Cherríe Moraga

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Introduction

(Drama Criticism)

Cherríe Moraga 1952-

American playwright, essayist, editor, and poet.

The following entry presents criticism on Moraga's dramatic works from 1988 through 2002.

Moraga is often considered one of the foremost Chicano playwrights of her generation, and is perhaps the most prominent and outspoken Chicana and lesbian dramatist. Attempting to shine light upon many of the injustices and inequalities that dominate Chicano life in the United States, she also tries to realistically depict Hispanic familial relationships that are not shown elsewhere in contemporary theater. A dedicated feminist, her plays are distinguished for their complex female roles as well as the exploration of the subjectivity that, in Moraga's experience, is often inflicted upon Hispanic women. Further, as one of the few openly gay Chicano writers, she brings a particular element of sexuality that pervades much of her writing.

Biographical Information

Moraga was born on September 25, 1952, one of three children of an Anglo father and a Mexican-American mother in Whittier, California. Her father deserted the family while she was still very young, leaving her mother as sole supporter. As a result, Moraga was raised with Mexican traditions at home and exposed to white American influences at school. Describing herself as “La Guera”—which translates to “fair-skinned”—she was able to “pass” as Anglo throughout much of her upbringing, something her mother encouraged. Wanting to enable her children to succeed where she had not in a white society, Moraga's mother did not pass along her own Spanish fluency to her children nor did she expose them to her own family as much as Moraga might have liked. Thus, Moraga felt detached from her Chicano heritage during much of her early childhood; however, when she was nine, her mother moved the family back to the San Gabriel Valley where much of her large extended family was situated, and Moraga immersed herself in la familia by listening to the stories of her elders, influences that can be traced through her current work. Even among her family, however, she still felt the conflict of having to live between two cultures. But it was in part due to the advantages of their familiarity with white culture that Moraga and her siblings became part of the first generation of her family to go to college. Graduating with a B.A. from a small private college in Hollywood in 1974, she found work as a teacher in Los Angeles until 1977, then began pursuing a graduate degree at San Francisco State in feminist writing, which she attained in 1981. It was during her time in college that Moraga began to recognize and accept herself as a lesbian. By finally acknowledging her lesbianism, she was able to accept herself as a confident whole person, a decision that Moraga has said enabled her to fully reconnect with both her Chicana mother and her own proud heritage as a Chicano woman. Finding greater confidence in herself and her writing, she became active in feminist causes in San Francisco, but felt like an outsider in the mostly white, heterosexual movement. To combat what she felt was a neglect of the needs and issues of both women of color and lesbians by the larger feminist community, she joined with Gloria Anzaldúa to publish a collection of essays, letters, poems, and conversations by a largely unpublished group of women of color in the groundbreaking This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color (1981), which won the Before Columbus Foundation American Book Award in 1986. After a move to New York, she founded, with Barbara Smith, the Kitchen Table/Women of Color Press, which is the only publisher dedicated exclusively to printing works of minority women in the United States. It was in New York that she first became involved with playwriting through her residency at INTAR (the Hispanic-American Arts Center in New York), which eventually led to a reading of her first play, Giving Up the Ghost (1987) by a feminist theatre group...

(The entire section is 38,777 words.)