Authors: Rosario Ferré

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

Last reviewed: June 2017

Puerto Rican novelist, prose writer, and poet

September 28, 1938

Ponce, Puerto Rico

February 18, 2016

San Juan, Puerto Rico

Biography

Rosario Ferré (fay-RAY) is considered Puerto Rico’s leading woman of letters. Ferré is a professor at the University of Puerto Rico and also a contributor to The San Juan Star newspaper. A prolific writer, she has published fiction, poetry, criticism, essays, and biography. Born in Ponce, Puerto Rico, to a family with position in both politics and business, Ferré was educated at Manhattanville College, the University of Puerto Rico, and the University of Maryland, College Park, where she earned a Ph.D. in Latin American literature in 1987. Her writing career began in the 1970s with her position as editor and publisher of Zona de Carga y Descarga, a student-generated journal concentrating on new Puerto Rican literature. She has also taught at Rutgers University, Harvard University, the University of California at Berkeley, The Johns Hopkins University, and the University of Puerto Rico, Rio Piedras. She has been awarded an honorary doctorate from Brown University. In addition, from 1977 to 1980, her column of literary criticism was published in El Mundo, a Puerto Rican newspaper.

Ferré also wrote a biography of her father, Luis Ferré, the pro-statehood governor of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico from 1968 to 1972, but she is best known for her fiction. Her nonfiction essays in Zona de Carga y Descarga reflected her ideals of social reform and independent politics. This journal was the outcome of an idea generated in a master’s degree class at the University of Puerto Rico. With other students, she founded a journal which offered an opportunity for publication to many young Puerto Rican writers who later became famous.

Ferré’s feminist ideas also formed the basis for her short stories. Her children’s literature, including fables and short stories, contains messages concerning the need for social and political reform. Ferré’s fiction in the form of short stories and novels for adults tells the stories of women in her culture who struggle with issues of class, race, and economic status. In stories like “The Youngest Doll,” she explores the conflicts between cultural expectations for women in a changing Puerto Rican society and the common human need for decency and respect. The use of symbolism and allegory in this story are reflected in many of her longer works. Influenced by her family (her mother was from the landed gentry, and her father was an industrialist before he became a politician), Ferré writes of the struggles of women of this culture between duty and personal needs. Early in her career, she was important primarily to feminist academics, until the publication of The House on the Lagoon in 1995. Although Ferré wrote the first draft of the novel in Spanish, she wrote subsequent revisions in English. Upon its publication, she received international attention with her nomination for the National Book Award. Ferré’s recent novels are written in English, but her poetry is published only in Spanish.

Many of her works, including Sweet Diamond Dust and The House on the Lagoon, illustrate the ties between Puerto Rico and Spain as well as the United States. Through multilevel plots dealing with generational conflict and gender constraints, Ferré explores what life is and has been like for people, both men and women, of Puerto Rican descent. Her use of layered time frames, wide plot scope, and vivid language has been compared to Isabel Allende and Gabriel García Márquez. Her stories of the people and the rich culture of her homeland provide an opportunity for readers to learn and appreciate her Caribbean heritage.

Ferré died in 2016 at her home in San Juan, Puerto Rico, at the age of seventy-seven. She was survived by her third husband, Agustín Costa; three children; a brother; and a grandson.

Author Works Long Fiction: Maldito amor, 1986 (Sweet Diamond Dust, 1988) La batalla de las virgenas, 1993 The House on the Lagoon, 1995 (Casa de la laguna, 1996) Eccentric Neighborhoods, 1998 La extraña muerte del Capitancito Candelario, 1999 Flight of the Swan, 2001 Lazos de sangre, 2009 Short Fiction: Papeles de Pandora, 1976 (The Youngest Doll, 1991) Fábulas de la garza desangrada, 1982 Sonatinas, 1989 Las dos Venecias, 1992 Poetry: Sonatinas, 1989 Antología personal: 1992–1976, 1994 Language Duel/Duelo de Lenguaje, 2002 Fisuras, 2006 Nonfiction: Sitio a Eros: Trece ensayos literarios, 1980 El acomodador : una lectura fantástica de Felisberto Hernández, 1986 El árbol y sus sombras, 1989 El coloquio de las perras, 1990 Cortázar : el romántico en su observatorio, 1990 Memorias de Ponce: Autobiografia de Luis A. Ferré, 1992 A la sombra de tu nombre, 2001 Las puertas del placer, 2005 Memoria, 2011 Children’s and Young Adult Literature: El medio pollito: siete cuentos infantiles, 1976–80 Los cuentos de Juan Bobo, 1981 La mona que le pisaron la cola, 1981 La Cucarachita Martina, 1990 Bibliography Castillo, Debra A. “Surfacing: Rosario Ferré and Julieta Campos, with Rosario Castellanos.” In Talking Back: Toward a Latin American Feminist Literary Criticism, edited by Debra Castillo. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1992. A critical essay on Ferré and Castellanos from a Latin American feminist perspective. Erro-Peralta, Nora, and Caridad Silva, eds. Beyond the Border: A New Age in Latin American Women’s Fiction. Gainesville: University of Florida Press, 2000. Presents a collection of fifteen short stories by Latina writers. Fernandez Olmos, Margarite. “From a Woman’s Perspective: The Short Stories of Rosario Ferré and Ana Lydia Vega.” In Contemporary Women Authors of Latin America: Introducing Essays, edited by Doris Meyers and Margarita Fernandez Olmos. Brooklyn, N.Y.: Brooklyn College, 1983. A critical essay about short stories by Ferré and Vega. Ferré, Rosario. “Interview with Rosario Ferré.” Interview by Magdalena García Pinto. Translated by Trudy Balch and Magdalena García Pinto. In Women Writers of Latin America. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1991. A lengthy interview with the author. Hintz, Susanne H. Rosario Ferré: A Search for Identity. New York: Lang, 1995. A study of Ferré’s life and work. Weber, Bruce. “Rosario Ferré, Writer Who Examined Puerto Rican Identity, Dies at 77.” The New York Times, 21 Feb. 2016, www.nytimes.com/2016/02/22/books/rosario-ferre-writer-who-examined-puerto-rican-identity-dies-at-77.html. Accessed 12 June 2017. Ferré’s obituary.

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