Lorna Dee Cervantes was born in San Francisco of Chicana and Native American (Chumash) heritage. For many years she taught at University of Colorado and edited the Chicana/o journal MANGO, which was the first to publish Sandra Cisneros, Jimmy Santiago Baca, and Alberto Ríos, all poets included in the present collection. Her work has long evoked the dynamics of race, sex, class, and economics in Latino culture, with a special emphasis on the impact of the dominant culture on the lives of Latina women and on the forms of resistance they have devised.
Born in Little Falls, Minnesota, Louise Erdrich grew up in the town of Wahpeton, North Dakota, near the Minnesota border and the Turtle Mountain Reservation. She is an enrolled member of the Turtle Mountain Chippewa tribe of North Dakota; her mother is of French-Chippewa descent, and for many years her grandfather was Tribal Chair of the reservation. Her parents were Bureau of Indian Affairs educators; both taught at the boarding school in Wahpeton. Erdrich was educated at Dartmouth College and Johns Hopkins; she has taught poetry in prisons and edited a Native American newspaper.
Anita Endrezze was born in Long Beach, California, of Yaqui and European ancestry. An artist as well as a poet and short story writer, her paintings and illustrations have been reproduced in a number of publications and been exhibited both in the U.S. and in Europe. She has also written a novel for children. She has worked part-time for Washington State as a poet-in-residence, for the Spokane chapter of the Audubon Society, and edited the Indian Artists Guild newsletter. Her books include At the Helm of Twilight (1992) and The Humming of Stars and Bees (1998).
Born Alice Ruth Moore, in New Orleans, of mixed African American, Native American, and European ancestry, Dunbar-Nelson was educated at Straight College (now Dillard University). Her Cornell master’s thesis on the influence of Milton on Wordsworth was cited at the time. A 1998-1902 marriage to poet Paul Lawrence Dunbar and a later marriage to civil rights activist Robert J. Nelson are the source of her hyphenated name. She is known not only for her poetry but also for her short stories and posthumously published diary.
Ana Castillo was born and grew up in Chicago of Aztec and Mexican ancestry. She was educated at Northern Illinois University and the University of Chicago, thereafter earning a Ph.D. at the University of Bremen. In both high school and college, Castillo was active in the Chicano movement and began writing political poems about ethnic experience. Known for both her novels and her poetry, she has often explored the politics of sexuality.
Born in Sante Fe, New Mexico, of Chicano and Apache Indian descent, but abandoned at age two, Jimmy Baca lived part of the time with a grandparent. By his fifth birthday, his father was dead of alcoholism, his mother had been murdered by her new husband, and Baca was in an orphanage. He escaped at age eleven and lived on the street, moving on to drugs and alcohol. Soon he was convicted on a drug charge, though he may not have been guilty. He wrote the poems in his first book, Immigrants in Our Own Land (1979), while he was in prison, where he had taught himself to read.
Sherman Alexie's visibility and reputation increased so rapidly in the 1990s that at times he seemed more a natural phenomenon, like a summer thunderstorm, than a mere writer. But an astonishingly inventive writer he is. The son of a Spokane father and a part-Coeur d'Alene mother, Alexie grew up on the Spokane Indian Reservation in Wellpinit, Washington. He was educated first at Gonzaga University in Spokane and then at Washington State University in Pullman; he now lives in Seattle.
Born Florence Anthony in Albany, Texas, Ai did not learn her real father's identity until she was sixteen. Then she learned she had a Japanese American father; her mother was black, Irish, and Choctaw Indian. She took the name "Ai," which means "love" in Japanese, to signal her heritage. Ai's childhood was spent in a variety of cities, including Tucson, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. She was educated at the University of Arizona and the University of California at Irvine.
An enrolled member of the Mesquakie Nation of central Iowa, Ray Young Bear grew up on the tribal lands near Tama. He is not only a poet and a novelist but also a performing artist. With his wife Stella, whose bead work is depicted on the cover of The Invisible Musician (1990), he founded the Black Eagle Child Dance Troup, for which Young Bear plays drums. Under the Woodland Singers title, they have recorded traditional Native American songs.