Judith Ortiz Cofer
Hormigueros, PR, US
Judith Ortiz Cofer, a native of Puerto Rico, is the author of several books, including Call Me María, An Island Like You, The Meaning of Conseulo, Silent Dancing: A Partial Remembrance of a Puerto Rican Childhood, and The Line in the Sun. Her work has been anthologized in The O. Henry Prize Stories, The Pushcart Prize, and The Best American Essays. Her stories about coming-of-age experiences in Puerto Rican communities outside of New York City and her poems and essays about cultural conflicts of immigrants to the U.S. mainland have made Ortiz Cofer a leading literary depicting the Puerto Rican immigrant experience.
Among her many distinguished awards are fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Witter Bynner Foundation for Poetry, the Florida and Georgia Councils for the Arts, and the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference. She is the 1998 recipient of the Chris-Janer Award in Creative Research from the University of Georgia where she is honored with a Franklin Professorship in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences and teaches English and Creative Writing. The Rockefeller Foundation awarded her a 1999 residency at the Bellagio, Italy Conference Center. She was also Visiting Faculty at Vanderbilt University.
Ortiz Cofer was born in the small town of Hormigueros, Puerto Rico. When she was four years old, her parents came to the United States and settled in Paterson, New Jersey. As the daughter of a frequently absent military father stationed at Brooklyn's Navy Yard and an uprooted mother nostalgic for her beloved island, Ortiz Cofer spent portions of her childhood commuting between Hormigueros and Paterson. Even though most of her schooling was in Paterson, she lived for extended periods at her grandmother's house in Puerto Rico and attended the local schools. This back-and-forth movement between her two cultures became a vital part of her poetry and fiction. There is a strong island presence in her narratives, and the authenticity with which she captures life on the island is as powerful as her descriptions of the harsh realities of the Paterson community.
When she was fifteen years old, Ortiz Cofer moved with her family to Augusta, Georgia. She attended college and received an undergraduate degree in English from Augusta College. A few years later she moved to Florida and received an M.A. from Florida Atlantic University. In 1984 she joined the faculty of the University of Georgia in Athens, where she is now.
Among her many distinguished awards are fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Witter Bynner Foundation for Poetry, the Florida and Georgia Councils for the Arts, and the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference. She is the 1998 recipient of the Chris-Janer Award in Creative Research from the University of Georgia where she is the Regents' and Franklin Professor of English and Creative Writing.