Author, playwright, director and longtime queer Chicana activist Cherríe Moraga has been a social, cultural and political instigator of the finest sort since the early 1980s when she famously collaborated with Gloria Anzaldúa to co-edit This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color, a volume that remains a central point of intellectual and affective reference in numerous fields. Moraga is currently a Distinguished Professor of English at the University of California Santa Barbara (UCSB) and co-founder and co-director, with Cecilia Herrera Rodríguez, of Las Maestras Center for Xicana Indigenous Thought, Art, and Social Praxis, also based at UCSB.
Moraga is the author and editor of numerous books, plays and poems, including the recently published Native Country of the Heart: A Memoir (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2019), and a prodigious creator of scripted and staged performance. Moraga’s theatrical works, The Hungry Woman: A Mexican Medea, Shadow of a Man, Heroes & Saints, and The Mathematics of Love, for instance, are inseparable from her activism and writings on feminism and ethnic studies. Following the publication of Bridge in 1981, and very much in tandem with the outpouring of writing by women of color, which that volume’s historic publication helped to encourage, Moraga published Loving in the War Years: Lo Que Nunca Pasó Por Sus Labios, a text that quickly became required reading for anyone interested in the intersection of race, class, gender, and sexuality. During the same period, Moraga commenced what would become her four-decade career as an award-winning playwright and director. Crucially, she also adopted a practice of actively mentoring younger writers and artists, particularly writers and artists of color, which she continues to do to this day as the current director of the Creative Writing Undergraduate Specialization at UCSB.
Taken as a whole, Moraga’s body of work deals with a range of issues, including race and racialization, settler colonialism and decolonial thought and practice, gender, sexuality, class, the power of language, family, particularly forms of familial attachment that reinforce or transcend heterosexist norms, and belonging. What is perhaps most distinctive about virtually all her work is Moraga’s refusal to deal with these issues independently of one another. Rather, from the very beginning of her career, Moraga stressed the manifold nature of identity and, by extension, the manifold nature of oppression. Moraga’s prescient analysis was deeply intersectional, making her an essential voice in discussions and debates we have been having, in one form or another, for almost fifty years. While being critically incisive and astute, Moraga’s work is also always heartfelt and profoundly moving.
Moraga is the recipient of the United States Artist Rockefeller Fellowship for Literature, the American Studies Association Lifetime Achievement Award, and the Publishing Triangle’s Bill Whitehead Award for Lifetime Achievement, among other honors. As a playwright, she has received two Fund for New American Plays Awards, the NEA’s Playwrights’ Fellowship, as well as a Drama-logue and Critics Circle Award, and the Pen West Award.