Spilling the Beans in Chicanolandia: Conversations with Writers and Artists

By Frederick Luis Aldama | Go to book overview

Denise Chávez

Born in 1948 in Las Cruces, New Mexico, Denise Chávez grew up swaddled in her mother’s vibrant stories of family adventures along the U.S.–Mexico border. At an early age, Chávez found herself drawn to storytelling. As a young girl, to better understand her aches and pains—including confused feelings toward a largely absent father— she spent long hours in the library reading and writing fiction. In high school, while she continued to write stories, Chávez also found that theater worked well to transform her experiences into something memorable and engaging.

In 1967 Chávez pursued her passionate interest in drama and fiction writing more formally at the University of New Mexico, Las Cruces. In 1970, she produced her first one-act play, The Wait; its success opened a floodgate of other one-act plays, including Elevators, The Flying Tortilla Man, The Mask of November, and the play that put her in the national limelight, Women in the State of Grace. Chávez’s plays are informed by her work with Edward Albee and by the Southwestern santero and cuentista traditions in which she grew up. Each one-act play closely follows a protagonist’s psychological transformation and deep revelation within a larger sociopolitical context.

After working with Rudolfo A. Anaya at the University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, and receiving an M.F.A. from Trinity College, Chávez turned her focus more toward the writing of narrative fiction. In 1984, she finished writing a series of vibrantly visual short stories that followed the coming of age of a Chicana, Rocío. The stories were immediately picked up by Arte Público and published as The Last of the Menu Girls. This first “novel” (or

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Spilling the Beans in Chicanolandia: Conversations with Writers and Artists
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Acknowledgments vii
  • Introducing a Second Wave of Chicano/a Visual/Verbal Artists 1
  • Francisco X. Alarcón 37
  • Alfred Arteaga 53
  • Ricardo Bracho 69
  • Denise Chávez 79
  • Lucha Corpi 95
  • Dagoberto Gilb 107
  • Jaime Hernandez (of Los Bros Hernandez) 119
  • Juan Felipe Herrera 129
  • Richard Montoya (of Culture Clash) 143
  • Pat Mora 153
  • Cherríe Moraga 167
  • Alejandro Morales 177
  • Michael Nava 187
  • Daniel Olivas 199
  • Cecile Pineda 215
  • Lourdes Portillo 227
  • Luis J. Rodríguez 235
  • Benjamin Alire Sáenz 251
  • Luis Alberto Urrea 261
  • Alfredo Véa Jr 277
  • Alma Luz Villanueva 287
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