Denise Elia Chavez (born August 15, 1948) is an American author, playwright, and stage director. She was born to an Hispano family in Las Cruces, New Mexico, United States, and graduated from Madonna High School in Mesilla. She received her Bachelor's from New Mexico State University and Master's degrees in Dramatic Arts from Trinity University. While in college, she began writing dramatic works. Upon graduation, she worked at the Dallas Theater Center while continuing her studies in drama and writing. She then entered the MFA program at the University of New Mexico (UNM) and earned a degree in writing. In 1986, she published her first collection of short stories, called The Last of the Menu Girls. She received several awards, including the American Book Award, the Premio Aztlán Literary Prize, the Mesilla Valley Author of the Year Award, and the 2003 Hispanic Heritage Award for Literature. Chavez was offered a professorship in creative writing at UNM, during which time she wrote the novel Loving Pedro Infante, which earned her critical acclaim. She left the University, however, to work at a rape crisis center. She is the founder of the Border Book Festival that is held every year in Las Cruces, New Mexico. She also serves as Executive Director of the Cultural Center de Mesilla, and manages its book, music and arts store.
- The Last of the Menu Girls, Arte Publico Press, 1986
- Face of An Angel, Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1994
- Loving Pedro Infante, Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2001
Other works include The Woman Who Knew the Language of Animals (1992), and numerous plays and works for which she served as editor.