(Masterpieces of American Literature)

In this potpourri of essays and poetry, Ortiz Cofer reveals what it means to be a writer. It is obvious from her exquisite use of language that she is intoxicated with the wonder of words and with their emotive potential. She is also intrigued by the role memory plays in writing. Writers drift mentally through the full accumulation of experience and pluck from it the elements from which they construct stories.

For Ortiz Cofer, this revisiting of memory involved two distinct cultures, three or more generations, and the equilibrium that she was forced to reach as she moved from her childhood in Puerto Rico to her childhood in Paterson, New Jersey. Hers was not a single adjustment. She and her family left Paterson and returned to Puerto Rico whenever her father was at sea for an extended period, then returned when he returned.

Ortiz Cofer also delves into her later life when, married to an Anglo and raising a daughter, she went to school in quest of two degrees and held various jobs—all of this while she continued to write. For Ortiz Cofer, the excuse “I cannot find time to write” does not hold up. Writers always find time to write because they have something that desperately needs saying; not to say it is the greatest hardship any writer can endure.

Born into a family that loved telling cuentos (stories), Ortiz Cofer began at an early age to construct her own realities through the magic of words. Her story “The Woman...

(The entire section is 485 words.)


(Masterpieces of American Literature)

Bruce-Novoa, Juan. “Judith Ortiz Cofer’s Rituals of Movement.” The Americas Review 19 (Winter, 1991): 88-99.

Davis, Rocio G. “Metanarrative in Ethnic Autobiography for Children: Laurence Yep’s The Garden and Judith Ortiz Cofer’s Silent Dancing.” MELUS 27 (Summer, 2002): 139-158.

Faymonville, Carmen. “New Transnational Identities in Judith Ortiz Cofer’s Autobiographical Fiction.” MELUS 26 (Summer, 2001): 129-160.

Kallet, Marilyn. “The Art of Not Forgetting: An Interview with Judith Ortiz Cofer.” Prairie Schooner 68 (Winter, 1994): 68-76.

Ocasio, Rafael. “The Infinite Variety of Puerto Rican Reality: An Interview with Judith Ortiz Cofer.” Callaloo 17 (Summer, 1994): 730-743.

Ocasio, Rafael. “Puerto Rican Literature in Georgia? An Interview with Judith Ortiz Cofer.” Kenyon Review 14 (Fall, 1992): 56-61.

Wilhelmus, Tom. “Various Pairs.” Hudson Review 43 (Spring, 1990): 151-152.