González, Rigoberto 1970-
González, Rigoberto 1970-
Born July 18, 1970, in Bakersfield, CA; son of Rigoberto González Carrillo (a farm worker). Education: University of California—Riverside, B.A., 1992; University of California—Davis, M.A., 1994; Arizona State University, M.F.A., 1997. Politics: Liberal. Religion: Catholic.
Writer and educator. Arts & Literacy After School Program, Brooklyn, NY, literary specialist, 1999-2001; New School University, New York, NY, visiting professor, 2002-04; University of Toledo, Toledo, OH, visiting professor, 2004-05; University of Illinois—Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, associate professor, 2005-06; Queens College City University of New York, New York, NY, M.F.A. in Creative Writing Program, visiting associate professor, 2006-08. Fundacion Valparaiso Writer's Residency, Spain, 2001; Fundacao Sacatar Writer's Residency, Brazil, 2001-02; White Colony Writer's Residency, Costa Rica, 2003; Hawthornden Castle Writer's Residency, Scotland, 2004; Chateau Lavigny Writer's Residency, Switzerland, 2007; M.F. Steinhardt Visiting Writer, Rutgers University in Newark, 2007—. Board member for From the Fishouse: An Audio Archive of Emerging Poets.
National Book Critics Circle (board member), PEN American Center.
John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Fellowship, 2000; John Guyon Prize for Literary Nonfiction; University Award, Academy of American Poets; National Endowment for the Arts grant; Foreword Fiction Book of the Year award.
So Often the Pitcher Goes to Water until It Breaks (poems), University of Illinois Press (Urbana, IL), 1999.
Crossing Vines (novel), University of Oklahoma Press (Norman, OK), 2003.
Soledad Sigh-Sighs/Soledad Suspiros (bilingual picture book), illustrated by Rosa Ibarra, translated by Jorge Argueta, Children's Book Press (San Francisco, CA), 2003.
Other Fugitives and Other Strangers (poems), Zoo Press (Omaha, NE), 2005, Tupelo Press (Dorset, VT), 2006.
Antonio's Card/La Tarjeta de Antonio (bilingual picture book, illustrations by Cecilia Concepción Alvarez), Children's Book Press (San Francisco, CA), 2005.
Butterfly Boy: Memories of a Chicano Mariposa, University of Wisconsin Press (Madison, WI), 2006.
Contributor to periodicals, including Poets & Writers and Poetry Foundation.
Poet and writer Rigoberto González is the son, and grandson, of migrant Mexican farm workers. González was born in Bakersfield, CA, and raised in Michoacán, Mexico. His work expresses the images of hardship, strenuous labor, and deep-rooted traditions that he experienced growing up. González's first book, the poetry collection So Often the Pitcher Goes to Water until It Breaks, offers a selection of "mostly straightforward narratives with their somber ironies and death-drenched imagery" that "rely on a multicultural appeal for their uniqueness," wrote a Kirkus Reviews critic. The poems depict subjects such as the life of a professional mourner, who saved the tears from her husband's death for her work; a coffin-maker who saves worn-out and valueless pesos to place with the dead; and a candlestick maker who pours his own life into his devotional art. Some poems touch on González's grandparents and happier times with them. Other poems describe the social problems that González is familiar with, including exploitation of immigrants, prejudice, and homesickness. A Publishers Weekly reviewer remarked that the poems "are rich with the colors, smells, and exigencies of daily life in differing corners of the Mexican diaspora."
Crossing Vines, González's 2003 novel, also uses the day-to-day life of the migrant farm worker as its basis. Using a tightly detailed chronological structure, González outlines the minute-by-minute activities of a day in the life of a group of migrant workers, who dutifully arrive and take their positions at their workplace until a violent workers' strike disrupts their lives and their livelihood. Crossing Vines "faithfully captures the moods and atmospheres of the pickers," wrote Lawrence Olszewski in Library Journal, "but fails to show us characters with strong individual identities and vibrancy." The book's "themes of … long and exhausting work hours, separation of families, and the ever-present threat of INS searches seem timeless," wrote Deborah Donovan in Booklist.
