Moraga, Cherríe 1952–
Moraga, Cherríe 1952–
PERSONAL: Born September 25, 1952, in Whittier, CA; daughter of Joseph Lawrence and Elvira Moraga. Ethnicity: "Hispanic." Education: Received B.A., 1974; San Francisco State University, M.A., 1980.
ADDRESSES: Home—P.O. Box 410085, San Francisco, CA 94141.
CAREER: High school English teacher in Los Angeles, CA, 1974–77; Kitchen Table/Women of Color Press, New York, NY, cofounder and administrator, beginning 1981; INTAR (Hispanic-American arts center), playwright-in-residence, 1984; University of California, Berkeley, part-time writing instructor, beginning 1986; Theater Communications Group, member.
AWARDS, HONORS: American Book Award, Before Columbus Foundation, 1986, for This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color; grant from National Endowment for the Arts; Fund for New American Plays Award, John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, for Watsonville: Some Place Not Here.
(Editor, with Gloria Anzaldúa, and contributor) This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color, Persephone Press (Watertown, MA), 1981, revised bilingual edition (with Ana Castillo) published as Esta puente, mi espalda: Voces de mujeres tercermundistas en los Estados Unidos, Spanish translation by Castillo and Norma Alarcón, ISM Press (San Francisco, CA), 1988, 3rd edition, Third Woman Press (Berkeley, CA), 2001.
Loving in the War Years: Lo que nunca pasó por sus labios (poetry and essays; subtitle means "What Never Passed Her Lips"), South End Press (Boston, MA), 1983.
(Editor, with Alma Gómez and Mariana Romo-Car-mona) Cuentos: Stories by Latinas, Kitchen Table/Women of Color Press (New York, NY), 1983.
Giving Up the Ghost: Teatro in Two Acts (two-act play; first produced as staged reading in Minneapolis, MN, at At the Foot of the Mountain, 1984; produced in Seattle, WA, at Front Room Theater, 1987; revised version produced in San Francisco, CA, at Mission Cultural Center, 1987), West End Press (Los Angeles, CA), 1986.
Heroes and Saints (two-act play), first produced in Los Angeles, CA, at Los Angeles Theater Laboratory, 1989.
(Editor, with Norma Alarcón and Ana Castillo) The Sexuality of Latinas, Third Woman Press (Berkeley, CA), 1991.
The Last Generation: Poetry and Prose, South End Press (Boston, MA), 1993.
Heroes and Saints and Other Plays, West End Press (Los Angeles, CA), 1994.
Watsonville: Some Place Not Here (play), produced in San Francisco, CA, by Brava Theater Company, 1996.
Waiting in the Wings: Portrait of a Queer Motherhood, Firebrand Books (Ithaca, NY), 1997.
Plays from South Coast Repertory: Hispanic Playwrights Project Anthology, Broadway Plays Publishing (New York, NY), 2000.
The Hungry Woman/Heart of the Earth (plays; contains The Hungry Woman: A Mexican Medea and Heart of the Earth: A Popul Vuh Story West End Press (Los Angeles, CA), 2001.
Also author of two-act plays La extranjera, 1985, and Shadow of a Man, 1988.
SIDELIGHTS: Through her writing, Cherríe Moraga explores her identity as a Chicana, a feminist, and a lesbian. By publicly addressing each of these aspects of herself, noted Yvonne Yarbro-Bejarano in her Dictionary of Literary Biography essay, Moraga speaks for feminists and lesbians within the Chicano culture, and for Chicanas within the larger American culture, who have not spoken or cannot speak for themselves; she "has given voice and visibility in Chicano writing to those who have been silenced." In addition to writing her own poetry, plays, and essays, Moraga has coedited collections of women's writings, and in 1981 she helped found Kitchen Table/Women of Color Press, which is devoted to publishing the works of minority women.
Moraga's first collection, Loving in the War Years: Lo que nunca pasó por sus labios, was published in 1983. It includes the poem "For the Color of My Mother," which explores the relationship between the light-skinned writer and her darker-skinned Chicana mother (the author's father is Anglo-American), and the essay "A Long Line of Vendidas," which interprets the sexuality of Chicanas in terms of their cultural identity. The essay describes women's subordination within Chicano culture and explains that women are raised to place men's needs before their own. Chicanas—whether heterosexual or homosexual—must resist this tendency, Moraga writes, and must instead emphasize their own needs. This assertion "is not separatist," according to Yarbro-Bejarano, "but woman-centered. Chicana feminism means putting women first." The reviewer called "A Long Line of Vendidas" "a cornerstone text in the development of a Chicana feminist analysis of sexuality and gender."
