Married; children: three. Education: University of Southern California, M.A.
Office—Master of Professional Writing Program, University Park Campus, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA 90089.
Writer and academic. University of Southern California, Los Angeles, part-time lecturer; Pasadena City College, Pasadena, CA, adjunct faculty.
Bliss, Villard/Strivers Row (New York, NY), 2002.
Chasing Sophea, One World/Ballantine Books (New York, NY), 2006.
While teaching writing classes at two institutions in the Los Angeles area, Gabrielle Pina adapted her master's degree thesis into her first novel, Bliss, in 2002. Like the first book, her second one, Chasing Sophea, tells the story of a strong female character. Pina described including such characters in her work as an important personal literary element in a Pasadena Weekly article. "One of my biggest goals in life," Pena stated, "is to affect women and girls and to help encourage them to realize their own personal power. So in the back of my mind, I guess, that will always be a theme one way or another."
In Bliss, virtuoso violinist Francesca Valentine is forced to come to terms with her past and former identity when her mother dies and Francesca's shame- ful past is revealed in the local paper. The book progresses through flashbacks to Valentine's childhood years. Reviews were mixed for Pina's debut book. A contributor to Kirkus Reviews called the book "over-the-top melodrama, but not without its own preposterous charm." In a Booklist review, Lillian Lewis concluded that Pina's debut "leaves the reader emotionally engrossed by the joy and pain these women endure for happiness."
In Chasing Sophea, Dahlia Chang has a successful career and a loving family. However, she is troubled by blackouts and headaches and is working with a professional to help her overcome her traumatic family past. A great-aunt who is a healer, an albino African American who is a grave digger, and the rest of her Dallas-based family add their insights and memories to effect Dahlia's recognition and acceptance of her childhood ordeal. Reviews for Pina's second book were also mixed. Vanessa Bush, writing in Booklist, commented that the author "delivers strong characters and an intricate plot." A contributor to Kirkus Reviews disagreed, writing that "the characters don't emerge as anything but quick, albeit colorful, sketches identified by their quirky habits or physical characteristics." A review in Publishers Weekly concluded that Pina wrote "an affecting story about the power of family love to mend old wounds."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, September 15, 2002, Lillian Lewis, review of Bliss, p. 208; November 1, 2006, Vanessa Bush, review of Chasing Sophea, p. 31.
Ebony, December, 2006, review of Chasing Sophea, p. 43.
Kirkus Reviews, July 15, 2002, review of Bliss, p. 986; August 1, 2006, review of Chasing Sophea, p. 748.
Library Journal, July 1, 2006, Leslie Patterson, review of Chasing Sophea, p. 69.
Pasadena Weekly, November 9, 2006, Nikki Bazar, "Chasing the Past."
Publishers Weekly, June 12, 2006, review of Chasing Sophea, p. 26.
BookLoons,http://www.bookloons.com/ (March 11, 2007), Hilary Williamson, review of Chasing Sophea.
Pasadena City College Web site,http://www.pasadena.edu/ (March 11, 2007), author profile.
University of Southern California, College of Letters, Arts, and Sciences Web site,http://www.usc.edu/ (March 11, 2007), author profile.