Chicana Novelist Helena María Viramontes to Give Public Reading Feb. 20
Cornell author known for gritty portrayal of Latina/o culture
Helena María Viramontes, professor of English at Cornell University, will read from her acclaimed novel, “Their Dogs Came with Them” (Atria Books, 2007), Wednesday, Feb. 20, at 1 p.m. in Heroy Geology Laboratory. The event is free and open to the public. It is sponsored by the Department of Languages, Literatures, and Linguistics (LLL); the Department of Women’s and Gender Studies; and the Latino/Latin-American Studies Program, all in The College of Arts and Sciences. For more information, contact Stephanie Fetta at 315-443-5487 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Described by the American Library Association as a “stream-of-consciousness depiction” of Latino culture in Los Angeles during the ’60s, “Their Dogs Came With Them” follows the adventures of a group of female characters, including mother-daughter preachers, an androgynous gang member and a young woman searching for her mentally ill brother.
“This book raises important questions about urban life and identity, particularly as they pertain to Chicanas [U.S. women of Mexican descent],” says Fetta, assistant professor of Spanish in LLL and an expert in Chicana/o and Latina/o literatures. “It’s arguably Viramontes’ finest hour and exemplifies her tremendous range as a writer.”
Critics and colleagues agree. Julia Alvarez G’75, writer-in-residence at Middlebury College, considers Viramontes one of today’s “most important multicultural voices” and says that “Their Dogs Came With Them” enriches the “range and vision of American literature.” Junot Díaz, a former SU professor on the writing faculty of Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a 2012 National Book Award finalist, calls the novel “extraordinary.” “[It is] a bravura performance by one of our country’s finest talents,” he writes. Publisher’s Weekly describes Viramontes’ voice as “terse, energetic and vivid.”
Also a community organizer, Viramontes burst onto the literary scene in the ’90s with “The Moths and Other Stories” (Arte Publico Press, 1995) and her first novel, “Under the Feet of Jesus” (Plume, 1996). She has also co-edited the journals “Chicana (W)Rites on Word and Film” (Third Women Press, 1995) and “Chicana Creativity and Criticism: New Frontiers in American Literature”(University of New Mexico Press, 1996).
The recipient of numerous honors, including the John Dos Passos Award for Literature, Viramontes has been widely anthologized, and her writings have been adopted for classroom use and university study. She is the former coordinator of the Los Angeles Latino Writers Association.