New Book: Vanessa Pérez-Rosario’s “Becoming Julia de Burgos—The Making of a Puerto Rican Icon”

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Vanessa Pérez-Rosario’s Becoming Julia de Burgos: The Making of a Puerto Rican Icon will be published this month by University of Illinois Press. The book explores the poet’s life and her place in Puerto Rican culture. Junot Díaz writes: “In this magisterial study Pérez Rosario brings to blazing life one of the most courageous and important Puerto Rican diasporic artists of the 20th century. An indispensable book that presents Julia de Burgos in her extraordinary plenitude.”

Description: While it is rare for a poet to become a cultural icon, Julia de Burgos has evoked feelings of bonding and identification in Puerto Ricans and Latinos in the United States for over half a century.

In the first book-length study written in English, Vanessa Pérez-Rosario examines poet and political activist Julia de Burgos’s development as a writer, her experience of migration, and her legacy in New York City, the poet’s home after 1940. Pérez Rosario situates Julia de Burgos as part of a transitional generation that helps bridge the historical divide between Puerto Rican nationalist writers of the 1930s and the Nuyorican writers of the 1970s. Becoming Julia de Burgos departs from the prevailing emphasis on the poet and intellectual as a nationalist writer to focus on her contributions to New York Latino/a literary and visual culture.

It moves beyond the standard tragedy-centered narratives of Burgos’s life to place her within a nuanced historical understanding of Puerto Rico’s peoples and culture to consider more carefully the complex history of the island and the diaspora. Pérez Rosario unravels the cultural and political dynamics at work when contemporary Latina/o writers and artists in New York revise, reinvent, and riff off of Julia de Burgos as they imagine new possibilities for themselves and their communities.

Vanessa Pérez Rosario is an associate professor of Puerto Rican and Latino Studies at City University of New York, Brooklyn College, and the editor of Hispanic Caribbean Literature of Migration: Narratives of Displacement.

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