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The Heath Anthology of American Literature, Fifth Edition
Paul Lauter, General Editor

Aurora Levins Morales
(b. 1954)

Aurora Levins Morales was born in Indiera, Puerto Rico, on February 24, 1954, to a Puerto Rican mother and a Jewish father. She came to the United States with her family in 1967, and lived in Chicago and New Hampshire. She presently works in the San Francisco Bay Area, where she has resided since 1976. Her short stories have appeared in This Bridge Called My Back, Cuentos: Stories by Latinas, and in Revista Chicano-Riqueña. In 1986 she published Getting Home Alive, a collection of short stories, essays, prose poems, and poetry in English authored in collaboration with her mother, Rosario Morales.

Levins Morales does not belong to the group of writers who were brought up in New York City and whose works deal with life in El Barrio. Her experiences have taken her, instead, from the urban world of Chicago, to the rural quiet of New Hampshire, and to the pluralistic and politically radical culture of the San Francisco Bay Area. Her writing has been profoundly influenced by two major literary streams: first, by North American feminists like Adrienne Rich, Susan Griffin, and in particular by Alice Walker. She has also read extensively the works of major Latin American writers such as Pablo Neruda and Eduardo Galeano. Her Puerto Rican–Jewish heritage has also been an important source of creativity. Her search for a language that will express a Latina woman’s experience and struggle identifies her with the body of literature produced by US women of color, and closely connects her with the work of contemporary Chicana writers.

She tries to define her mestiza and female identity through an analysis and critique of her two cultures. While considering herself “a child of the Americas,” and not just Puerto Rican, Aurora employs in her writings the cultural symbols of her country, and her childhood memories of the Puerto Rican countryside. A unique element of Getting Home Alive is the generational dialogue and “cross-fertilization,” as she describes it, between her mother’s voice and her own. Along with Víctor Hernández Cruz, Levíns Morales illustrates the gradual diversification that is taking place in United States Puerto Rican literature. Following a first moment of protest which denounced the social and economic conditions of the puertorriqueños in the Bronx and El Barrio, younger Puerto Rican writers are exploring other issues, such as language, multiple subjectivities, international politics, class, feminism, and transnational identities. Their denunciations are not expressed directly but are embedded in a more lyrical and individual poetic language. Writers like Cruz and Morales exemplify a synthesis between the North American literary tradition and a broad Latin American culture. As Puerto Ricans have moved away from New York City and settled in other urban centers throughout the United States, their life experiences have varied, and the emerging writings are thus characterized by a greater diversity of voices.

Frances R. Aparicio
University of Illinois at Chicago

In the Heath Anthology
Child of the Americas (1986)
Heart of My Heart, Bone of My Bone (1986)
Puertoricanness (1986)

Other Works
Getting Home Alive (co-authored with Rosario Morales) (1986)

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Noted Minnesota Scholar: Aurora Levins Morales
A brief biography.

On Child of the Americas
A collection of poems written in response to Aurora Levins Morales' Child of the Americas.

The Torturer and the Tortured
A review by Margaret Randall for The Sojourner, January 1999.

Secondary Sources

Rina Benmayor, "Crossing Borders: The Politics of Multiple Identity," Centro de Estusios Puertorriquenos Bulletin 2 No. 3 (Spring 1988): 71-77

Lourdes Rojas, "Latinos at the Crossroads: An Affirmation of Life in Rosario Morales and Aurora Levins Morales' Getting Home Alive," Breaking Boundaries, ed. Horno Delgado et al., 1989

Marc Zimmerman, U.S. Latino Literature: An Essay and Annotated Bibliography, 1992