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Serrano, Marcela 1951–

Serrano, Marcela 1951–

PERSONAL: Born July 28, 1951, in Santiago, Chile; daughter of Horacio Serrano (a writer) and Elisa Perez (a writer); married (divorced twice); married Luisa Maira (a lawyer and political leader); children: two daughters. Education: Attended Universidad Católica.

ADDRESSES: Home—Mexico Agent—c/o Author Mail, Random House/Doubleday, 1745 Broadway, New York, NY 10019.

CAREER: Artist, educator, and writer. Vicente Perez Rosales Technical University, vice rector of communications.

AWARDS, HONORS: Sor Juana Inéz de la Cruz award, for Nosotras que nos queremos tanto; Municipal de Literatura award, for Para que no me olvides.

WRITINGS:

FICTION

Nosotras que nos queremos tanto (title means "We Love Each Other So Much"), Editorial Los Andes (Santiago, Chile), 1991.

Para que no me olvides, Editorial Los Andes (Santiago, Chile), 1993.

Antigua vida mia (novel), Alfaguara (Santiago, Chile), 1995, translated by Margaret Sayers Peden as Antigua and My Life Before, Doubleday (New York, NY), 2000.

El albergue de las mujeres tristes, Alfaguara (Santiago, Chile), 1997.

Nuestra señora de la soledad, Alfaguara (Santiago, Chile), 1999.

Un mundo raro, Mondadori (Mexico), 2000.

Lo qu está en mi corazón (title means "What Lies in My Heart"), Planeta (Barcelona, Spain), 2001.

Hasta siempre mujercitas (title means "See You, Little Women"), Planeta (Barcelona, Spain), 2004.

Author's works have been translated into English, French, German, and Italian.

SIDELIGHTS: Marcela Serrano is a Chilean novelist whose stories reflect the author's own feminism and leftist political leanings. According to Carmen Ospina, writing in the School Library Journal, one of Serrano's primary themes is that "deep inside, all women have the same story to tell." Ospina goes on to quote Serrano as saying, "I believe in a literature without a last name. I'm not interested in the heroines but in the real women." Boston Globe contributor Vanessa E. Jones commented that "Serrano is considered one of the foremost writers of a style called the new Chilean narrative."

In her first novel, Nosotras que nos queremos tanto, Serrano tells the story of four women who meet in a remote lakeside house to talk openly about their lives and beliefs. As the narrative progresses, readers learn about the four women, their lives, and their families. Their discussions also touch upon issues pertaining to society and politics, such as the time Salvador Allende ruled a socialist Chile and how an era of military repression in Chile impacted them. Miryam Criado, writing on the Encyclopedia of Latin American Women Writers Web site, pointed out that the women's politics do not necessarily coincide "with sexual or female liberation" and added that "these women realize that speaking up, sharing the guilt, the joy and the pain they feel with other women is the only road to liberation." Library Journal contributor Norma Montero commented that the author "gives an incredible portrayal of the four women's lives."

Although Serrano's second novel, Para que no me olvides, received wide acknowledgment for its story about forgiveness for past transgressions under Chilean repression, English-speaking readers remained largely unaware of the work. However, her third novel, Antigua vida mia, was translated into English and published as Antigua and My Life Before. Receiving favorable critical reviews, the novel tells the story of the friendship between a famous folksinger named Josefa Ferrer and Violeta Dasinski, an architect who has murdered her husband. The story of Violeta is partially told as Josefa reads through her friend's diary, which she has taken from Violeta's house. Josefa's review of her friend's life causes her to take stock and reflect on her own circumstances, including her estrangement from her children and her suspicions that her husband is unfaithful.

In a review of Antigua and My Life Before in Booklist, Carolyn Kuisz felt that the author "tells a powerful story." However, Kuisz noted that Serrano "falters over the pacing only when she steps on her political soapbox." Michael Harris, writing in the Los Angeles Times, also did not like "Serrano's characters whenever they talk about ideas" but nevertheless noted that "Serrano's vision of Antigua is vivid and life-affirming." A Publishers Weekly contributor called the book "a stirring novel that inspires with its political astuteness, feminist ideology and literary quality." Barbara Mujica commented in the Washington Post Book World, that "Serrano displays enormous insight in this delicately nuanced portrait of a friendship," adding that "she never downplays the tremendous burden that friendship places on the individual." Writing in Americas Mujica likewise noted that the book "is a delicately drawn portrait of an enduring relationship soldered by commitment, honesty, mutual appreciation, and love," adding that the author "takes a hard, candid look at friendship between women, and her writing is the stronger for it."

Serrano tells the story of a divorced historian named Florena in the novel El albergue de las mujeres tristes. Florena is devastated by her youngest sister's imminent death from cancer and a love affair that goes bad. She ends up seeking refuge in a shelter for women on the island of Chiloe. Known as the "inn for sad women," the shelter houses women from all walks of life who are seeking to put their lives back together. The novel revolves around the characters' various dialogues as they talk of love, eroticism, commitment, children, and a host of other topics. Florena eventually becomes interested in a local doctor named Flavian, who has also fled from his previous life because of a failed relationship. Once again writing in Americas, Mujica noted that the novel "reflects a new trend in Latin American fiction" in its focus on "relationships" rather than "structural and narrative experimentation." Mujica added that El albergue de las mujeres tristes "has much to recommend it. Serrano's descriptions are poetic and moving, and her exploration of the psychological dimensions of her characters is intriguing." Writing in the Library Journal, Jorge Gonzales commented: "This well-written book will delight followers of this interesting Chilean novelist."

