Mary Helen Ponce Biography


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

A prolific author of Chicano prose, Mary Helen (baptized Maria Elena) Ponce (POHN-say) was born and raised in the San Fernando Valley of Southern California. The youngest of ten children (seven girls and three boys), Ponce grew up in the security of her barrio(neighborhood) community, a blend of Mexicans and Mexican Americans for whom the family, the Catholic church, the school, and the little local grocery store provided stable landmarks for a world moving between languages and cultures. Writing in English and Spanish, or in English with brief shifts to Spanish, Ponce conjures the experiences of her childhood and youth in a bilingual and bicultural context, addressing the female experience in particular.

Ponce attended California State University at Northridge, earning a B.A. and an M.A. in Mexican American studies. She earned a second M.A. from the University of California at Los Angeles in history, minoring in anthropology and women’s studies. She pursued course work toward a doctorate in American studies at the University of New Mexico, combining her twin interests in history and literature, receiving her Ph.D. in 1995.

The mother of four children, Ponce delayed the start of her writing career until she was in her forties, beginning to publish short stories in Spanish in the early 1980’s. She soon wrote stories in English and translated some of her Spanish stories into English. She has published nonfiction essays on Latino topics (“Latinas and Breast Cancer,” for example) and interviews of Latino figures (“Profile of Dr. Shirlene Soto: Vice Provost, CSU Northridge”). She has also given presentations on such topics as Spanish American pioneer women in California, Chicana literature, and oral history. She has read her fiction at college campuses and conferences in the United States and El Colegio de Mexico in Mexico City and has published in the largest Spanish-language newspaper in Southern California, La Opinión.

Recuerdo: Short Stories of the Barrio gathers a number of Ponce’s earliest pieces, some of which begin with the Spanish word “Recuerdo,” which may be translated as “I...

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(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

McCracken, Ellen. “Subculture, Parody, and the Carnivalesque: A Bakhtinian Reading of Mary Helen Ponce’s The Wedding.” MELUS 23, no. 1 (Spring, 1998): 117-132. A detailed reading of The Wedding that takes issue with some previous critiques of the novel.

Rochy, John. “A Pacoima Childhood.” Review of Hoyt Street, by Mary Helen Ponce. Los Angeles Times, October 3, 1993. A favorable review.

Sanchez, Beverly. Review of Hoyt Street, by Mary Helen Ponce. Hispanic 8, no. 5 (July, 1995): 1. A favorable review.

Veyna, Angelina F. “Mary Helen Ponce.” In Chicano Writers, Second Series, edited by Francisco A. Lomeli. Vol. 122 in Dictionary of Literary Biography. Detroit: Gale Group, 1992. Provides a bio-bibliographic overview of Ponce’s work up to The Wedding.