Pat Mora Author Biography Essay

Biography

Pat Mora is a mother, author, poet, and tireless literacy advocate. Her writings range from lyrical picture books to adult prose. Her most common themes are family, Mexican-American culture, and the desert. Since growing up along the border as a second-generation Mexican American, Mora has become a valuable translator between Hispanic and non-Hispanic audiences. One day she may address a room full of teachers and librarians about outreach to parents. The next day she may speak to parents in Spanish about ways they can better partner with their children's school. Mora's charming picture books also reach out across cultures. They are available in English and Spanish, but are often bilingual.

Since 1997 Pat Mora has dedicated herself to promoting the Hispanic and multicultural literacy day, El día de los niños/El día de los libros – or Children's Day/Book Day. Teachers, librarians, parents, and children celebrate April 30 every year with readings, activities, and displays. To learn more about how you can participate, visit the American Library Association or the Texas State Library.

Exploring bicultural upbringing

During the turbulent Mexican Revolution of the early 20th Century, Pat Mora's grandparents traveled north in search of a more peaceful existence. They settled in El Paso, Texas, where Pat's mother grew up in a Spanish-speaking household while attending an English-speaking school. Her name was Estelita at home, but Stella at school. She often played the role of translator between these two worlds.

One generation later, Pat Mora grew up in a bilingual home and attended an English-speaking school. It was only many years later – once she began writing – that Mora realized her Mexican heritage had never really been welcomed at school. Through writing, she has now been able to explore and rediscover her Mexican heritage and bicultural upbringing.

As an adult, Pat Mora has worked as a teacher, a university administrator, and a consultant on U.S.-Mexico cultural exchanges. A National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship allowed her to shift her primary focus to writing. Mora has now written over 25 books of poetry, fiction, and nonfiction for children and adults. She has received numerous honors, including three Southwest Book Awards and a Kellogg National Leadership Fellowship.

In addition to writing, Pat Mora travels around the country, speaks at conferences, visits schools, and promotes literacy for Hispanic children. She and her husband spend part of the year in Kentucky and part of the year in New Mexico.

I was born in El Paso, Texas, and grew up in a bilingual home where books were an important part of my life. I can speak and write in both English and Spanish — am I lucky! I've always enjoyed reading all kinds of books and now I get to write them too — to sit and play with words on my computer.

Family, Mexican-American culture, and the desert are all important themes in my children's books as well as in my poetry and nonfiction for adults. Many of my book ideas come from the desert where I grew up — the open spaces, wide sky, all that sun and all those animals that scurry across the hot sand or fly high over the mountains. I also like to write about my family, like my aunt who danced on her 90th birthday, and my mother who wanted to be a rainbow tulip when she was in grade school.

I take pride in being a Hispanic writer. I will continue to write and to struggle to say what no other writer can say in quite the same way. I write, in part, because Hispanic perspectives need to be part of our literary heritage — including children's literature and juvenile poetry. I have strong feelings that Chicano children need good children's books, well illustrated, and from big publishing houses — that is something I would really like to pursue. I want to establish pride in heritage for young Chicanos.

Pat Mora, the mother of three children, has been a teacher, university administrator, and consultant. She is the recipient of a National Endowment of the Arts Poetry Fellowship, a Kellogg National Leadership Fellowship, and three Southwest Book Awards. She speaks about multicultural literature, cultural conservation, creative writing, and leadership at conferences, schools, and universities. She enjoys encouraging audiences to view their cultures, homes, and landscapes as catalysts for writing and for creativity.

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