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Gaspar de Alba, Alicia 1958- (Alicia Gaspar de Alba)

Gaspar de Alba, Alicia 1958- (Alicia Gaspar de Alba)

PERSONAL:

Born July 29, 1958, in El Paso, TX. Education: University of Texas at El Paso, B.A. (magna cum laude), 1980, M.A., 1983; doctoral study at University of Iowa, 1985-86; University of New Mexico, Ph.D. (with distinction), 1994.

ADDRESSES:

Office—César Chávez Center for Interdisciplinary Instruction in Chicana and Chicano Studies, Box 951559, University of California, Los Angeles, CA 90095-1559. E-mail—[email protected]

CAREER:

Writer, poet, and educator. Instituto Interlingua, Juarez, Mexico, teacher of English as a second language to automotive executives, 1979; University of Texas at El Paso, El Paso, lecturer in English and linguistics, c. 1981, 1986; National Braille Press, Boston, MA, computer Braille transcriber, 1987; University of California, Los Angeles, assistant professor, 1994-99, associate professor at César Chávez Center for Interdisciplinary Instruction in Chicana and Chicano Studies, 1999—, associate director of Chicano Studies Research Center, 2002-04, and member of editorial board, Chicana/Latina Research Center. Pomona College, minority scholar in residence, 1994-95; University of Texas at El Paso, Roderick Professor of English, 1999; guest lecturer at other institutions in the United States and elsewhere, including Royal Holloway College, London, Universidad del País Vasco, University of California, Irvine, Smithsonian Institution, and University of New Mexico; gives readings from her works; conference participant and organizer; judge of fiction competitions.

AWARDS, HONORS:

Poetry fellow, Massachusetts Artists Foundation, 1989; Premio Aztlán Award, 1994, for The Mystery of Survival and Other Stories; Ralph Henry Gabriel Prize for the best dissertation in American studies, 1994; Border-Ford/Pellicer-Frost Award in Poetry, c. 1998; Rockefeller Foundation fellow, 1998-99; Shirley Collier Prize for Literature, UCLA English Department award, 1998; Institute of American Cultures Grant, 1998-99, 2004-05, 2005-06; first-place award in historical novel category, Latino Literary Hall of Fame Book Awards, 2001, Sor Juana's Second Dream; Lambda Literary Foundation Award for Best Lesbian Mystery of 2005, International Latino Book Award for Best English-Language Mystery of 2005, both for Desert Blood: The Juárez Murders.

WRITINGS:

(With María Herrera-Sobek and Demetria Martínez) Three Times a Woman: Chicana Poetry (includes Beggar on the Córdoba Bridge), Bilingual Press (Tempe, AZ), 1989.

The Mystery of Survival and Other Stories, Bilingual Press (Tempe, AZ), 1993.

Chicano Art inside/outside the Master's House: Cultural Politics and the CARA Exhibit, University of Texas Press (Austin, TX), 1998.

Sor Juana's Second Dream (novel), University of New Mexico Press (Albuquerque, NM), 1999, published as El Segundo Sueno (title means "The Second Sleep"), Grijalbo Mondadori SA, 2002.

(Editor and contributor) Velvet Barrios: Popular Culture and Chicana/o Sexualities, Palgrave Macmillan (New York, NY), 2003.

La Llorona on the Longfellow Bridge: Poetry y otros movidas, 1985-2001, Arte Público Press (Houston, TX), 2003.

Desert Blood: The Juárez Murders (novel), Arte Público Press (Houston, TX), 2005.

Calligraphy of the Witch (novel), St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 2007.

Contributor to books, including Mirrors beneath the Earth: Short Fiction by Chicano Writers, edited by Ray Gonzalez, Curbstone Press (Willimantic, CT), 1992; Currents from the Dancing River: Contemporary Latino Fiction, Nonfiction, and Poetry, edited by Ray Gonzalez, Harcourt Brace (New York, NY), c. 1994; Culture and Difference: Critical Perspectives on the Bicultural Experience, edited by Antonia Darder, Bergin & Garvey, 1995; Latina: Women's Voices from the Borderlands, edited by Lillian Castillo-Speed, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1995; Claiming the Spirit Within: A Sourcebook of Women's Poetry, edited by Marilyn Sewell, Beacon Press (Boston, MA), 1996; Living Chicana Theory, edited by Carla Trujillo, Third Women Press (Berkeley, CA), c. 1998; Floricanto si! A Collection of Latina Poetry, edited by Bryce Milligan, Mary Guerrero Milligan, and Angela De Hoyos, Penguin Books (New York, NY), 1998; Curriculum in the Postmodern Condition (Counterpoints: Studies in the Postmodern Theory of Education), Peter Lang Publishing (New York, NY), 2000; and Feminism, Nation, and Myth: La malinche, edited by Rolando Romero, Arte Público Press (Houston, TX), 2005. Contributor of articles, poetry, short stories, and reviews to periodicals, including Colorado Review, Massachusetts Review, Centennial Review, American Quarterly, Latino Studies, and Bilingual Review. Coeditor, Aztlán: Journal of Chicano Studies, 2002-04.

