Helena María Viramontes was born in East Los Angeles, California, on February 26, 1954, one of six daughters and three sons born to a construction worker and a homemaker. After graduation from Garfield High School, Viramontes earned her B.A. degree in English literature at Immaculate Heart College, also in Los Angeles, where she was one of only five Latinas in her class, graduating in 1975. She enrolled in the Master of Fine Arts Creative Writing Program at the University of California at Irvine in 1981 but left and completed her M.F.A. requirements after the publication of her first collection of short fiction, The Moths, and Other Stories, in 1985. In 1989, she received a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship which allowed her to attend a workshop given by the famed Columbian writer Gabriel García Márquez at the Sundance Institute in Utah. Viramontes has not been a prolific author, but she has published consistently over her career. In 1988, with María Herrera-Sobek, she coedited Chicana Creativity and Criticism: Charting New Frontiers in American Literature (second edition, 1996), a collection of both creative work (including Viramontes’s short story “Miss Clairol”) and criticism inspired by a literary conference held at U.C. Irvine; in 1995, the two writers edited a similar collection titled Chicana (W)rites: On Word and Film. In 1995, she published her short novel Under the Feet of Jesus and in 2007, a second novel Their Dogs Came with Them, about the brutality of the Spanish conquest of the Americas. By the early twenty-first century, she had been a visiting professor at a number of universities but lived in Ithaca, New York, with her husband, the well-known environmental biologist Eloy Rodriguez, and their children. She also serves on the faculty at Cornell University, where she teaches creative writing. Her stories have appeared in a number of periodicals and anthologies, and she has won numerous awards, including the John Dos Passos Prize for Literature in 1996. As her fiction grapples with contemporary social issues, Viramontes herself has gotten involved in a number of cultural and educational projects, including as literary editor of XhistmeArte in the early 1980’s; cofounder of the nonprofit group Latino Writers and Filmmakers, Inc.; and coordinator for the Latino Writers Association.