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Almost a Woman
Masterpiece Theatre Almost a Woman
Essays + Interviews [imagemap with 8 links]
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Puerto Rican Poetry

Judith Ortiz Cofer | Martin Espada | Sandra Maria Esteves

Judith Ortiz Cofer
Judith Ortiz Cofer is a poet, novelist and essayist who explores the process of change and assimilation in Hispanic American culture. Her first novel, The Line of the Sun (1989), a young woman's coming-of-age story set in an impoverished village in Puerto Rico and in Paterson, N.J., prompted The New York Times Book Review to praise Cofer as "a prose writer of evocatively lyrical authority, a novelist of historical compass and sensitivity."

Cofer writes and teaches in English but as a child spoke only in Spanish. She won the 1994 O. Henry Prize for Short Story, as well as the 1990 Pushcart Prize for Non-fiction for her collection of autobiographical essays, Silent Dancing. Her books of poetry include Peregrina (1986) and Terms of Survival (1987). The New York Times Book Review has recognized Cofer as "a writer of authentic gifts, with a genuine and important story to tell." Cofer is Franklin Professor of English and Creative Writing at the University of Georgia.

The Other
Judith Ortiz Cofer

A sloe-eyed dark woman shadows me.
In the morning she sings
Spanish love songs in a high
falsetto, filling my shower stall
with echoes.
She is by my side
in front of the mirror as I slip
into my tailored skirt and she
into her red cotton dress.
she shakes out her black mane as I
run a comb through my closely cropped cap.
Her mouth is like a red bull's eye
daring me.
Everywhere I go I must
make room for her; she crowds me
in elevators where others wonder
at all the space I need.
At night her weight tips my bed, and
it is her wild dreams that run rampant
through my head exhausting me. Her heartbeats,
like dozens of spiders carrying the poison
of her restlessness,
drag their countless legs
over my bare flesh.

From Here is My Kingdom, edited by Charles Sullivan. New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1994.

The Changeling
Judith Ortiz Cofer

As a young girl
vying for my father's attention,
I invented a game that made him look up
from his reading and shake his head
as if both baffled and amused.

In my brother's closet, I'd change
into his dungarees -- the rough material
molding me into boy shape; hide
my long hair under an army helmet
he'd been given by Father, and emerge
transformed into the legendary Ché
of grown-up talk.

Strutting around the room,
I'd tell of life in the mountains,
of carnage and rivers of blood,
and of manly feasts with rum and music
to celebrate victories para la libertad.
He would listen with a smile
to my tales of battles and brotherhood
until Mother called us to dinner.

She was not amused
by my transformations, sternly forbidding me
from sitting down with them as a man.
She'd order me back to the dark cubicle
that smelled of adventure, to shed
my costume, to braid my hair furiously
with blind hands, and to return invisible,
as myself,
to the real world of her kitchen.

From The Latin Deli by Judith Ortiz Cofer, New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 1993. Used with permission. All rights reserved.

Judith Ortiz Cofer | Martin Espada | Sandra Maria Esteves

Essays + Interviews:
Puerto Ricans in America | Puerto Rican Poetry | Esmeralda Santiago

Essays + Interviews | Puerto Rico: A Timeline
Memoir to Film | Story Synopsis | Cast + Credits
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