A new lecture series at California State University Long Beach that brings ethnic U.S. writers to campus will be named after Helena Viramontes, professor and director of creative writing in Cornell’s Department of English.
A Chicana and American author, Viramontes has published several novels, short story collections, and essays, including Under the Feet of Jesus and The Moths and Other Stories. Her most recent novel, Their Dogs Came with Them, was based on her childhood in East Los Angeles and focused on Mexican Americans in difficult situations as well as on Chicano youth gangs and communities.
Viramontes said social justice is a common theme in her writing. “When I travel throughout the world doing these kind of gigs, one of the things I have to say that astonishes me is that we’re in 2015 and people think of our [ethnic and Chicana] literature as marginalized, so can you imagine what they think of us as people,” she said during a recent talk. “Those are the things I try to connect and get to talking about.”
She also stressed the significance of diversity in universities and the role of diversity in preparing students to be a citizen of the world, and encouraged students to demand diversity in both the faculty and student body.
The talk was followed by the announcement and inauguration of the new Helena María Viramontes Lecture Series.