Thursday, August 14, 2008

Malinche's Daughter, Michelle Otero, and Juan Felipe Herrera

Michelle Otero is the author of Malinche's Daughter (Momotombo Press, 2006), an essay collection based on her work with women survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault in Oaxaca, Mexico.

Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Artful Dodge, Puerto del Sol, Upstreet, Brevity, and Metamorfósis, a Spanish-language anthology published by the National Hispanic Cultural Center. Her awards include a Fulbright Fellowship, an Association of Writing Programs Intro Journal Award, and fellowships from the Anderson Center, the McCune Foundation, and the Barbara Deming Memorial Fund.

Otero is a founding member of The Women Writers' Collective, an El Paso-based group that showcases the talents of women writers and artists while raising awareness of women's issues. In Albuquerque, she performs with Las Meganenas, a repertory theatre troupe that uses performance to raise awareness of issues facing Latinas. She holds a B.A. in History from Harvard University and an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Vermont College.

Michelle was the inaugural recipient of the "Letras Latinas Residency Fellowship." She received $1,000 and was residence for one month this June at the Anderson Center at Tower View in Red Wing, Minnesota. This annual distinction is the result of a new partnership between the literary program of the Institute for Latino Studies at the University of Notre Dame and the Anderson Center. The aim of the initiative is to identify and support a Latino or Latina writer who is working on a first full-length book, and for whom a one month writing residency would suppose a crucial boost in this endeavor.

Praise for Malinche's Daughter:

In Malinche’s Daughter, Michelle Otero twines the intellect of a Fulbright fellow, the heart of a powerful woman, and the lyricism of a poet. This astounding debut collection of essays limns the author’s journey to Oaxaca, Mexico to guide a writer’s workshop for women survivors of sexual assault. In the process, Otero confronts the pain of her own childhood as well as cultures—north and south—which have been deaf to women’s voices. Here, Otero’s voice sings with profundity, soul, and spirit. Malinche’s Daughter will be heard, lauded, and widely read.

—Sue William Silverman

Artfully written, the stories in Malinche’s Daughter take us to Mexico and back, but it is also a trip to the past and to spaces of conflict and tension, finally coming home to that space where we are “born and re-born.”

— Norma Elia Cantú

My take: If you crave a complacent end-of-summer read of seafoam and sunshine, this is not the book for you. But if you want to encounter essays that burrow underneath your skin, haunt your dreams, be you man or woman, read Malinche's Daughter. In it, Michelle speaks what cannot be spoken about female reality, about family pain, about the transgression of the body and its ultimate healing.

As a survivor, I was transfixed with her account of her abuse by a neighbor. But I was more deeply transfixed by the sharp, bright pain of reading the truth, of feeling the words rise off the page and pierce my heart.

Michelle is not a confessional writer. She is a liberatory one -- for me, for other survivors, for other women, for any sentient person who understands that silence here is death. The brilliance of this slim volume is that Michelle is brave enough to sacrifice part of herself in the writing, in the telling, and shows us by the strength of her words that rebirth awaits.


Mucho mas de Juan Felipe Herrera -- The New York Times is finally catching up to what we already knew...Check it out here, here and here.

Undocuments 1971-2007.

New and Selected Poems.

Lisa Alvarado

1 comment:

OBermeo said...

More Juan Felipe news: He and Francisco X. Alarcón are two of the four finalists for California Poet Laureate!