Juan Felipe Herrera
|Juan Felipe Herrera|
Juan Felipe Herrera, at the National Bookfest, 2013
December 24, 1948 |
|Alma mater||University of California, Los Angeles;
University of Iowa
Juan Felipe Herrera (born December 27, 1948 Fowler, California) is a poet, performer, writer, cartoonist, teacher, and activist.
Herrera's experiences as the child of migrant farmers have strongly shaped his work, such as the children's book Calling the Doves, which won the Ezra Jack Keats Book Award in 1997. Community and art has always been part of what has driven Herrera, beginning in the mid-seventies, when he was director of the Centro Cultural de la Raza, an occupied water tank in Balboa Park that had been converted into an arts space for the community.
Herrera’s publications include fourteen collections of poetry, prose, short stories, young adult novels and picture books for children with twenty-one books in total in the last decade. Herrera was awarded the 2008 National Book Critics Circle Award in Poetry for Half the World in Light. In 2012, he was appointed California Poet Laureate by Gov. Jerry Brown.
The only child of migrant farm workers María de la Luz Quintana and Felipe Emilio Herrera, Juan Felipe Herrera lived from crop to crop and from tractor to trailer to tents on the roads of the San Joaquín Valley and the Salinas Valley. Herrera graduated from San Diego High School in 1967 and received the Educational Opportunity Program scholarship to attend the University of California, Los Angeles  where he received his B.A. in Social Anthropology. Later, he received his Masters in Social Anthropology from Stanford University, and his Masters in Fine Arts in Creative Writing from the University of Iowa. In 1990, he was a distinguished teaching fellow at the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop. After serving as chair of the Chicano and Latin American Studies Department at California State University, Fresno, in 2005, Herrera joined the Creative Writing Department at University of California, Riverside, as the Tomás Rivera Endowed Chair. He also became director of the Art and Barbara Culver Center for the Arts, a new multimedia space in downtown Riverside.
Herrera resides in Redlands, California with his partner Margarita Robles, a performance artist and poet. He has five children.
Herrera’s experience as a campesino has strongly influenced his works. Traveling from the San Joaquín Valley to San Diego’s Logan Heights, and San Francisco’s Mission District has left him three distinct Californias that he draws inspiration from. Growing up in the ‘60s and attending college in the ‘70s during the Chicano Movement and more experimental writing such as the Beat Poets, Herrera was inspired by writers like Luis Valdez and Allen Ginsberg. The great era of artistic experimentation has also inspired his writing style in which he challenges the borders between styles, forms, schools, and genres.
Herrera, a writer constantly crossing borders, often writes about social issues. Ilan Stavans, a Mexican American essayist, has said, “There is only one constant over the past three decades in Chicano literature and his name is Juan Felipe Herrera. Aesthetically, he leaps over so many canons that he winds up on the outer limits of urban song.”. New York Times critic Stephen Burt praised Herrera as one of the first poets to successfully create “a new hybrid art, part oral, part written, part English, part something else: an art grounded in ethnic identity, fueled by collective pride, yet irreducibly individual too.” 
Juan Felipe has received grants to teach poetry, art and performance in several different settings, including community art galleries such as the Galería de la Raza in San Francisco, California, in 1983-85, develop community art and literature broadsides (1977–78) in San Diego, California, teach poetry in prisons (Soledad Correctional Facility, 1987–88). His current work focuses on working with community colleges and schools in the Riverside country and in Coachella Valley.
After being named California’s Poet Laureate by Governor Jerry Brown in 2012, Herrera created the i-Promise Joanna/Yo te Prometo Joanna Project, an anti-bullying poetry project. Joanna was an elementary school girl who was bullied and killed in an afterschool fight. The first half asks students to send in poems about the effects of bullying. The second half of the project is to take action in preventing bullying. He hopes to collect the poems and publish it as a book in the future.
Awards and Fellowships
- Americas Award
- 2008 National Book Critics Circle Award in Poetry for Half the World in Light
- 2009 PEN/Beyond Margins Award now renamed the PEN Open Book Award 
- 2010 Guggenheim Fellowship 
- Breadloaf Fellowship in Poetry
- California Arts Council grants (awarded four times)
- Cooperative Children’s Book Center Choice
- Focal Award
- Ezra Jack Keats Award, for Calling the Doves
- Hungry Mind Award of Distinction
- IRA Teacher’s Choice
- Latino Hall of Fame Poetry Awards (twice awarded)
- Los Angeles Times Book Award Nomination
- National Endowment for the Arts Writers’ Fellowship Awards (twice awarded)
- New York Public Library Outstanding Book for High School Students Award
- Pura Belpré Honors Award
- Smithsonian Children’s Book of the Year Award
- Stanford Chicano Fellows Fellowship
- Texas Blue Bonnet Nomination
- UC Berkeley Regent’s Fellowship
- Rebozos of Love. Tolteca Publications. 1974.
