Distinguished Las Cruces writer Denise Chávez presents the second annual Rudolfo and Patricia Anaya Lecture on the Literature of the Southwest, speaking on the connections between Chicana feminism and borderlands literature, on Wednesday, Oct. 19, in the George Pearl Hall room 101 at 6:30 p.m. George Pearl Hall is on the corner of Stanford and Central NE. A reception will follow. The event is free and open to the public.

A native of Las Cruces living in the house where she was born, Chávez is the author of plays, short fiction, essays, and novels, including The Last of the Menu Girls (1986), Face of an Angel (1994), Loving Pedro Infante (2001), and A Taco Testimony: Meditations on Family, Food, and Culture (2006). Widely regarded as a foundational figure in Mexican American literature, Chávez has won numerous awards for her work, including the American Book Award, the Hispanic Heritage Award for Literature, the New Mexico Governor's Award, and the Premio Aztlán, a literary prize for Chicana/o literature established in 1993 by Rudolfo and Patricia Anaya. In addition, she is founder of the Cultural Center of Mesilla as well as the annual Border Book Festival, now in its 18th year.

"I'm honored by the invitation to speak at UNM about the rich and growing field of Southwest literature," Chávez said. Of her own work, she added, "My characters are survivors. I feel, as a Chicana writer, that I am capturing the voice of so many who have been voiceless for years – the neighborhood handymen, the waitresses – My work is rooted in the Southwest … In this dry and seemingly harsh and empty world there is much beauty to be found. Everything has a voice and you just have to listen as closely as you can."

The UNM Department of English established the annual lecture series on the literature of the Southwest in 2010 through a gift from fiction writer Rudolfo Anaya and his late wife Patricia.

Gail Houston, chair, Department of English, said, "We cherish the fact that Emeritus Professor Rudy Anaya was on our faculty for so many years. A founder of our distinguished Creative Writing Program, he still inspires us with his joyous approach to life, sense of humor, and eloquent articulation of Hispanic culture and the beauties of the Southwest. He has long been an internationally known man of letters, but we take pride in the fact that he began his career in our department. We feel privileged to have received his generous donation, and we are pleased to honor the distinguished Denise Chávez for her invaluable contributions as a writer. There is no better venue for celebrating Southwest literature than the University of New Mexico Department of English. We look forward to sharing this open event with everyone at UNM and in the community."

Selecting Chávez to serve as the second speaker in the series honors a New Mexico writer with an international reputation. She attended New Mexico State University and Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas, and received her MFA from UNM. Chávez's writing focuses on land, language, and community in the Southwest borderlands and her work reclaims the voices of women that reflect the diverse influences of the region and contest simplistic notions of Chicana identity in popular culture. In addition to her work in drama, fiction and nonfiction, she has edited several collections including Daughters of the Fifth Sun: A Collection of Latina Fiction and Poetry (1995), Chicana Creativity and Criticism: Charting New Frontiers in American Literature (1988), and Cuentos Chicanos (1984). She also has taught creative writing at UNM and NMSU and has presented lectures, readings and workshops throughout the United States and Europe.

Additional support from the series comes from the UNM Department of English and the Center for Southwest Research through University Libraries. For more information, contact Kathleen Washburn or call 505-277-6347.

Media Contact: Carolyn Gonzales (505) 277-5920; e-mail: cgonzal@unm.edu