ADAPTATIONS:

Sor Juana's Second Dream was adapted by Carla Lycero, as the play Juana.

SIDELIGHTS:

Alicia Gaspar de Alba is a writer and novelist whose academic interests focus on issues of identity and Chicano studies. As editor of Velvet Barrios: Popular Culture and Chicana/o Sexualities, Gaspar de Alba presents eighteen essays that look at the ideologies of gender and sex in popular culture. In addition to her introduction, the author also contributes an essay. Writing in the Journal of San Diego History, Peter Boag commented that "those interested in sexuality and gender and in Chicano and American popular cultures will find Velvet Barrios a blessed addition to the literature available."

In addition to her academic interests and writings, Gaspar de Alba is also known as an accomplished fiction writer. Her 1993 collection of short stories, The Mystery of Survival and Other Stories, presents a series of tales that take place both in America and Mexico. The stories feature tales of abuse, discrimination, and magic. A Publishers Weekly contributor noted that the author "sketches the characters in delicate language."

In her first novel, Sor Juana's Second Dream, Gaspar de Alba tells the fictionalized story of Mexico's Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz, a real-life seventh-century Mexican poet and thinker. Because of the times she lives in, Sor Juana is expected either to marry or enter a convent. As a lesbian, she chooses the latter, placing herself in danger as she goes against the Inquisition, which frowns upon educated women. Eventually the Church hierarchy threatens her to give up her reading and writing, leading Sor Juana to renounce the world. "This work of fine scholarship and vision should increase awareness of a compelling historical figure," wrote a contributor to Publishers Weekly. Writing in the Library Journal, Mary Margaret Benson called the novel "a vibrant … account of a complex life."

The author's 2005 novel, Desert Blood: The Juárez Murders, is based on a series of real-life murders of young, poor, brown women in Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua, Mexico, which lies across the border from El Paso, Texas. Since 1993, approximately 500 women have been found murdered in this area. "Desert Blood tackles the issues of patriarchy, gender and sexual identity, border culture and the neoliberalism that creates the stage on which this global crisis is being played out," noted Patricia Trujillo in a review on the MySA.com Web site.

The novel, which takes place in the summer of 1998, features Ivon Villa, a professor of women's studies who is thrust into the center of the murders when the body of the mother of a baby she is going to adopt is found strangled and disembowelled. As the novel progress, Ivon's younger sister is kidnapped. Ivon sets out to find her, and, as her investigation broadens, she discovers herself in danger as she encounters a wall of silence that surrounds the murders and murderers. Those being protected could be anyone from members of the Maquiladora Association to Border Patrol agents.

"The fictional Ivon's story is a gripping adventure, with family drama, romantic complications, false trails, brutality and heroism," wrote Nan Cinnater for the Books to Watch Out For Web site. Jenny McClarin, writing in Booklist, noted that the author "not only crafts a suspenseful plot but tackles prejudice in many of its ugly forms."

Calligraphy of the Witch is a historical novel that takes place in 1683. Fleeing a strict convent life, Concepción Benavidez ends up captured by buccaneers who take her to New England, where she is sold to a merchant in Boston named Nathaniel Greenwood. With the new name of Thankful Seagraves, she cares for Nathaniel's father-in-law and works on the family farm. She eventually gives birth to a daughter after having been raped during her sea passage to New England. In addition to being a slave, Thankful must worry about Nathaniel's wife, Rebecca, who wants her daughter for herself. As she struggles to survive in a foreign land as an outsider, Thankful eventually becomes caught up in the Salem witch trials of 1692.

