Authors: Lucha Corpi

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

Mexican-born American novelist and poet

Identity: Mexican American

Author Works

Long Fiction:

Delia’s Song, 1989

Eulogy for a Brown Angel, 1992

Cactus Blood, 1995

Black Widow’s Wardrobe, 1999

Poetry:

Palabras de mediodía/Noon Words, 1980

Variaciones sobre una tempestad/Variations on a Storm, 1990

Children’s/Young Adult Literature:

Where Fireflies Dance, 1997

Edited Text:

Máscaras, 1997

Biography

Lucha Corpi (KOR-pee), called Luz, was born and socialized in Mexico. At an early age, she began to give recitals and read poems in public, encouraged by her teachers. Her youthful adventures with her brother included visiting the ruined house of the revolutionary fighter Juan Sebastián. Afterward, the siblings listened to music from the jukebox at the neighborhood cantina but were caught by their mother. Later, as an adult, Corpi sang and told stories to her own son.{$I[A]Corpi, Lucha}{$I[geo]WOMEN;Corpi, Lucha}{$I[geo]MEXICO;Corpi, Lucha}{$I[geo]UNITED STATES;Corpi, Lucha}{$I[geo]LATINO;Corpi, Lucha}{$I[tim]1945;Corpi, Lucha}

Corpi emigrated at nineteen, in 1965, to San Francisco with her husband. Their son was born there. Five years later they divorced. It is notable that Corpi did not write until living in the Chicano community after the divorce. Mexican literary traditions are stronger than Anglo ones in her work, which employs the codes and conventions of the Hispanic lyrical and romantic tradition, echoing the works of Pablo Neruda, Gabriel García Márquez, and Federico García Lorca. Corpi’s work presupposes knowledge of Mexican popular expressions and legends such as that of La Llorona, the ghost woman who seeks her children.

Because of the author’s emigration and divorce, Corpi’s work explores the boundaries between Anglo and Mexican cultures and life in a society that permits women to express themselves in writing. She writes her fiction in English and her poetry in Spanish (and collaborates with her longtime translator, Catherine Nieto-Rodríguez, on the bilingual versions). Corpi addresses border issues and three cultures (the indigenous Mexican, the mixed modern Mexican, and the Anglo) as she writes about four areas of human experience: the natural world, the cultural overlay, the pagan aspect, and artistic expression. Among her most potent symbols are the bridge (emigration) and the Virgin of Guadalupe (the long-suffering woman).

Critics note that while Corpi’s works presuppose an audience of women, she avoids overt textual markers of sex, keeps her literary voice impersonal, and concerns herself with the representation of female consciousness. Corpi examines her own emotions and those of her characters by using images rather than words. In Corpi’s mind, women’s tragedies are caused by men’s insensitivity to women, and she means to sensitize male literary tradition to women’s issues.

Corpi holds a B.A. from the University of California at Berkeley and an M.A. in comparative literature from San Francisco State University. She began to teach English as a second language in Oakland, California, in 1973. She has served as coordinator of the Chicano Studies Library at the University of California at Berkeley, as president of the Centro Chicano de Escritores, and as a member of the feminist mystery novel circle Sisters in Crime.

Her Eulogy for a Brown Angel won a PEN/Josephine Miles Award and a Multicultural Exchange Award for best book of fiction. The bilingual children’s book Where Fireflies Dance was named to the 2000-2001 Texas Bluebonnet Award master list of the Texas Library Association. In addition, she received the Lila Wallace-Reader’s Digest Foundation Writers Award in 1995 for outstanding Chicana literature, a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, and the Latino Hallmark Book Award.

BibliographyBrinson-Piñeda, Barbara. “Poets on Poetry: Dialogue with Lucha Corpi.” Prisma 1, no. 1 (1979).Ordóñez, Elizabeth. “Sexual Politics and the Theme of Sexuality in Chicana Poetry.” In Women in Hispanic Literature: Icons and Fallen Idols, edited by Beth Miller. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1983.Sánchez, Marta Ester. “Prohibition and Sexuality in Lucha Corpi’s Palabras de mediodía/Noon Words.” In Contemporary Chicana Poetry: A Critical Approach to an Emerging Literature. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1985.
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