BIOGRAPHY - CRITICISM
Cherrie Moraga was born in Los Angeles in 1952. She is of
Chicana/Anglo descent which has influenced her experiences as a lesbian
poet, playwright, essayist, editor, teacher, and activist.
Moraga describes herself as "La Guera," which means fair-skinned. She
was born with the features of her Chicana mother and the skin of her
Anglo father. The history of her family has been a large influence on
Moraga's writing. Her respect for her mother comes from the hardships
and struggles that she endured throughout her childhood. At a young age
her mother became the main support of her own family after her father
left. She worked to survive and had little opportunity to get an
education. Without a formal education in English, Moraga's mother was
considered illiterate in this country. Her fluency in Spanish was not
passed on to Moraga or her siblings in the hope that they may be able to
pass more effectively in "white" society. Because Moraga was fair-skinned,
"passing" became a part of daily life that made it easier for her to
succeed in the United States. Moraga realized the advantages of having "white
privilege" (a term that refers to the privileges of being white and
therefore having more advantages in life). This had a counter-affect on
Moraga's ability to connect fully with her Chicana background, pulling
her further from her mother and the knowledge of who she really was.
Moraga explains, "From all this, I experience a huge disparity between
what I was born into and what I grew to become."
After her college years Moraga made a realization that led to a new
found connection with her mother. She acknowledged her own lesbianism
after years of hiding it, from not only others, but herself. The
acceptance of her homosexuality became a link to the heart of her
Chicana heritage and opened new doors for an understanding of herself
and her family. "When I finally lifted the lid to my lesbianism, a
profound connection with my mother reawakened in me. It wasn't until I
acknowledged and confronted my own lesbianism in the flesh, that my
heartfelt identification with and empathy for my mother's oppression--due
to being poor, uneducated, and Chicana--was realized," she said.
Her involvement in
writing began early in her life, but her serious works emerged after her
"coming out" as a lesbian. She began to grow more as a feminist and her
writing became more than a means of expression, it became a way of life.
Her lesbianism became an avenue to her success in writing from her heart
and her mind, together. This was an important turning point in her
relation to writing and where it would lead her.
Moraga began publishing her works in the 1980s. She is one of the
first and few Chicana/Lesbian writers of our times, setting the stage
for younger generations of other minority writers and activists.
Along with her books Moraga dove into writing plays. The plays deal
with the themes surrounding feminism, ethnicity, sexuality, and other
gender-related issues. Her work in the theatre has contributed to the
growth of the Chicano Theatre. Moraga is currently a member of a Theatre
Communications Group and was the recipient of the NEA Theatre
Playwriting Fellowship Award. Her most recent play, Watsonville: Some
Place Not Here, won the Fund For New American Plays Award, from the
Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. The play was performed at the
Brava Theatre Company of San Francisco in May of 1996.
Around the same time that she published her second book in 1983,
Moraga co-founded the group "Kitchen Table: Women of Color Press ," a
group that did not discriminate against homosexuality, class, or race.
Moraga involved herself as well in organizing women-of-color groups
In 1981 Moraga wrote and co-edited This Bridge Called My Back
with Gloria Anzaldu½, with whom Moraga often collaborated. Perhaps her
most successful and attention-gaining book, it was the winner of the
Before Columbus Foundation American Book Award in 1986.