Judith Ortíz Cofer was born in Hormigueros, Puerto Rico, on February 24, 1952. She was raised on the island and in Paterson, New Jersey, before her family finally settled in Augusta, Georgia. She received her BA in English from Augusta College in 1974 and her MA in English from Florida Atlantic University in 1977.
Cofer published several poetry collections, including A Love Story Beginning in Spanish (University of Georgia Press, 2005); The Latin Deli: Prose & Poetry (University of Georgia Press, 1993), winner of the Anisfield Wolf Book Award; and Reaching for the Mainland (Bilingual Press/Editorial Bilingüe, 1987). Cofer also published several works of prose, including the memoir The Cruel Country (University of Georgia Press, 2015). Her young adult book An Island Like You: Stories of the Barrio (Orchard Books, 1995) received several distinctions, including The American Library Association Reforma Pura Belpre Medal and the Fanfare Best Book of the Year Award.
Cofer received numerous honors and awards, including grants from the Georgia Council for the Arts and the Witter Bynner Foundation, and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the University of Georgia Humanities Center, and the Florida Fine Arts Council, among others. She was the Franklin Professor of English and Creative Writing at the University of Georgia. She died on December 30, 2016.
A Love Story Beginning in Spanish (University of Georgia Press, 2005)
The Year of Our Revolution: New and Selected Stories and Poems (Piñata Books, 1998)
Reaching for the Mainland and Selected New Poems (Bilingual Press/Editorial Bilingüe, 1995)
The Latin Deli: Prose and Poetry (University of Georgia Press, 1993)
Terms of Survival (Arte Público Press, 1987)
The Cruel Country (University of Georgia Press, 2015)
The Poet Upstairs (Piñata Books, 2012)
If I Could Fly (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2011)
Call Me Maria (Orchard Books, 2004)
The Meaning of Consuelo (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2003)
Woman in Front of the Sun: On Becoming a Writers (University of Georgia Press, 2000)
An Island Like You: Stories of the Barrio (Orchard Books, 1995)
Silent Dancing: a Partial Remembrance of a Puerto Rican Childhood (Arte Público Press, 1990)
The Line of the Sun (University of Georgia Press, 1989)
When she was three or four, Judith Ortiz Cofer, born in Hormigueros, Puerto Rico, in 1952, began the routine that was to define her existence for a number of years. Because her father, J. M. Ortiz Lugo, was a career Navy man stationed on a ship from the Brooklyn Naval Yard in New York, Judith and her brother came with their mother, Fanny Morot Ortiz, to Paterson, New Jersey, where the family lived in “El Building,” a vertical barrio. When the father went on long cruises, the family returned to Hormigueros in the southwestern corner of Puerto Rico and stayed with Judith’s grandmother.
When she was nineteen, Judith Ortiz married Charles John Cofer, a businessman. The couple has a daughter, Tanya. Following her marriage, Ortiz Cofer continued her education at Augusta College, from which she received a B.A. in 1974. Three years later, she earned an M.A. from Florida Atlantic University. Ortiz Cofer attended Oxford University for part of 1977 on a scholarship from the English Speaking Union.
Fluent in English and Spanish, Ortiz Cofer worked as a bilingual teacher in the public schools of Palm Beach County, Florida, during the 1974-1975 school year. In 1978, master’s degree in hand, she was named an adjunct instructor in English at Broward Community College in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. The following year, she was appointed an instructor in Spanish at the same institution. During this period, 1978-1980, she was also an adjunct instructor in English at Palm Beach Community College.
In 1980, having published her first collection of poems, Latin Women Pray (1980), as a chapbook, Ortiz Cofer became a lecturer in English at the University of Miami at Coral Gables, staying there until 1984, when she joined the Department of English at the University of Georgia as an...
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