Baca, Ana 1967–
Baca, Ana 1967–
Author. Also works in public relations, marketing, and communications. Presenter at workshops at National Hispanic Cultural Center and writer's conferences.
New Mexico Book Award for Best Historical Novel, 2007, for Mama Fela's Girls.
Benito's Bizcochitos, translation by Julia Mercedes, illustrated by Anthony Accardo, Piñata Books (Houston, TX), 1999.
Chiles for Benito/Chiles para Benito, illustrated by Anthony Accardo, translation by José Juan Colin, Piñata Books (Houston, TX), 2003.
Mama Fela's Girls (novel), University of New Mexico Press (Albuquerque, NM), 2006.
Benito's Sopaipillas/Las sopaipillas de Benito, illustrated by Anthony Accardo, translation by Carolina Villarroel, Piñata Books (Houston, TX), 2006.
New Mexico writer Ana Baca started her writing career by locking up her thoughts in a bright red daily diary, but she turned those thoughts outward in her early twenties, realizing that writing was a way to preserve her family stories and her Hispanic heritage. In addition to creating several bilingual children's books that bring to life the customs of her ancestors, she also weaves the stories told by her own mother into the award-winning novel Mama Fela's Girls.
In Benito's Bizcochitos, Chiles for Benito/Chiles para Benito, and Benito's Sopaipillas/Las sopaipillas de Benito, Baca bases her stories on traditional folk tales and frames these stories in tales that a youngster is told by her grandmother. For example, Chiles for Benito finds the family stringing red chiles into ristras. When Cristina questions the history of the tradition, she is told an adaptated version of "Jack and the Beanstalk" in which a young boy trades his cow for a packet of magic seeds with problematic but ultimately happy results. The small red pepper that ultimately sprouts from the seeds adds a wonderful spice to meals. Benito's Sopaipillas features another porquois tale as young Benito learns a magical way to cause the rains to fall—throwing small balls of dough into the sky—and creates a wonderful puffy bread treat in the process. According to a Kirkus Reviews writer, "the very foolishness" of Baca's story in Benito's Sopaipillas "will likely charm" readers, and Baca's bilingual story in Chiles for Benito "reads aloud well" and is "as good in Spanish as it is in English," according to School Library Journal contributor Ann Welton. Noting that Baca includes a tasty recipe in Benito's Sopaipillas, Susan E. Murray in School Library Journal concluded that the family-centered story "would work nicely … as part of a unit on folktales, cooking, or Mexico, or just as an excuse to make delicious sopaipillas."
Set in northeastern New Mexico during the economic depression of the 1930s, Mama Fela's Girls depicts three generations of women in the Romero family. Mama Fela, the oldest woman in the multigenerational family, is a seamstress who has dedicated her life to her family. Cipriana, the woman's six-year-old granddaughter and constant companion, spends much of her time with Mama Fela while watching her own mother, Gra-
ciela, attempt to juggle a full-time teaching job with her roles as a wife and mother. Graciela's sister-in-law, Cita, faces different challenges as she cares for family, friends, and neighbors while putting aside her own career aspirations. In her novel, Baca weaves the voices of all four characters—Cipriana, Graciela, Cita, and Mama Fela—as they deal with the joys and frustrations of life in small-town New Mexico.
Writing in Historical Novels Review, Susan Higginbotham noted that in Mama Fela's Girls "Baca excels at presenting both the conflict and the tightly knit family that gives rise to it." The novel was "strongly recommended to anyone interested in multicultural relations, … Chicana literature, or an anthropological history of the people of New Mexico" by Southwestern American Literature critic Bradford K. Wible. Writing in Hispanic Outlook, Cecilia Rodriguez Milanes noted of Mama Fela's Girls that "students from any culture will appreciate the conflicts between parents and children and identify with young Cipriana's fears, Cita's dreams and Graciela's love."
Biographical and Critical Sources
Booklist, December 15, 2003, Julie Kline, review of Chiles for Benito/Chiles para Benito, p. 752.
Hispanic Outlook, January 28, 2008, Cecilia Rodriguez Milanes, review of Mama Fela's Girls.
Historical Novels Review, February 2007, Susan Higginbotham, review of Mama Fela's Girls.
Kirkus Reviews, October 15, 2003, review of Chiles for Benito/Chiles para Benito, p. 1268; April 1, 2007, review of Benito's Sopaipillas/Las sopaipillas de Benito.
School Library Journal, December, 2003, Ann Welton, review of Chiles for Benito/Chiles para Benito, p. 142; July, 2007, Susan E. Murray, review of Benito's Sopaipillas/La sopaipillas de Benito, p. 66.
Southwestern American Literature, fall, 2007, Bradford K. Wible, review of Mama Fela's Girls, pp. 101-102.
Albuquerque Books Clubs Web site,http://authorbookclub.tripod.com/ (June 27, 2008), "Ana Baca."