Lo qu está en mi corazón, or "What Lies in My Heart," once again focuses on a woman coming to terms with her past so she can move forward in life. This time the protagonist is a journalist who takes an assignment to cover the Zapatista movement in Mexico. Although not really interested in the story, she has taken the assignment in an effort to get over her son's death and to escape from her boring life in the United States. As time passes, however, the journalist no longer just covers the story; she becomes involved both politically and emotionally as she is kidnapped and has a love affair while a friend is assassinated. Her experiences lead her to reevaluate and come to terms with her life. Writing in the School Library Journal, Carmen Ospina noted that the author writes "vivid and suggestive prose" and that the author's "stream-of-conciousness style … works well to convey … [the character's] emotional transformation."

In Hasta siempre mujercitas which means "See You, Little Women", the author tells a story based on the classic book Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott. The novel focuses on four girls who go on to very different lives as adults and have various reactions to the historic 1972 military coup in Chile. "The theme of exile is a predominant one here, as in so much of Chilean literature from the past 30 years," noted Gustavo Gonzlez in the Global Information Network.

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Actya Literari, Volume 19, 1994, review of Para que no me olvides, pp. 101-105.

Americas (English edition), August, 1998, Barbara Mujica, review of El albergue de las mujeres tristes, p. 61; July, 1995, Norma Montero, review of review of Para que no me olvides, p. 82; November-December, 2000, Barbara Mujica, review of Antigua and My Life Before, p. 61.

Andar (Santa Cruz, Chile), October 31, 2000, Liz Raptis Picco, review of Antigua and My Life Before, p. 13.

Booklist, May 15, 2000, Carolyn Kubisz, review of Antigua and My Life Before, p. 1731; December 15, 2000, review of Nuestra señora de la soledad, p. 795.

Boston Globe, May 23, 2000, Margaret Sayers Peden, review of Antigua and My Life Before, p. C5.

Chasquí, May, 1999, Rose Marie Galindo, review of Antigua and My Life Before, pp. 32-41.

Confluencia, fall, 1997, Guillermo García-Corales, "Notalgia versus modernidad: entrevista a Marcela Serrano," p. 228-234.

Diario la Prensa (New York, NY), July 28, 1999, Romina Lopez de la Rosa, "Las muchas vidas de Marcela Serrano," p. 27; June 11, 2000, Maritere Arce, "Marcela Serrano presenta su ultima obra en Nueva York," p. 18.

Global Information Network, September 28, 2004, Gustavo Gonzlez, review of Hasta siempre mujercitas, p. 1.

Kirkus Reviews, May 15, 2000, review of Antigua and My Life Before, p. 668.

Library Journal, July, 1995, Norma Montero, review of Nosotras que nos queremos tanto p. 66; January, 1966, Norma Montero, review of Antigua and My Life Before, p. 82; Jorge Gonzales, review of El albergue de las mujeres tristes, p. 80.

Los Angeles Times, July 4, 2000, Michael Harris, review of Antigua and My Life Before, p. 3.

Mester, volume 29, 2000, "Palabra del escritor: fin de milenio en la mitad del mundo," pp. 151-165.

Mundo Hispanico (Atlanta, GA), May 15, 1996, review of Antigua and My Life Before, p. 15.

Nuevo Herald (Miami, FL), November 12, 1995, Eduardo Padron, "Dias de libros: de domingo a domingo," p. A20.

Opinión (Los Angeles, CA), January 3, 1999, Diana Vargas, "Letras latinoamericanas: Nuevo matriarcado literario," p. 3B.

Pregonero (Washington, DC), January 1, 1998, Rafael Roncal, review of El albergue de las mujeres tristes, p. 8.

Publishers Weekly, April 17, 2000, review of Antigua and My Life Before, p. 49.

Romance Languages Annual, volume 8, 1996, Melvy Portocarrero, "La Construcción Del Sujeto Feminino en las Novelas de Marcela Serrano," pp. 638-643.

School Library Journal, April, 2002, Carmen Ospina, "Giving Voice to the Unheard Woman: Marcel Serrano's Breakout Hit," p. S12, and review of What Lies in My Heart, p. S36.

Washington Post Book World, July 9, 2000, Barbara Mujica, review of Antigua and My Life Before, p. 10.

ONLINE

Encyclopedia of Latin American Women Writers Online, http://www.hope.edu/latinamerican/ (August 12, 2005), Miryam Criado, "Serrano, Marcela."

Terra, http://www.terra.com.ar/ (April 30, 2001), "Marcela Serrano en la Feria del Libro."

OTHER

Marcela Serrano (film), Films for the Humanities & Sciences (Princeton, NJ), 2000.

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