I was born in Chicago in l954 and educated in the Midwest. For the past fifteen years I have lived on and off in central Texas and currently make my home in San Antonio. I am the author of three books of poetry, two books of fiction, as well as children's book -- Bad Boys (Mango Press, l980), My Wicked Wicked Ways (Third Woman, l987, Random House, l992),The House on Mango Street (Vintage, l991), Woman Hollering Creek and Other Stories (Random House, l991), Hairs/Pelitos (Alfred A. Knopf, 1994), and Loose Woman (Alfred A. Knopf, l994).
Woman Hollering Creek was awarded the PEN Center West Award for Best Fiction of l99l, the Quality Paperback Book Club New Voices Award, the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award, and the Lannan Foundation Literary Award. It was also selected as a noteworthy book of the year by The New York Times and the American Library Journal, and nominated Best Book of Fiction for l99l by The Los Angeles Times.
Loose Woman won the Mountains & Plains Booksellers Association's 1995 Regional Book Award in the category of adult poetry.
Other awards include an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from Loyola University, Chicago, 2002, an honorary Doctor of Letters from the State University of New York at Purchase, l993; two National Endowment of the Arts Fellowships for fiction and poetry, l988, l982; the Roberta Holloway Lectureship at the University of California, Berkeley, l988; the Chicano Short Story Award from the University of Arizona, l986; the Before Columbus American Book Award, l985; the Texas Institute of Letters Dobie-Paisano Fellowship, l984; an Illinois Artists Grant, l984; and an artist residency at the Foundation Michael Karolyi, Vence, France, l983.
My books have been translated into ten languages and published internationally, most recently in Mexico. I have lectured extensively at institutions throughout the country as well as in Mexico and Europe. Highlights include an invitation to read at the Library of Congress by poet laureate Gwendolyn Brooks in l986, and again by poet laureate Rita Dove in l995.
Reviews of my work have appeared in many major periodicals, including Newsweek,The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, The Atlantic, The Nation, The New York Times Book Review, The Los Angeles Times Book Review, The London Times.
I have published my poetry, stories, and essays in The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The New Yorker, Glamour, Elle, Ms., Vis A Vis, Story, Grand Street, Bomb, The Village Voice, The Texas Observer, The Texas Humanist, and have been included in numerous trade anthologies and textbooks, among them The Oxford Book of American Short Stories; We are the Stories We Tell: The Best Short Stories by North American Women Since l945; and American Voices: Best Short Fiction by Contemporary Authors. To date, House on Mango Street has sold over a million copies. It is included in classrooms across the country (elementary, middle, and high schools), and is a required text in several universities.
I have taught writing at practically every level. I have worked as an artist-in-the-schools in two states. I worked for the Illinois Arts Council for three years, teaching grades two through twelve (l979-82). In l985 I worked for the San Antonio Independent School District, teaching creative writing to grades two through five. In addition, I have taught literacy skills, Latin American Literature, Spanish for Spanish-Speakers, and Creative Writing (l978-l980) while working at Latino Youth Alternative High School of Chicago, a school for returning high school drop-outs. Five of my Latino Youth students received Gwendolyn Brooks Poetry Awards in an annual citywide competition. In l982 I initiated "City Songs," a weekly community poetry workshop for adults funded though the Chicago Council on Fine Arts.
Other jobs I have held include working as a college recruiter and counselor to minority students at Loyola University of Chicago (l98l-82). From l984-85 I was Literature Director at the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center of San Antonio, a Chicano arts center; some of the programs I created were a monthly reading series, the summer writer's residencies which are still in existence today, a prison inmates show, and the first annual book fair which continues to be the literature program's strongest event. Since then I have taught as a guest professor at California State University, l987-88; the University of California, Berkeley, l988; the University of California, Irvine, l990; the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, l990; and the University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, l99l.
I am an annual volunteer lecturer at schools in the San Antonio area. Currently I am an associate editor for Third Woman Press (the University of California, Berkeley), a member of PEN; serve on the advisory board of PEN New Mexico and am a member of the Board of Directors of PEN Center West. In San Antonio. I am on the advisory board of several community centers including the Jump-Start Theater, the Blue Star Arts Gallery, the Esperanza Peace & Justice Center. I also volunteer teach a creative writing workshop each summer for the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center. In the past I have served in an advisory capacity to the Western States Arts Foundation, the Illinois Arts Council, the Wisconsin State Arts Council, the Colorado Council on the Arts, the Coordinating Council of Literary Magazines, and the National Endowment for the Arts.
I am a founding member of Grupo de los Cien, a San Antonio collective of Latino thinkers and activists.
In 1994 I adapted two stories from Woman Hollering Creek to the stage -- "Milagritos," a show I directed, wrote and performed. Also in '94, Knopf published my first children's book -- Hairs/Pelitos; a l0th-anniversary, hardback edition of The House on Mango Street; and La Casa en Mango Street, translated into Spanish by Elena Poniatowska. At present I am at work on Caramelo, a novel. Most recently I was awarded the John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Fellowship in 1995.