A Kirkus Reviews contributor commented that the author creates characters who "are as rich and complex as any characters in recent historical fiction." Another reviewer writing in Publishers Weekly noted that the author "has a firm grasp of her historical material and portrays the pirate life as convincingly as the witch trials."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

BOOKS

Castillo, Debra A., Marie Socorro, and Tabuenca Córdoba, Border Women: Writing from la Frontera, University of Minnesota Press (Minneapolis, MN), 2002.

PERIODICALS

Americas, September-October, 2006, Elizabeth Coonrod Martinez, review of Desert Blood: The Juárez Murders.

Aztlán: Journal of Chicano Studies, fall, 2001, Paul Allaston, review of Sor Juana's Second Dream, pp. 231-237.

Back Stage West, May 24, 2007, review of Juana, p. 26; May 31, 2007, review of Juana, p. 40.

Belles Lettres: Review of Books by Women, summer, 1994, review of The Mystery of Survival and Other Stories, p. 56.

Booklist, February 15, 2005, Jenny McLarin, review of Desert Blood, p. 1064.

Hispanic, October, 1999, Mary Helen Ponce and Katharine A. Diaz, review of Sor Juana's Second Dream, p. 96.

Journal of San Diego History, winter-spring, 2004, Peter Boag, review of Velvet Barrios: Popular Culture and Chicana/o Sexualities, pp. 64-65.

Kirkus Reviews, August 15, 2007, review of Calligraphy of the Witch.

Library Journal, June 15, 1993, Harold Augenbraum, review of The Mystery of Survival and Other Stories, p. 99; August, 1999, Mary Margaret Benson, review of Sor Juana's Second Dream, p. 138; March 1, 2005, Rex E. Klett, review of Desert Blood, p. 70; September 15, 2007, Laurel Bliss, review of Calligraphy of the Witch, p. 50.

Publishers Weekly, June 14, 1993, review of The Mystery of Survival and Other Stories, p. 64; July 26, 1999, review of Sor Juana's Second Dream, p. 63; August 6, 2007, review of Calligraphy of the Witch, p. 169.

ONLINE

Books to Watch Out For,http://www.btwof.com/ (July 27, 2008), Nan Cinnater, review of Desert Blood.

Desert Blood Web site,http://www.desertblood.info/ (July 27, 2008).

I Love a Mystery Newsletter,http://www.iloveamystery.com/ (July 27, 2008), review of Desert Blood.

Inter University Program for Latino Research, University of Notre Dame Web site,http://www.nd.edu/~iuplr/ (July 27, 2008), "Center News," discusses award to author.

Julie K. Rose Historical Novels Review,http://www.andromedafilms.com/juliekrose/ (July 27, 2008), Julie K. Rose, review of Calligraphy of the Witch.

Labloga,http://labloga.blogspot.com/ (July 27, 2008), Michael Sedano, review of Calligraphy of the Witch.

MySA.com,http://www.mysanantonio.com/ (March 20, 2005), Elaine Ayala, "Novel Explores String of Juárez Killings," review of Desert Blood; April 10, 2005, Patricia Trujillo, "Juárez Murders Are the Subject of Powerful Novel," review of Desert Blood.

National Academies Web site,http://www7.nationalacademies.org/ (July 27, 2008), "Excellence through Diversity: Profiles of Forty-Two Ford Foundation Fellows."

Reading Group Gold,http://www.readinggroupgold.com/ (July 27, 2008), "Read a Q&A with the Author," interview covers Calligraphy of the Witch.

SLIS Reading Group,http://www.readalike.org/ (July 27, 2008), review of Desert Blood.

Southwest BookViews,http://evopubswbv.evolutionwebdev.com/ (July 27, 2008), Mary A. Sarber, review of Desert Blood.

UCLA Store BookZone,http://www.uclastore.com/ (July 27, 2008), Alexia Montibon-Larsson, "BookZone's Interview with Alicia Gaspar de Alba."

UCLA Today,http://www.today.ucla.edu/ (July 27, 2008), Letisia Márquez, "A Scholarly Inquiry: Probing the Maquiladora Murders."

University of California Los Angeles, César E. Chávez Department of Chicana & Chicano Studies Web site,http://www.chavez.ucla.edu/ (July 27, 2008), faculty profile of author.

VG: Voices from the Gaps,http://voices.cla.umn.edu/vg/ (July 27, 2008), brief biography of author.

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