- Exiles of Desire. Arte Publico Press. University of Houston. 1985.
- Facegames. Dragon Cloud Press. 1987.
- Akrílica. Alcatraz Editions. 1989.
- Memoria(s) from an Exile's Notebook of the Future. Santa Monica College Press. 1993. [Poetry Chapbook]
- The Roots of a Thousand Embraces: Dialogues. Manic D Press. San Francisco. 1994.
- Night Train to Tuxtla: New Stories and Poems. University of Arizona. 1994.
- Calling the Doves / Canto a Las Palomas. San Francisco, CA: Children's Book Press. ISBN 978-0-89239-166-0. [Bilingual children's story]. Fall 1995
- Love After the Riots. Curbstone Press. Willimantic, NY. 1996
- Mayan Drifter: Chicano Poet in the Lowlands of America. Temple University Press. Philadelphia, Pa. Spring 1997.
- Border-Crosser with a Lamborghini Dream. University of Arizona Press. 1999.
- Loteria Cards & Fortune Poems. City Lights Publishers. SF. Fall, 1999.
- CrashBoomLove: A Novel in Verse. University of New Mexico. Fall 1999. ISBN 978-0-8263-2114-5.
- The Upside Down Boy/El Nino de Cabeza. Children's Book Press, SF. 2000.
- Thunderweavers. University of Az. Tucson. 2000.
- Giraffe on Fire. Poems. Univ. Az. Press. Tucson. 2001.
- Grandma & Me at the Flea / Los Meros Meros Remateros. San Francisco, CA: Children’s Books Press. 2002. ISBN 978-0-89239-171-4.
- Notebooks of a Chile Verde Smuggler. University of Arizona Press, Tucson. 2002.
- Super Cilantro Girl / La Superniña del Cilantro. San Francisco, CA: Children’s Book Press. 2003. ISBN 978-0-89239-187-5.
- Coralito's Bay / La Bahia de Coralito. Monterey National Marine Sanctuary. Monterey. 2004
- Cinnamon Girl: Letters Found Inside a Cereal Box. Harper Collins, Joanna Cotler Books /Tempest. New York. 2005. ISBN 978-0-06-057984-5
- Downtown Boy. Scholastic Press. Scholastic. New York. 2005.
- 187 Reasons Mexicanos Can't Cross The Border, City Lights, 2007, ISBN 978-0-87286-462-7
- Undocuments 1971-2007. City Lights Publishers. San Francisco. 2007.
- Half the World in Light. University of Arizona Press. 2008.
Film and Stage
Herrera produced “The Twin Tower Songs,” a San Joaquin Valley performance memorial on the September 11, 2001 attacks and writes (poetry sequences) for the PBS television series “American Family.” His recent musical, The Upside Down Boy, was well received in New York City, produced by Making Books Sing, libretto by Barbara Zinn Krieger. Lyrics by Juan Felipe Herrera and Music by Cristian Amigo. Mr. Herrera is a board member of the Before Columbus American Book Awards Foundation and the California Council for the Humanities.
Juan Felipe Herrera founded a number of performance ensembles during the last three decades:
- Teatro Tolteca (UCLA, 1971 – a choreopoem theatre utilizing jazz, spoken-word and movement),
- TROKA ( Bay Area, 1983, a percussion/spoken word ensemble, Teatro Zapata, (Fresno, Ca., 1990 – a student community theatre),
- Manikrudo: Raw Essence ( Fresno, Ca., 1993, a culturally diverse, performance art ensemble and workshop),
- Teatro Ambulante de Salud/The Traveling Health Theatre (2003, Fresno, Ca. for migrant communities in the San Joaquin Valley) and
- Verbal Coliseum – A Spoken Word Ensemble (UC Riverside, 2006),
- “Prison Journal,” an experimental play was featured at the University of Iowa Playwright’s Festival, 1990. Latin@ Theatre/Movement Improv training: Luis Valdez/Teatro Campesino, Enrique Buenaventura, Rodrigo Duarte-Clark, Olivia Chumacero, Jorge Huerta, James Donlon.
- Gordon, Larry (20 May 2012). "A totally Californian poet laureate". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 19 July 2012.
- Tobar, Hector (July 4, 2013). "California's poet laureate likes to turn the tables". The Los Angeles Times.
- Burt, Stephen (August 10, 2008). "'Punk Half Panther’". The New York Times. "he has been, and should be, admired for his portrayals of Chicano life. Yet he is no mere recorder of social conditions. Herrera is, instead, a sometimes hermetic, wildly inventive, always unpredictable poet, whose work commands attention for its style alone."
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Juan Felipe Herrera.|
- Biography at Harper Collins
- Interview with Herrera on Words on a Wire
- Biography at Scholastic
- "An Interview with Juan Felipe Herrera", Parents Choice
- Juan Felipe Herrera Nov. 2007, footage of Juan’s reading at the Ruskin Arts Center in Los Angeles, Nov. 2007