Aurora Levins Morales
(1954-) was born in Indiera, Puerto Rico, to a
U.S.-born Puerto Rican mother and a Jewish father. In 1967 they went to
the United States. She has lived in Chicago, Minneapolis and Berkeley.
She is a lecturer and a social activist deeply concerned with issues
affecting third world people and most especially women. As a Puerto Rican
writer Levins Morales deals with her Puerto Rican identity from a global
perspective. She is a member of the Latina Feminist Group and she
collaborated in the group’s project Telling To Live: Latina Feminist
Testimonios (2001). Recurrent themes in her works and essays are
sexual abuse, racial discrimination but also ecology and social justice.
She shares with many other US women writers of
color her use of hybrid forms (prose and poetry), mixture of personal and
collective voices and the importance of a female ethnic heritage in the
development of a female voice.
Her first and most
acclaimed work, Getting Home Alive (1986), was written in
collaboration with her mother, Rosario Morales. It is a common project
where both women pay homage to a multiple heritage where they find solace
and refuge against discrimination and oppression. Important themes in
Getting Home Alive are female Puerto Rican identity, third world and
working-class feminism, women’s relationships, Puerto Rican multiple
identity (Latin American, African, Jewish, North American), memory as a
means of recovering a past heritage and writing as a means of
self-discovery. Getting Home Alive is a hybrid collection of
stories, poems and personal essays where their Puerto Rican identity is
formally described as a mestiza identity, a crossroad of many
diasporas. This collage of elements formally and symbolically represent a
multiple identity which is perfectly defined in poems like “Child of the
I am not African. Africa
is in me, but I cannot return.
I am not taína. Taíno is
in me, but there is no way back.
I am not European. Europe
lives in me, but I have no home there.
I am new. History made me.
My first language was spanglish.
I was born at the
And I am whole. (50)
For Aurora and her mother
diversity is a source of power and home is everywhere. Hybridity is
described as a multiple heritage recovered by means of stories of female
ancestors, of island landscapes, sounds and smells, and it is also
described formally through the mixture of voices and of genres, prose and
poetry. For both women living in the borderlands describes the richness
of a culturally diverse heritage.
More recent works by
Aurora Levins Morales are Remedios: Stories of Earth and Iron from the
History of Puertorriqueñas (1998) y Medicine Stories: History,
Culture and the Politics of Integrity (1998). Remedios is a
fascinating collection of prose and poetry with retells the history of
Puerto Rican people through the lives of Puerto Rican women’s ancestors
from the old and the new world. Comments on healing herbs are accompanied
by stories who rewrite History telling the lives of a long line of women
who have been silenced for centuries. Some of the stories tell about
pain, suffering abuse but most of them recover female figures who transmit
strength and resistance.
is a collection of personal essays grouped in five
sections. The section Historian as Curandera” deals with history and the
struggle over who has the authority to tell the story of other people;
“Speaking in Tongues” concentrate on the power of language and how
privilege language is used to silence other people’s authentic stories;
“Raíces” explores with the realities and myths of identity politics and
the complexity of Puerto Rican identity; “Privilege and loss” discusses
different aspects of privilege and the costs of accepting it and the final
section, “Integrity,” is about living a politics of integrity, about
commitment, activism and the integration of collective and individual
liberation. The whole collection calls for a revision of painful personal
and collective memories and history as a way to heal all wounds.
Aurora Levins Morales’
poem on September 11 events, “Shema,” has been widely spread on the
Internet as her most recent acclaimed piece of work.
Levins Morales, Aurora and
Rosario Morales. Getting Home Alive. New York: Firebrand Books,
Levins Morales, Aurora.
Remedios: Stories of Earth and Iron from the
History of Puertorriqueñas. Boston: Beacon
Stories: History, Culture and the Politics of Integrity. Cambridge,
MA: South End Press, 1998.
Antonia Domínguez Miguela
University of Huelva,
/Works about the author:
Benmayor, Rina. "Getting
Home Alive: The Politics of Multiple Identity." The Americas Review 17.3-4:
Doughty, Julia. “Testimonies of Survival:
Notes from an Interview with Aurora Levins Morales.” Standards 5.1
Flys Junquera, Carmen. "Geography
and Identity in Rosario Morales and Aurora Levisn Morales's
Getting Home Alive." Moncada, Junquera y Gurpegui 1992, 141-53.n
In Alberto Moncada, Carmen Flys Junquera and Jose Antonio
Gurpegui Palacios eds. El poder hispano: Actas del V congreso de
culturas hispanas en los Estados Unidos. Alcala: universidad de
“The Making of a Curandera Historian: Aurora Levins Morales.”
Centro Journal 17.1 (2005): 184-201.
Lindhe, Laura .
"Turning the Page on History." Golden Gater Online March 26,
Consuelo. “Mestizaje in the Mother-Daughter Autobiography of Rosario
Morales and Aurora Levins Morales.” A/b:
Auto/biography Studies ?: 303-15.
McCracken, Ellen. New Latina Narrative: The Feminine
Space of Postmodern Ethnicity. Tucson: University of Arizona
Rivera, Carmen S. Chapter 3: “The
Fluid Identity of Rosario Morales and Aurora Levins Morales in
Getting Home Alive” Kissing the Mango Tree: Puerto Rican Women
Rewriting American Literatura. Houston: Arte Público Press, 2002.
Rojas, Lourdes. "Latinas
at the Crossroads: An Affirmation of Life in Rosario Morales and Aurora
Levins Morales's Getting Home Alive." In Breaking Boundaries: Latina Writing and Critical Reading,
edited by A. Horno-Delgado, E. Ortega, N. Scott, and N. Saporta-Sternbach..
Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1989, 166-77.
Schulz, Diane R. “Remedies for an
Ailing World. A Book review of Remedios by Aurora Levins Morales.
“ Awakened Woman: The Journal of Women’s Spirituality Summer 2002.
"New Ways of Telling: Latinas' Narratives of Exile and Return."
Frontiers May- August 1996, V. 17, no. 2, 50-69.
Wadman, Monika. "Multiculturalism and
Nonbelonging: Construction and Collapse of the Multicultural Self
in Rosario and Aurora Levins Morales’s Getting Home Alive.” LIT:
Literature Interpretation Theory 11.2 (2000): 219-237.
Short notes on her work|
|Audio Clip of Aurora
|Testimonies to Survival:
An Interview with Aurora Levins Morales“ © 1993, 1995 by Aurora Levins
Morales and the STANDARDS Editorial Collective. Interview by Julia Doughty
|This site explores the
style, themes, comparisons and issues within Aurora Levins Morales's work
and offers discussion questions. |
|Heath Anthology of
American Literature: Aurora Levins Morales ... |
in American Poetry. Different types of poetry (Spanish-American and
Nuyorican), highlighting works by Morales as examples |
|A book review of Morales'
Remedios by Diane R. Schulz |
|Summary and comments on
Medicine Stories, by Aurora Levins Morales|
|Aurora Levins Morales-
Página Centra: Education, family, works, links and bibliography. The
original site is in Spanish, the translated page is rough translations but
offers valuable information.|
Information on Aurora Levins Morales. Picture, biography and selected
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