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literature

Alpha Index:  A-B  C-F  G-K  L-Q  R-S  T-Z

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Moraga, Cherríe (b. 1952)  

In her own works, Cherríe Moraga defines her experience as a Chicana lesbian; and in her capacity as editor/publisher, she provides a forum for traditionally silenced lesbians of color.

Born in Whitter, California, on September 25, 1952, Moraga is the daughter of an Anglo, Joseph Lawrence, and a Chicana, Elvira Moraga. She credits a childhood spent in the kitchen listening to the stories told by her mother with her profound appreciation for language.

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Despite the privileges of her light skin and college degree, Moraga claims that she lacked knowledge and language to express herself as a Chicana until she came out as a lesbian. In order to write as a lesbian, Moraga left Los Angeles and the security of her teaching position and her extended family.

Discovering that only white women were represented in lesbian literature and challenged by the heterosexism of her writing group, Moraga began to define her experience as a lesbian, a Chicana, and a Chicana lesbian with a distinct blend of Spanish and English, of traditional narrative and poetic forms.

While pursuing graduate work in Feminist Writings at San Francisco State University, she met Gloria Anzaldúa, who convinced her to co-edit a collection of writings by women of color. Published in 1981, This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color provided a forum for these women to articulate their rage at the racism and oppression they encountered, even within the women's movement.

In the preface, Moraga declares that Women of Color are revolutionary forces, bridges who straddle the divisions within society. Her own contributions--an essay, "La Güera," and two poems, "The Welder" and "For the Color of My Mother"--recognize the emotional and sexual ties between Chicanas.

Loving in the War Years: (lo que nunca paso por sus labios) (1983), the first book of poetry published by an openly lesbian Chicana, interweaves celebratory poems of lesbian passion with two essays that examine how the myth of "La Malichina," Cortez's consort, distorts and oppresses the Chicana's exploration of her sexuality.

Moraga argues that the male-identified Chicano culture silences Chicanas, sexually and verbally. Her collage of poems and narratives in both Spanish and English recreates "la familia" as an intricate web of emotional and sexual ties between women.

In 1984, a Minneapolis women's theater, Foot of the Mountain, staged a reading of Moraga's drama Giving Up the Ghost, perhaps the first explicitly lesbian play by a Chicana. The three characters, Marissa, Corky (Marissa's younger self), and Amalia, break dramatic tradition as they break the silences surrounding women's sexuality, Chicana oppression, and lesbian invisibility.

Their monologues compose a disturbing narrative of sexual confusion and isolation. In particular, Corky's painfully bleak story of her rape enrages and empowers female audiences. Moraga's two plays in progress, The Shadow of Man and La extranjera, continue to examine gender identities and sexuality within "la familia."

As a founder of the publishing house The Kitchen Table/Women of Color Press and a part-time lecturer in Chicano Studies at the University of California, Berkeley, Moraga calls into question basic assumptions about Chicana identity by articulating the voices of the silenced.

Amy Gilley

     

 
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A photograph of Cherríe Moraga created by Angela Brinskele in 2004.
  
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    Bibliography
   

Alacorn, Norma. "Making Families from Scratch: Split Subjectivities in the Work of Hemelna Maria Viramontes and Cherríe Moraga." The Americas Review: A Review of Hispanic Literature and Art of the USA 15:3-4 (Fall/Winter 1987): 147-159.

Sternbach, Nancy Spaorta. "'A Deep Racial Memory of Love': The Chicana Feminism of Cherríe Moraga." Breaking Boundaries: Latina Writing and Critical Readings. Asuncion Horno-Delgado, ed. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1989. 48-61.

Umpierre, Luz-Marie. "Interview with Cherríe Moraga." The Americas Review: A Review of Hispanic Literature and Art of the USA 14:2 (Summer 1986): 54-67.

Yarbo-Bejarano, Yvonne. "Cherríe Moraga." Chicano Writers: First Series in Dictionary of Literary Biography. Francisco A Lomeli and Carl R. Shirley, eds. Detroit: Gale Research Inc, 1989. 165-177.

_____. "Cherríe Moraga's Giving Up the Ghost: The Representation of Female Desire." Third Woman 3:1-2 (1986): 113-120.

 

    Citation Information
         
    Author: Gilley, Amy  
    Entry Title: Moraga, Cherríe  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
 
    Publication Date: 2002  
    Date Last Updated December 12, 2011  
    Web Address www.glbtq.com/literature/moraga_c.html  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL   60607
 
    Today's Date  
    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 1995, 2002 New England Publishing Associates  
 

 

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