AUTHOR SHOWCASE

Pura Belpré: This distinguished reteller of Puerto Rican folktales has the honor of being the first Latina librarian from the New York Public Library. Born in Cidra, Puerto Rico in 1899, she was the first Puerto Rican librarian in the New York City public library system. An expert in folklore, she established special programs emphasizing Puerto Rican culture at the Harlem branch of the public library and arranged storytelling hours in Spanish for neighborhood children. As a children's librarian, storyteller, and author, Pura enriched the lives of Puerto Rican children in the U.S.A. through her pioneering work of preserving and disseminating Puerto Rican folklore.

She is primarily known for the Perez and Martina stories, but has also written Santiago and Firefly Summer. The Pura Belpré Award, established posthumously in 1996, is presented to a Latino/Latina writer and illustrator whose work best portrays, affirms, and celebrates the Latino cultural experience in an outstanding work of literature for children and youth. It is co-sponsored by the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC), a division of the American Library Association (ALA) and the National Association to Promote Library Services to the Spanish Speaking (REFORMA), an ALA Affiliate.

 

 

 

 

Julia De Burgos: De Burgos (1916-1953) is widely regarded as the best known female poet of Puerto Rico in this century. She was born in Carolina, Puerto Rico on February 17th, 1917 and died in New York City on July 6, 1953. She was a product of the public elementary and secondary schools of Puerto Rico. Julia later completed a teaching degree at the University of Puerto Rico, and worked as a teacher for the Naranjito school district. Subsequently she moved to Havana, Cuba for a period of time and took philosophy and other courses at its University.

Julia de Burgos was a teacher, journalist and poet. Her literary work has placed her among the greatest poets of the Spanish-speaking countries of Latin America and the Caribbean. She is best known for the following books of poetry that were published during her lifetime: Poemas exactos de mi misma, Poemas en Veinte Zurcos and Canción de la verdad sencilla. Many of her poems have been translated in English for the whole world to enjoy. (See Song of the Simple Truth: The Complete Poems of Julia de Burgos by Jack Agüeros)

 

 

Lulu Delacre is the accomplished author and illustrator of a number of award-winning books for young readers. A multitalented artist and writer, she speaks three languages fluently: Spanish, English, and French. Her work has been exhibited in the United States, Puerto Rico, and Paris. Born in Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico, Delacre is the middle child in a family of three daughters. Her parents, Marta Orzabal Delacre, a French professor, and Georges Carlos Delacre, a philosophy professor, are from Argentina.

Delacre's earliest memory of drawing takes her back to her grandmother house, who took care of her while mom and dad taught at the University of Puerto Rico. During a trip to Argentina, Lulu had her first formal art training. Delacre learned to draw from real life and her joy in being able to create intensified. By the time she entered the Department of Fine Arts at the University of Puerto Rico, Delacre knew she wanted to be an artist. At nineteen she was in Paris, where she studied for three years on a full scholarship at the distinguished art school L'Ecole Supérieure d'Arts Graphiques.

Delacre creates books inspired by the folklore from her childhood and the traditions that were a part of her life on the island. She has written and/or illustrated the following books that deal in some way with her childhood stories and music from Puerto Rico: Arroz con leche: Popular Songs and Rhymes from Latin America (1989), Las Navidades: Popular Christmas Songs from Latin America (1990), Vejigante Masquerader (1993), and Señor Cat's Romance (1997). One of her favorite mediums is color pencil, and she loves spending hours working on a drawing. She enjoys getting to know the people and traditions of different countries and has traveled extensively to Egypt, Turkey, Spain, Mexico, Israel, Greece, Italy, and England.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nicholasa Mohr: Ms. Mohr was born in 1935 in New York, after her parents left Puerto Rico. Her father died when she was eight years old, leaving her mother with seven children. In order to escape the poverty that surrounded her, Mohr used her immeasurable imagination to express her feelings. Her talents helped earn her a lot of praise in school. It also gave her the confidence she needed to succeed as an author.


In 1953 she went to the Arts Student's League, an art school located in New York. There she discovered the works of Diego Rivera and Jose Clemente Orozco, inspiring her to study Hispanic art and travel to Mexico City. After a year she returned to the United States and attended the New School for Social Research. She subsequently went to Brooklyn Museum of Art School in 1959. Eventually she switched from painting to short stories. Her first book, after establishing a contract with a publisher, was Nilda. Many of Mohr's books are about characters growing up in Hispanic neighborhoods in New York City, much like herself.


Ms. Mohr is perhaps the most prolific of the Puerto Rican writers in English and her stories, primarily aimed towards young adults, have won numerous awards. These include the American Book Award, the Edgar Allen Poe Award and the New York Times Outstanding Book list. In 1997 she was bestowed the highly prestigious Hispanic Heritage Literary Award in Washington, DC. Her work relays personal experiences and explores the economic hardship, violence and despair often found among minority women in the New York Barrio, where she was raised. She currently resides in the Park Slope section of Brooklyn, where she continues to write. Her latest book, Untitled Nicholasa Mohr, was released in February of 1998.

