A press release from Indiana University announcing a forthcoming lecture by Cuban-American journalist/novelist Achy Obejas offers an excuse to post a profile of this important literary voice from the Caribbean diaspora. The lecture at IU Bloomington will take place on Sept. 30 during National Hispanic Heritage Month. It’s titled “Navigating Multiple Identities,” and is scheduled for 7-8:30 p.m. at the Helene G. Simon Hillel Center (730 E. Third St.). Obejas will address the issue of the interwoven facets of identity — race, culture, sexual orientation, gender and religion — that make us who we are.
Obejas, an author and teacher, grew up in Indiana and attended IU from 1977 to 1979 (she eventually received a Master of Fine Arts from Warren Wilson College in 1993). She later moved to Chicago and wrote about culture for the Chicago Tribune, where in 2001 she was awarded a team Pulitzer Prize in the category of explanatory reporting. “As a Cuban-lesbian-Jewish woman, Achy can speak from multiple perspectives,” said Lillian Casillas, director of La Casa. “Her visit will be an excellent opportunity to engage with students and the community and have a meaningful dialogue about these issues.”
In 2008, Obejas translated Junot Diaz’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao into Spanish. Her most recent book, Ruins, (March 2009), has met with international acclaim. Said Junot Diaz of the book: “Daring, tough and deeply compassionate, Achy Obejas’s Ruins is a breathtaker. Obejas writes like an angel, which is to say: gloriously . . . one of Cuba’s most important writers.” She has won two Lambda Literary Awards for lesbian fiction, and her articles have appeared in Nation, Latina, Ms., Vogue, Vanity Fair, Village Voice and Playboy, among many other publications.
Obejas has taught creative writing at colleges and universities in Chicago including DePaul University, Columbia College and the University of Chicago. Her poetry has been published in journals such as the Beloit Poetry Journal, Conditions, Third Woman and Revista Chicano-Riqueña. Her poetry was included in Woman of Her Word: Hispanic Women Write (1983). Obejas’ poetry received critical attention in an often-cited article by Eliana S. Rivero, “(Re)Writing Sugarcane Memories: Cuban Americans and Literature” (included in Paradise Lost or Gained? The Literature of Hispanic Exile, 1990). In 1986, she was awarded an NEA fellowship in poetry. Her short stories have appeared in numerous publications and anthologies. An early collection of her short stories, We Came All the Way from Cuba So You Could Dress Like This? was published by Cleis Press in 1994. Obejas is the author of various books, including the award-winning novel Days of Awe. She is the editor of Akashic’s critically acclaimed crime-fiction anthology Havana Noir. Currently, she is the Sor Juana Writer in Residence at DePaul University in Chicago. She was born in Havana and continues to spend extended time there.
Photo by Kaloian from press release.