Judith Ortiz Cofer Biography


(Masterpieces of American Literature)

When she was three or four, Judith Ortiz Cofer, born in Hormigueros, Puerto Rico, in 1952, began the routine that was to define her existence for a number of years. Because her father, J. M. Ortiz Lugo, was a career Navy man stationed on a ship from the Brooklyn Naval Yard in New York, Judith and her brother came with their mother, Fanny Morot Ortiz, to Paterson, New Jersey, where the family lived in “El Building,” a vertical barrio. When the father went on long cruises, the family returned to Hormigueros in the southwestern corner of Puerto Rico and stayed with Judith’s grandmother.

When she was nineteen, Judith Ortiz married Charles John Cofer, a businessman. The couple has a daughter, Tanya. Following her marriage, Ortiz Cofer continued her education at Augusta College, from which she received a B.A. in 1974. Three years later, she earned an M.A. from Florida Atlantic University. Ortiz Cofer attended Oxford University for part of 1977 on a scholarship from the English Speaking Union.

Fluent in English and Spanish, Ortiz Cofer worked as a bilingual teacher in the public schools of Palm Beach County, Florida, during the 1974-1975 school year. In 1978, master’s degree in hand, she was named an adjunct instructor in English at Broward Community College in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. The following year, she was appointed an instructor in Spanish at the same institution. During this period, 1978-1980, she was also an adjunct instructor in English at Palm Beach Community College.

In 1980, having published her first collection of poems, Latin Women Pray (1980), as a chapbook, Ortiz Cofer became a lecturer in English at the University of Miami at Coral Gables, staying there until 1984, when she joined the Department of English at the University of Georgia as an...

(The entire section is 739 words.)

Judith Ortiz Cofer Biography

(Masterpieces of American Literature)

Ortiz Cofer is no ideologue. She is a skilled teller of tales, a credible shaper of characters. Her writing never pontificates. Instead, it leads readers to form their own ideologies about the tensions that living as a part of two cultures, one cold, the other warm, engenders. Ortiz Cofer writes with intense realism, softened only slightly by the high level of poetic insight that she brings to her prose and that sustains her poetry.

Judith Ortiz Cofer Biography

(Society and Self, Critical Representations in Literature)

Judith Ortiz Cofer did not begin writing for publication until after she had been in the United States for more than twenty years. During those years, however, she frequently returned to Puerto Rico to visit her extended family. Her writing is informed by her bicultural experiences: one in the urban apartment buildings in English-speaking New Jersey, where her father stressed the importance of learning American language and customs to succeed, and the other in the traditional island community where her mother and other Spanish-speaking relatives taught her not to forget her heritage.

Ortiz Cofer is bilingual, but she writes primarily but not exclusively in English. For example, her grandmother’s home, filled with the community of women who nurtured Ortiz Cofer as a child, is warmly referred to as la casa de Mamá or simply her casa. Neither solely Puerto Rican nor simply American, Ortiz Cofer straddles both cultures and intermingles them in her writing. Although most of her life has been spent in New Jersey—where her father was stationed in the Navy—and later Florida and Georgia, she considers herself a Puerto Rican woman. She identifies this connection to the island not merely through geographical association but also by invoking and reclaiming her family, their stories, and her memories through her writing.

As a Puerto Rican woman, Ortiz Cofer was expected to marry, bear children, and define herself through these relationships. She dreamed, however, of becoming a teacher and later a writer. Although she was married to Charles John Cofer in 1971 and later gave birth to a daughter, she did not follow the traditional Puerto Rican path of the married woman. After completing a bachelor’s degree in 1974 from Augusta College, she earned a master’s degree in English from Florida Atlantic University and received a fellowship to do graduate work at Oxford University in 1977. She taught English and creative writing at various schools in Florida before settling at the University of Georgia in 1984. In addition to her academic career, she also became a widely anthologized and acclaimed writer. Ortiz Cofer’s writing pays homage to the strictly defined and highly ritualized lives of Puerto Rican women, but her life and her act of writing break that mold; she redefines what it means to be a Puerto Rican woman.

