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Achy Obejas (born June 28, 1956)

Achy Obejas (born 1956) is a Cuban American writer and journalist focused on personal and national identity issues, living in Chicago, Illinois. She frequently writes on her sexuality and nationality, and has received numerous awards for her creative work. She has worked as a journalist in Chicago for two decades.

Obejas was born June 28, 1956 in Havana, Cuba. After emigrating to the United States at the age of six, she lived in Michigan City, Indiana and attended Indiana University from 1977–1979, when she moved to Chicago.

At the age of 39, Obejas revisited Cuba. Reflections on her home country are dispersed throughout her work, such as in the story collection We Came All the Way from Cuba So You Could Dress Like This? Although she has lived in the Midwest since childhood, Obejas says her Cuban origins continue to be a defining detail in her life. In an interview with Gregg Shapiro, Obejas discussed the peculiar duality of growing up in the U.S. but not truly identifying as an American:

"I was born in Havana and that single event has pretty much defined the rest of my life. In the U.S., I'm Cuban, Cuban-American, Latina by virtue of being Cuban, a Cuban journalist, a Cuban writer, somebody's Cuban lover, a Cuban dyke, a Cuban girl on a bus, a Cuban exploring Sephardic roots, always and endlessly Cuban. I'm more Cuban here than I am in Cuba, by sheer contrast and repetition."

Obejas identifies as a lesbian and frequently references sexuality in her writing. Although she often writes about her characters' struggles with sexuality and family acceptance, in an interview with Chicago LGBT newspaper Windy City Times, she said she did not experience significant family problems because of her sexuality:

"Remember, Cuba was known as the brothel of the Caribbean prior to the revolution. People went to Cuba to do the things they couldn't do in their home countries, but were free to do there. So Cubans have a sort of thick skin to most sexual stuff, which is not to say that my parents did, but as a general rule in the environment and the culture, there's a lot more possibility. I never had any sense of shame or anything like that."

On a personal level, Obejas says she always accepted her sexual identity as part of herself:
In terms of my own sexuality, I don't know what it was, but I just never blinked. I was always amazed when other people did; I was always sort of flabbergasted when people would suffer angst about it. I understood that it was taboo and all of that, but I chalked it up as a kind of a generational problem.
Since 1991 Obejas has worked as a reporter and, later, a freelance entertainment writer for the Chicago Tribune and other publications. She earned an M.F.A from Warren Wilson College in 1993. She was the Springer Lecturer in Creative Writing (2003–2005) at the University of Chicago, as well as an advisor for the online prose magazine, Otium.

She has also worked in higher education at various points in her career. In fall of 2005, she served as the Distinguished Writer in Residence at the University of Hawai'i. She is currently the Sor Juana visiting writer at DePaul University, a position she has served since 2006.

In 2008, she translated Junot Diaz's Pulitzer-prize winning novel, The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao into Spanish. The Dominican-American author's novel addresses many themes, including young adult sexuality and national identity, also present in Obejas' work.

Obejas has written the novels Memory Mambo and Days of Awe, and the story collection We Came All the Way from Cuba So You Could Dress Like This?

In a reflection on Obejas' work, Latina comedian Lisa Alvarado says of the writer, "Her work exudes a keen sense of humor, of irony, of compassion and is laced with the infinite small moments that make her poetry and her novels sing with the breath of real life."

Throughout her career, Obejas has worked for various publications, including The Chicago Tribune, Windy City Times, The Advocate, Out, Vanity Fair, Playboy, Ms., The Village Voice, and The Washington Post. Currently, she writes a blog called "Citylife: Adventures in Urban Living" for Chicago Public Media. The blog covers a variety of political and social topics, including immigration and the Occupy movement.

As a Chicago Tribune columnist for nearly ten years, Obejas penned the nightlife column "After Hours". The column started when then-Friday section editor Kevin Moore asked the self-described insomniac if she would like to cover nighttime entertainment for the paper. In 2001, Obejas announced that she would no longer write the column.

Although she has consistently written creatively, Obejas considers journalism her primary occupation and means of income.

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Achy_Obejas

Further Readings:

Memory Mambo: A Novel by Achy Obejas
Publisher Cleis Press; 1st edition (August 5, 1996)
Language English
ISBN-10 1573440175
ISBN-13 978-1573440172
Amazon: Memory Mambo: A Novel
Amazon Kindle: Memory Mambo: A Novel

A brilliant new novel by the author of We Came All the Way from Cuba So You Could Dress Like This? Juani, a 24-year-old Latina lesbian, is exiled, with her irresistibly crazy family, from Cuba to the United States. Here a chorus of cousins--blood cousins and "cousins in exile"--wreak havoc as Juani attempts to sift through layers of memories and family myth to find the truth about her life.

More Particular Voices at my website: http://www.elisarolle.com/, My Ramblings/Particular Voices

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