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Classical 91.7-Arte Público Press Author of the Month: Graciela Limón

Author Graciela Limón has been selected as this month’s Classical 91.7/Arte Público Press Author of the Month. In the next installment of a series of monthly features, and in anticipation of her April 23rd reading at the MFAH, Classical 91.7’s Eric Ladau spoke with Ms. Limón.


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A Mexican-American native of Los Angeles, Graciela Limón began writing late in life. Although she dreamed of becoming a novelist from an early age, her dreams of creative writing had faded by the time she reached college. “It was almost as if every time I read a masterpiece or a scholarly article, the possibility of my becoming a novelist became more and more remote,” says Limón.

She went on to obtain an M.A. and a Ph.D. in Spanish American Literature and became a professor. Then, upon attempting to publish a collection of her essays, editor after editor rejected them explaining that they were more creative than scholarly.

“After some time spent in depression, the word ‘creative’ began to take shape in my thoughts. It sparked the memory of a long-ago dream,” Limón says. “I saw what the years had given me in experience and emotions, in the many people and places that had crossed my life. I realized that I had the material I needed to become what I had always wanted to be. A novelist.”

Her first attempt sealed her fate. Her novel, In Search of Bernabé (Arte Público Press, 1993), was named a Notable Book of the Year by The New York Times Book Review, which hailed it as a work that “leaves the reader with that special hunger that can be created only by a newly discovered writer. Ms. Limón’s prose is assured and engrossing.” It was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times‘ Art Seidenbaum First Novel Award. The novel, which humanizes the political turmoil of contemporary Central America, also garnered a 1994 American Book Award. The book was translated into Spanish and published as En busca de Bernabé (Arte Público Press, 1997) and received equal acclaim.

Her second novel, The Memories of Ana Calderón (Arte Público Press, 2004), was lauded by Booklist as one that “should awaken the conscience and compassion that drive and haunt every reader.” Song of the Hummingbird (Arte Público Press, 1996) recounts the Spanish conquest of Mexico from the perspective of an indigenous woman. The Washington Post Book World hailed this riveting tale as “downright hypnotic.” With her dramatic fourth work, The Day of the Moon, the award-winning novelist spins a mesmerizing story of forbidden love. A spellbinding account that spans the twentieth century, across the Southwest from Mexico to Los Angeles, beyond life and death and over the course of four generations of the Betancourt family. Allowing multiple voices to narrate this beguiling tale, Limón adroitly explores the clan’s tragic reckoning with issues of cultural identity, sexual autonomy and inter-racial love.

In 2001, Arte Público Press released the first paperback edition of The Memories of Ana Calderón and a new novel, Erased Faces, which is set against the backdrop of the Zapatista uprising in Chiapas. Erased Faces was named the 2002 winner of the Gustavus Myers Outstanding Book Award in recognition of the novel’s success in extending our understanding of the root causes of bigotry and the range of options we as humans have in constructing alternative ways to share power.

Limón’s most recent novel is Left Alive (Arte Público Press, 2005), a psychological thriller about one man’s attempts to reconcile his survival after his mother is convicted of murdering his three older siblings.

Limón is a life-long resident of her hometown, Los Angeles. She is Professor Emeritus of Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, where she served as a professor of U.S. Latina/o Literature and Chair of the Department of Chicana and Chicano Studies. She currently teaches at the University of California in Santa Barbara.

Arte Público Press is the nation’s largest and most established publisher of contemporary and recovered literature by U.S. Hispanic authors. Based at the University of Houston, Arte Público Press, Piñata Books and the Recovering the U.S. Hispanic Literary Heritage project provide the most widely recognized and extensive showcase for Hispanic literary arts and creativity. For more information, please visit

In the next installment of a series of monthly features, Classical 91.7’s Eric Ladau spoke with Ms. Limón about her works.