Judith Ortiz Cofer: Her poetry and prose reflect her rich cultural and linguistic background. Born in Hormigueros, Puerto Rico and raised in Patterson, New Jersey, Ortiz Cofer currently resides in Georgia. Currently she is an associate professor of English and creative writing at the University of Georgia. She is the author of the collection of short stories, An Island Like You: Stories of the Barrio, plus her collections of poetry Peregrina, Terms of Survival, and Reaching for the Mainland. She has also published two volumes of personal essays, Silent Dancing: A Partial Remembrance of a Puerto Rican Childhood, and The Latin Deli, and a novel, A Line in the Sun, which was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize in 1989.

Silent Dancing is a personal narrative made up of Ortiz Cofer's recollections of her bilingual-bicultural upbringing that forged her personality as a writer and artist. The daughter of a Navy man, Ortiz Cofer spent her childhood commuting between the small island town of her birth and New Jersey. In fluid, clear, incisive prose, as well as in the poems she includes to highlight the major themes, Ortiz Cofer has added an important chapter to autobiography, Latino creativity and women's literature.

Silent Dancing has been awarded the 1991 PEN/Martha Albrand Special Citation for Nonfiction and has been selected for The New York Public Library's 1991 Best Books for the Teen Age.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pedro Pietri: This renowned Niuyorican poet was born in Ponce, Puerto Rico in 1944 during World War II. Three years later the Pietri family decided to move to the United States, living in Harlem, New York. At the age of five, Pietri would lose his father, whose health suffered with the move dying of pneumonia. After graduating from high school in 1960, he joined the work force in a number of capacities and it would be here that he would make connections between his world and the injustices that affected the lives of many fellow Puerto Ricans living on the "mainland", which would be the source of his inspiration. He has published his collections of poetry in Puerto Rico Obituary (1973) and Traffic Violations (1983). He is also the author of 23 plays and most of these have been presented in public readings in New York City. Pietri still lives in New York City with his wife Margarita Deida and his two daughters.

 

 

Abraham Rodriguez, Jr.: He was born and raised in the South Bronx in New York City, where he still lives. His work has appeared in Story and Best Stories from New Writers. In addition to The Boy Without a Flag, he is the author of Spidertown, an electrifying, gritty novel about the lives of young people of the South Bronx whose often reckless actions are propelled by an unquenchable yearning for a better life. Rodriguez has been proclaimed a major new voice in American fiction.

The Village Voice described this collection as "the most nervy, anxious, and brilliant writing by a New York Puerto Rican author since Piri Thomas's Down These Mean Streets." Rodriguez brings the South Bronx to life with bold, gut-wrenching stories that readers will long remember. The author says the stories are "about the rancid underbelly of the American Dream. These are the kids no one likes to talk about; they are seen as the enemy by most people. I want to show them as they are, not as society wishes them to be." Harshly realistic, spellbinding. The first story in the collection, "The Boy Without a Flag" is important reading for all educators.

 

 

Esmeralda Santiago: She is the eldest of eleven children. She spent her childhood in Puerto Rico, moving back and forth between a tiny village and Santurce. With her mother and siblings she moved to New York City in 1961. She graduated from the High School for the Performing Arts, then attended Harvard University and earned an M.F.A. from Sarah Lawrence College. Esmeralda is the author of the following books: the autobiographical When I Was Puerto Rican (1994), the sequel Almost a Woman (1998), and her first novel America's Dream (1996). She is now a journalist and, with her husband, owns a film production company. She is the mother of two children.

 

 

 

 

Piri Thomas:: Born Juan Pedro Tomás, of Puerto Rican and Cuban parents in New York City's Spanish Harlem in 1928, Piri Thomas began his struggle for survival, identity, and recognition at an early age. The vicious street environment of poverty, racism, and street crime took its toll and he served seven years of nightmarish incarceration at hard labor. But, in 1967, with a grant from the Rabinowitz Foundation, both his career and fame as an author were launched with the electrifying autobiography, Down These Mean Streets. After more than 25 years of being constantly in print, it is now considered a classic.

In Down These Mean Streets, Piri Thomas made El Barrio a household word to multitudes of non-Spanish-speaking readers. Savior, Savior Hold My Hand has also received wide critical acclaim, as did Seven Long Times, a chronicle of one man's experience in New York's dehumanizing penal system. Stories from El Barrio, a collection of short stories, is for young people of all ages.

Piri currently resides in Berkeley, California, with his wife Suzanne Dod Thomas and two daughters. He is working on a sequel to Down These Mean Streets. He is also working with award-winning director Jonathan Robinson on an educational film, in addition to speaking at universities and schools and in the community throughout the United States. Ever since the publication of Down These Mean Streets, Piri has talked to people, young and old, about his struggle for survival and identity and the effects of racism upon our children and upon himself as a Latino and a person of color. His fundamental message, Unity Among Us, draws from the spiritual and cultural realms to articulate the roots of our dignity as human beings, part of an earth and a universe.

 

 

 

  COMING SOON! Showcase will include profiles on authors Sandra Maria Esteves, Tato Laviera, Rosario Ferre, and Aurora Levins Morales.