Judith Ortiz Cofer Biography

(Poets and Poetry in America)

Judith Ortiz Cofer was born Judith Ortiz in 1952 in Puerto Rico to J. M. Ortiz and Fanny Ortiz. While she was a child, her father joined the U.S. Navy. When he was posted to the Brooklyn Naval Yard, the family moved to Paterson, New Jersey, into a city neighborhood with many Jewish families and families originally from Puerto Rico. Ortiz Cofer’s family and the community were both strongly Catholic, and she attended Catholic high schools both in Puerto Rico and in the United States.

Traveling back and forth between Puerto Rico and New Jersey when she was young offered Ortiz Cofer the opportunity to experience both cultures and languages and develop the deep perceptions about these two cultures that have influenced her work. Her role as a bridge between her Spanish-speaking mother and the English-speaking community at school and beyond helped raise her cultural awareness. Her writing reflects her assimilation into one culture while keeping alive the knowledge and life force of another.

At age fifteen, Ortiz Cofer and her family moved to Augusta, Georgia. She received a B.A. in English from Augusta College (1974) and an M.A. from Florida Atlantic University (1977). While a graduate student, she studied abroad at Oxford University and wrote a thesis paper on Lillian Hellman’s southern plays.

After graduate school, Ortiz Cofer has worked as a teacher of English and of creative writing while pursuing her writings. She most often...

(The entire section is 412 words.)

Judith Ortiz Cofer Biography

(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Born in Hormigueros, near Mayagüez in southwest Puerto Rico, Judith Ortiz Cofer (ohr-TEEZ CO-fur) spent part of every year in Paterson, New Jersey, as she was growing up. Her father, Jesús Ortiz Lugo, who served in the U.S. Navy, was assigned to the Brooklyn Navy Yard during many of his service years. Although Ortiz’s mother, Fanny Morot Ortiz, saw to it that the family spent part of every year in Puerto Rico, they lived for long periods in Paterson, which became the setting of a great many of Ortiz’s stories. Some of these stories center on El Building, as their apartment house was called when the Jewish tenants left and large numbers of Puerto Ricans moved in. Ortiz Cofer calls El Building a vertical barrio.{$S[A]Cofer, Judith Ortiz;Ortiz Cofer, Judith}

The young Judith Ortiz attended school in Puerto Rico, where she went to San José Catholic School in San Germán, and in New Jersey, where she attended public schools and later St. Joseph’s Catholic School in Paterson. When she was sixteen, her father suffered a nervous breakdown and was forced to retire from the Navy. The family moved to Augusta, Georgia, where Judith completed high school and enrolled in Augusta College, from which she graduated in 1974. She received a master’s degree from Florida Atlantic University in 1977 and that year also studied at Oxford University.

Her first book, a reflective collection of stories entitled Latin Women Pray, appeared in 1980. Ortiz Cofer turned this collection into a play, which was produced in Atlanta in 1984. In 1981, Ortiz Cofer received a fellowship from the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference in Vermont, where she subsequently served on the administrative staff during...

(The entire section is 699 words.)

Judith Ortiz Cofer Biography

(Literature of Developing Nations for Students)

Judith Ortiz Cofer describes herself as the product of two worlds, urban America and the island of Puerto Rico, and her work is a reflection...

(The entire section is 430 words.)

Judith Ortiz Cofer Biography

(Literature of Developing Nations for Students)

Judith Ortiz Cofer was born on February 24, 1952, in Hormigueros, Puerto Rico, to J. M. and Fanny Ortiz. Her family immigrated to the United...

(The entire section is 303 words.)

Judith Ortiz Cofer Biography

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

Judith Ortiz Cofer was born in the small town of Hormigueros, Puerto Rico, on February 24, 1952. Her Puerto Rican heritage flavors her poetry...

(The entire section is 393 words.)