#AWP18 Featured Presenter Q&A with CherrĂ­e Moraga

AWP | December 2017

Event Title: A Reading and Conversation with Rita Mae Brown, Cherríe Moraga, and Chloe Schwenke, Sponsored by Red Hen Press
Description: From prolific to emerging, these authors will read from novels, poetry, and memoir, and discuss the effects of their literary influences as well as the pressures of inevitably carrying on the power of literary influence. The authors will address how they navigate the responsibilities of representation and the intersections of multiple marginalized identities, including lesbian, queer, trans, female, and POC.
Participants: Rita Mae Brown, Cherríe Moraga, Chloe Schwenke
Location: Ballroom C, Tampa Convention Center, First Floor
Date & Time: Thursday, March 8, 4:30 p.m. to 5:45 p.m.      

Q: What are some of the conference events (besides your own) or bookfair exhibitors you look forward to seeing? 
A: Danticat, Joy Harjo, the Dominican women writers, immigrant experience.  I was surprised to see so little representation of Native American writers. A real absence.

Q: What book or books that you’ve read over the last year would you most highly recommend?

  • Linda Hogan – Power.  The environmentalist view from a Native perspective.  Sad and strong.
  • Pedagogy of the Oppressed – Pablo Freire (a renewed reading of this 30 years later – still teaches us how to teach and learn). 
  • Salvation on Mission Street – Cathy Arellano – ultimate poet on subject of gentrification of the Latino Mission District in San Francisco.
  • People Who Led to My Plays – Adrienne Kennedy.  View of the playwright from inside out.  Great insights into the courage/creativity/originality of her voice/vision.
  • Autobiography of a Face – Lucy Grealy.  Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking/Blue Nights.  – helpful readings as I completed a memoir on memory, death, dying.
  • Their Dogs Came with Them – Helena Viramontes.  The specificity of the imagery brings even the “foreigner” reader into the heart of the barrio (East LA) experience.  The poetry of her prose sings!

Q: What are a writer’s main responsibilities in this particular cultural moment?
A: To write deeply and thoroughly to encounter the full complexity of our imaginings and our profound sites of self-censorship; to refuse easy rhetorical responses to social injustice; to uncover language that cannot be commodified, spun, rendered useless tomorrow.

Q: Has public funding for the arts made a difference in your life and career as a writer?
A: Government funding served me in my earliest decades of literary writing and then it all dried up.  In recent years, I have received considerable private foundational support, but primarily as a playwright.

Q: When AWP was found in 1967, there were a dozen creative writing programs, now there are approximately 1,800 undergraduate and graduate programs. What do you think has changed for readers and writers since creative writing became ascendant as an academic discipline?
A: I fear that there is a culturally dominant “MFA voice,” which many people of color writers (especially first-generation folk) do not naturally respond to (nor generate):  and, due to this, often suffer discrimination as emergent writers.

Q: If you could run into any author, contemporary or historical, at #AWP18, who would it be and what would you talk about?
A: James Baldwin (always).  How to continue along this path as a writer, knowing that your deepest impressions (your embodied knowledges) are not the stuff of mainstream literature.


CherrĂ­e MoragaCherríe Moraga is a poet, playwright, essayist, and memoirist best known as the co-editor (with Gloria Anzaldúa) of This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color. The recipient of a United States Artists Rockefeller Fellowship for Literature, Moraga has published several collections of writings, including: A Xicana Codex of Changing Consciousness, Loving in the War Years, and Waiting in the Wings. As a playwright, she has received two Fund for New American Plays Awards, the NEA’s Playwrights’ Fellowship, and, in 2017, she directed her newest work, The Mathematics of Love. For over twenty years, Moraga served as an Artist in Residence in the Department of Theater and Performance Studies at Stanford University. In 2017, she began her tenure as a Professor in the Department of English at UC-Santa Barbara.

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