For many of us coming of age is a long, long process. Maybe that is why I am such an avid reader of Judith Ortiz Cofer. Her characters remind me not only of what it was like to be a teenager grappling with the competing demands of home and self, but also what it means to “come of age” at any age. Rich in concrete images from her Puerto Rican heritage, Cofer’s work speaks to students of all ethnicities: Russian, Israeli, Persian, Salvadoran, Polish, Mexican, Nigerian, and Santa Monican. How she manages to do this is partly the mystery of art but I hope the pages that follow will help you help your students mine Cofer’s texts for insight into this literature as well as for insight into themselves.
The linked article appears in the Spring 2013 issue of Label Me Latina/o, a journal of twentieth and twenty-first century Latina/o literary production (labelmelatin.com).
Author Rafael Ocasio is a Charles A. Dana Professor of Spanish at Agnes Scott College and the author of two books about the Cuban dissident writer Reinaldo Arenas: Reinaldo Arenas: Cuba’s Political and Sexual Outlaw (2003) and A Gay Cuban Activist in Exile (2007). His most recent book, Afro-Cuban Costumbrismo: From Plantations to the Slums (2012), debunks the conventional motion that nineteenth Cuban Costumbrista literature reveals little about the Afro-Cuban experience.
from the Kenyon Review, Fall 92, Vol. 14 Issue 4, pg. 43, 8pgs.
JUDITH Ortiz Cofer is among the increasing number of Hispanic authors resident in the United States who propose to document ethnic integration into American society. Like the work of Chicanos, Dominicans, and Nuyoricans (Puerto Ricans in New York City), her writing incorporates reflections of a personal struggle for psychological individuation as well as acculturation, illustrated by her memories of Hormigueros, Puerto Rico, where she was born February 24, 1952, and her remembrances of adolescent years as the child of a military father in Paterson, New Jersey. Now a resident of rural Louisville, Georgia, Ortiz Cofer recreates her Puerto Rico, or "la isla de mis suenos" ("the island of my dreams"), which she shares with her English-speaking readers.
Ortiz Cofer began her literary career as a poet. She has published three books of poems: Reaching for the Mainland (Bilingual Review Press, 1987), Terms of Survival (Arte Publico Press, 1987), and Peregrina (Riverstone Press, 1986), and a collection of essays: Silent Dancing: A Partial Remembrance of a Puerto Rican Childhood (Arte Publico Press, 1990). The Line of the Sun (University of Georgia Press, 1989), her first novel, was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize in 1990. Her work regularly appears in distinguished journals like the New Mexico Humanities Review, Southern Poetry Review, and the Kenyon Review.