Moraga's 1993 work, The Last Generation: Poetry and Prose, continues the author's search for a "Queer Aztlan," the "Chicano 'imagined community' that she proposes to reinvent from a feminist, lesbian perspective," commented Nation contributor Jan Clausen. Using a mixture of poems, letters, memoirs, and essays, Moraga laments the possible passing of a lost Chicano culture; examines the legacy of heterosexism and patri-archalism that she feels has damaged the Chicano community; and explores lesbian love and commitment. Writing in the Women's Review of Books, Marie-Elise Wheatwind observed that "what Moraga points to, again and again, is the potential power of women."
Moraga's plays, like her other writings, often illustrate Chicano themes from a feminist perspective. Giving Up the Ghost, for example, which was produced and published during the mid-1980s, consists of poetic monologues spoken by two women at different points in their lives. The characters, speaking a mixture of Spanish and English, recall the oppressive forces that have damaged their perceptions of themselves as women. One character, Marisa, has tried to cope with being raped—and with society's general disrespect for women—by assuming male attitudes and characteristics. The other woman, Amalia, has become emotionally lifeless from repressing her feelings, which she often finds too painful. For a time the women comfort each other by becoming lovers, but that relationship does not last. Each woman nonetheless gains something from the relationship, as Yarbro-Bejarano noted. Amalia once again allows herself to feel for another person, and Marisa learns to love and respect women after allowing herself to be loved.
Although Moraga has received considerable praise for her own writings, she probably remains best known for editing, with Gloria Anzaldúa, the anthology This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color. The collection of poetry, fiction, essays, letters, and other forms of writing addresses the differences as well as the similarities between feminist women, touching on such subjects as skin color, class, and sexual identity. "From this painful probing," observed Barbara Baracks in the Voice Literary Supplement, "emerges mutual respect far firmer than bland generalizations of sisterhood." Sara Mandelbaum, writing in Ms., cited the book for demonstrating that women can more truthfully communicate and more securely unite if they acknowledge, rather than ignore, their differences. "This Bridge," she wrote, "marks a commitment of women of color to their own feminism—a movement based not on separatism but on coalition." Mandelbaum concluded: "This Bridge not only utterly challenged me, but it filled me with greater hope for feminism than I had felt in a long time."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Brown-Guillory, E., editor, Women of Color: Mother-Daughter Relationships in 20th Century Literature, University of Texas Press (Austin, TX), 1996.
Contemporary Literary Criticism, Volume 126, Thomson Gale (Detroit, MI), 2000.
Dictionary of Hispanic Biography, Thomson Gale (Detroit, MI), 1996.
Dictionary of Literary Biography, Volume 82: Chicano Writers, First Series, Thomson Gale (Detroit, MI), 1989.
Feminist Writers, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1996.
Gay & Lesbian Biography, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1997.
Gay & Lesbian Literature, Volume 2: Introduction to Lesbian Literature, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1998.
Hispanic Writers, Thomson Gale (Detroit, MI), 1991.
Horno-Delgado, Asunción and other editors, Breaking Boundaries: Latina Writing and Critical Readings, University of Massachusetts Press (Amherst, MA), 1989.
Moraga, Cherríe, Waiting in the Wings: Portrait of a Queer Motherhood, Firebrand Books (Ithaca, NY), 1997.
Notable Hispanic American Women, Thomson Gale (Detroit, MI), 1998.
Reference Guide to American Literature, 3rd edition, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1994.
Advocate, January 30, 2001, interview by Etelka Lehoczky, p. 67.
American Theatre, October, 1996, D. DeRose, "Cherríe Moraga: Mapping Aztlan," pp. 76-78.
Americas Review: Review of Hispanic Literature and Art of the USA, summer, 1986, interview by Luz María Umpierre, pp. 54-67.
Library Journal, January, 1998, Melodie Frances, review of Waiting in the Wings: Portrait of a Queer Motherhood, p. 110; February 1, 2002, Ming-ming Shen Kuo, review of The Hungry Woman/Heart of the Earth, p. 99.
Mester, fall, 1993, M.P. Brady, "Coming Home: Interview with Cherríe Moraga," pp. 149-164.
Mother Jones, January-February, 1991, p. 15.
Ms., March, 1992, p. 39.
Nation, May 9, 1994, p. 634.
New England Review, summer, 1983, pp. 586-587.
Off Our Backs, January, 1985, Martha N. Quintanales, "Loving in the War Years: An Interview with Cherrie Moraga," pp. 12-13.
Publishers Weekly, August 30, 1993, p. 88.
Sinister Wisdom, fall, 1984, S. Diane Bogus, "All of Our Art for Our Sake," pp. 92-106.
Voice Literary Supplement, October, 1981.
Women's Review of Books, January, 1994, p. 22; December, 1999, review of Waiting in the Wings, p. 12.
Voices from the Gaps: Women Writers of Color, http://voices.cla.umn.edu/authors/cherriemoraga (April 2, 2002).