Currently the Tomás Rivera Endowed Chair in the Department of Creative Writing at the University of California, Riverside, Juan Felipe Herrera is the son of migrant farmworkers: Lucha Quintana, a performance teatrista, and Felipe Emilio Herrera, a storyteller, both of whom migrated from Mexico during the Mexican Revolution. Embodying his parents’ creative spirits, Juan Felipe is not only a poet but a photographer, anthropologist, cartoonist, and multimedia artist.
Beginning in the late 1960s, he founded various experimental Chicano theatre troupes and poetry-performance ensembles with which he has toured the United States and Mexico. His interests in performance, culture, and poetics led him on journeys into Mexico’s indigenous communities to undertake film and documentary projects in and about Lacandon-Maya, Tzotil-Tzeltal, and Huichol villages. He continues to mine his experiences there in his lectures, through his photographs, and in such poetry collections as Thunderweavers.
A graduate of UCLA, Stanford University, and the Iowa Writer’s Workshop, Juan Felipe has published twenty-eight books in various genres, including poetry, prose, children’s books, and young-adult novels. He has also written two musicals for children: Salsalandia (La Jolla Playhouse) and Nakkaloo, The Girl Who Lived in a Hip-Hop Shoe (Kindergaard Project, San Francisco). In Skate Fate, his newest young-adult novel, he incorporates some of his recent experiments in poetry novels.
In addition to his Guggenheim Fellowship, he has received two NEA Fellowships in Poetry, a Bread Loaf Fellowship, a Lila Wallace National Touring Poet’s Fellowship, the University of California, Berkeley, Regent’s Lecturer Fellowship, and an artist residency at the Montalvo Arts Center in Saratoga, California.
Among the more than fifty honors and prizes he has won for his writings are the Ezra Jack Keats Award; a FOCAL Award and the Hungry Mind Review’s Award of Distinction for Calling the Doves; the PEN USA and PEN Oakland-Josephine Miles awards for 187 Reasons Mexicanos Can’t Cross the Border: Undocuments 1971-2007; an Américas Award (his second), a Latino Hall of Fame Award in Poetry, and selection as a New York Public Library Winner for Books for the Teen Aged for CrashBoomLove; and in 2009 a National Book Critics Circle Award in Poetry, the International Latino Award for Poetry in English, and the PEN Beyond Margins Award for Half the World in Light: New and Selected Poems. He has also been nominated twice for Poet Laureate of California and was recently elected to the Board of Chancellors of the Academy of American Poets.
Juan Felipe Herrera has five children and seven grandchildren. Margarita Robles, his partner, a performance artist, tours with him on occasion.
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