Valle, Victor Manuel 1950-

views updated

VALLE, Victor Manuel 1950-

PERSONAL: Born November 10, 1950, in Whittier, CA; son of a dairy worker; married Maria Lau; children: Lucina, Alejandra. Education: California State University, Long Beach, B.A. (cum laude), 1974, M.A., 1978; Northwestern University, Medill School of Journalism, M.S.J., 1981.

ADDRESSES: Agent—c/o Author Mail, University of Minnesota Press, Mill Place, 111 Third Ave. S, Suite 290, Minneapolis, MN 55401.

CAREER: Poet, journalist, and translator. Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles, CA, staff writer; California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, CA, associate professor of ethnic studies. Artist-in-residence, California Arts Council; participant in the National Endowment for the Humanities Poetry in the Schools Program.

AWARDS, HONORS: Third Irvine Chicago Prize for poetry, 1977, for Illegal; Translation Award, from Translation Center of Columbia University, 1979; Pulitzer Prize for food journalism; James Beard Cookbook Award nomination for Recipe of Memory: Five Generations of Mexican Cuisine.


Illegal, [Los Angeles, CA], 1977.

(With John Valadez) A Choice of Colors (video documentary), 1978.

Nicaragua: Lucha de las Américas (radio special), 1979.

La Educación universitaria en El Salvador: Un Espejo roto en los 1980's, CINAS (San Salvador, El Salvador), 1991.

Siembra de vientos: El Salvador, 1960-69, CINAS (San Salvador, El Salvador), 1993.

(With wife, Mary Lau Valle) Recipe of Memory: Five Generations of Mexican Cuisine, New Press (New York, NY), 1995.

(With Rodolfo D. Torres) Latino Metropolis, University of Minnesota Press (Minneapolis, MN), 2000.

Contributor to anthologies, including Third Chicano Literary Prize Anthology, 1976-77, University of California (Irvine, CA), 1977; Calafia: The California Poetry, edited by Ishmael Reed, Y'Bird (Berkeley, CA), 1979; Fiesta in Aztlán, edited by Toni Empringham, Capra (Santa Barbara, CA), 1981; 201: Homenaje a la ciudad de Los Angeles, edited by Jesús Mena, [Los Angeles, CA], 1982; Southern California's Latino Community, Los Angeles Times (Los Angeles, CA), 1983; and Autonomía universitaria: Tensiones y esperanzas, Organization of American States, Department of Educational Affairs (Washington, DC), 1986. Contributor to Tin Tan, Rara Avis, Rip Rap, Electrum, and other periodicals. Former associate editor, Somos magazine; former literary editor, Chismearte magazine.

SIDELIGHTS: Victor Manuel Valle is a poet, journalist, and a teacher in ethnic studies whose writings explore Latino culture and history. According to Enrique R. Lamadrid in the Dictionary of Literary Biography, "Valle's poems explore the links and contradictions between the deeply personal and the historical, opposite poles of experience that are usually alienated or dichotomized in most American poetry. In Valle's poetry they reach a powerful synthesis, as he is able to perceive the workings of history in the most insignificant everyday aspects of his life and in those of the people around him." Valle has also published a Mexican cookbook, Recipe of Memory: Five Generations of Mexican Cuisine, with his wife, and a sociological study, Latino Metropolis, with Rodolfo D. Torres.

Valle was born and raised in Whittier, California, in a family of dairy workers of Mexican descent; many of them were political exiles from Mexico and had been followers of Pancho Villa. Valle once explained, according to Lamadrid, that he had "a rather mundane public life and education. However, privately, I learned to raise mockingbirds, gorreones [sparrows], pigeons, crows, lizards, deer, and about thirteen dogs. . . . The oral tradition of my grandparents and aunts provided me with insight and knowledge on Mexican history. Before my grandfather Alfredo died, my grandma Matilde wrote all his memoirs of la Revolucion down. I'll be rewriting them sometime in the future."

Much of Valle's work is inspired by his family background and childhood experiences. Although he began as a poet, more recently his journalistic pieces have taken much of his time. Because he has translated the work of many other writers, he is deeply familiar with contemporary Latin American literature, which gives him a wider perspective than many other writers. In addition to writing poetry and nonfiction and translating, Valle has produced a video program, A Choice of Colors, about gangs and graffiti, as well as a radio program, Nicaragua: Lucha de las Americas ("Nicaragua: Struggle of the Americas"). He has worked as associate editor of Somos magazine and as literary editor of Chismearte magazine. He has also run a creative writing workshop for Latino writers in Los Angeles.

Although Valle's poems have appeared in several literary magazines, such as New, Tin Tan, and Rara Avis, Lamadrid noted that "he is comparatively underpublished as a poet, considering the special qualities of his work." His first book, Illegal, which was originally published in a limited underground edition, established his reputation as a poet; it later won the third Irvine Chicago Prize for poetry.

In Recipe of Memory, Valle collaborated with his wife on a book which combines old family recipes, some of them dating back to the 1880s, with a family history filled with anecdotes and photographs and tracing the family's journey from Guadalajara, Mexico, in the nineteenth century to present-day Los Angeles. The result, wrote a critic for Publishers Weekly, "blends its ingredients much as Mole Caragueno combines lamb, chiles, peanuts, clove and cinnamon." Recipe of Memory was nominated for a James Beard Cookbook Award.

Valle collaborated with Rodolfo D. Torres to write Latino Metropolis, an examination of contemporary racial politics in the American urban setting. Looking specifically at the role played by Latinos in Los Angeles, the two authors "challenge existing methodologies of defining urban society in terms of race, calling for the construction of a new urban politics based on the commonalities of culture and class," according to Deborah Bigelow in Library Journal.



Dictionary of Literary Biography, Volume 122: Chicano Writers, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1992.


Library Journal, August, 2000, Deborah Bigelow, review of Latino Metropolis, p. 136.

Publishers Weekly, October 16, 1995, review of Recipe of Memory: Five Generations of Mexican Cuisine, p. 58.*

About this article

Valle, Victor Manuel 1950-

Updated About content Print Article