and the Pinochet Dictatorship, p. 8; February, 1996, Mary Lowenthal Felstiner, review of A Cross and a Star, pp. 1, 3; October, 1999, Margaret Randall, review of A Map of Hope, p. 15; March, 2004, Nissa Hiat, review of Gabriela Mistral: The Audacious Traveler, p. 23.

World Literature Today, summer, 1994, Naomi Lindstrom, review of Happiness: Stories, p. 542; winter, 1998, Naomi Lindstrom, review of A Cross and a Star, p. 110; summer, 2000, Bettina L. Knapp, review of Map of Hope, p. 689.

ONLINE

Wellesley College Web site, http://www.wellesley.edu/ (November 3, 2006), profile of Marjorie Agosín.