González addresses a quieter social problem in Soledad Sigh-Sighs/Soledad Suspiros, a bilingual picture book for children. The story is told in both English and Spanish, and concerns young Soledad, a latchkey kid who comes home to an empty apartment every day. She fixes her own dinner, does her homework, and goes to bed alone because her parents work long hours and are rarely there to see her. When lonely Soledad sees her neighbors Nedelsy and Jahniza playing happily together, she invents an imaginary sister of her own. The other girls soon find out, and when they do, they invite Soledad to their home to play, listen to music, read, dance, and draw—things that Soledad could do by herself but which are more fun to do with friends. Jahniza and Nedelsy help Soledad learn the value of friendship and companionship, as well as the value of solitude. González "creates a comforting and familiar ambience even as he deals with an uncomfortable reality" of latchkey kids and urban loneliness, wrote a critic in Kirkus Reviews. Linda Perkins, reviewing the book in Booklist, commented that "the narrative has sparks of fine urban imagery," while Ann Welton, writing in School Library Journal, remarked: "The rhythmic prose reads well in both English and Spanish, with the dreamy, detached tone of the opening giving way to a brighter, more realistic voice as the child's life opens out."
"Three of my poetry teachers have been Pat Mora, Gary Soto, and Francisco X. Alarcon," González told CA: "All three also write picture books for children, so I became inspired to write a few of my own. But I wanted my books to offer something a little different, perhaps a little more risky. My slant in writing picture books for children is to engage some important social issues and the realities that many children face today. Soledad Sigh-Sighs/Soledad Suspiros is about Puerto Rican latch-key children in Brooklyn; the next one, Antonio's Card Antonio's Card/La Tarjeta de Antonio, is about a little Chicano boy with two mommies."
With Other Fugitives and Other Strangers, González returns to poetry, offering readers his second collection. The poems reflect his interest in the imagery of death, especially in a confessional mode that reveals his feelings concerning the death of his mother, but also of that of a stranger, someone out of place. Unlike many writers, who view the stranger as someone ill at ease in his or her otherness, González depicts his stranger as unabashed and unashamed, thrust forward in an effort to make himself known. Michael Dunford, writing for MBR Bookwatch, referred to González's book as "a compendium of his lyrical poetry and prose that is best characterized by its intellectual intensity and emotional integrity." In a review for Lambda Book Report, Ricardo L. Ortiz found the poems "often alternately as withholding as they are forthcoming about the emotional, psychological or spiritual details informing their respective performances."
In 2006, González published his memoir Butterfly Boy: Memories of a Chicano Mariposa. The book chronicles González's childhood, growing up gay, and looks back from an adult perspective on how those years informed his attitudes later in life, as well as his behavior and relationships. Hazel Rochman, writing for Booklist, found the book "wrenching, angry, passionate, ironic, and always eloquent about conflicts of family, class, and sexuality."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, May 15, 2003, Linda Perkins, review of Soledad Sigh-Sighs/Soledad Suspiros, p. 1670; September 1, 2003, Deborah Donovan, review of Crossing Vines, pp. 55-56; July 1, 2006, Hazel Rochman, review of Butterfly Boy: Memories of a Chicano Mariposa, p. 21.
Kirkus Reviews, August 1, 1999, review of So Often the Pitcher Goes to Water until It Breaks, p. 1169; March 1, 2003, review of Soledad Sigh-Sighs/Soledad Suspiros, pp. 383-384; June 15, 2006, review of Butterfly Boy, p. 615.
Lambda Book Report, fall, 2006, Ricardo L. Ortiz, review of Other Fugitives and Other Strangers, p. 38.
Library Journal, September 15, 2003, Lawrence Olszewski, review of Crossing Vines, p. 91.
MBR Bookwatch, May 1, 2007, Michael Dunford, review of Other Fugitives and Other Strangers.
Publishers Weekly, May 31, 1999, review of So Often the Pitcher Goes to Water until It Breaks, p. 88; June 12, 2006, review of Butterfly Boy, p. 40.
School Library Journal, March, 2003, Ann Welton, review of Soledad Sigh-Sighs/Soledad Suspiros, pp. 226-227.
Eugene Lang University Web site,http://www.lang.edu/ (September 17, 2003), profile of author.
University of Illinois Press Web site,http://www.press.uillinois.edu/ (September 17, 2003), brief biography of author.