Susana Chavez-Silverman

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Susana Chávez-Silverman, born in Los Angeles, is a U.S. Latina writer and professor of Romance Languages and Literature at Pomona College in Claremont, California.


Chávez-Silverman received her undergraduate degree in Spanish from University of California, Irvine in 1977 where she graduated magna cum laude. She continued her education at Harvard University where, in 1979, she received her Masters degree in Romance Languages. In 1991, Chávez-Silverman received her PhD in Spanish from the University of California, Davis. Her dissertation was titled: The Ex-Centric Self: The Poetry of Alejandra Pizarnik.[1] Chávez-Silverman has taught at University of California, Santa Cruz, University of California, Berkeley, University of California, Irvine, University of California, Davis, and the University of South Africa before coming to Pomona College.[1]

Early life[edit]

Chávez-Silverman, born to a Jewish Hispanist father and a Chicana teacher mother, was raised in a bilingual and bicultural atmosphere between Los Angeles, Madrid and Guadalajara, Mexico. After completing her education, traveling a great deal, and living in Boston, Berkeley, Los Angeles, Spain and South Africa, she now resides in Claremont, California, where she is professor of Spanish, Latino/a and Latin American Studies in the Department of Romance Languages and Literature at Pomona College.[2] Chávez-Silverman specializes in gender and sexuality studies, autobiography/memoir, Latin American and U.S. Latina/Chicana literature, poetry, and feminist pedagogy. She has written and coauthored several books on the above-mentioned topics.

Writing career[edit]

The bilingual creative nonfiction work by Chávez-Silverman is published by the University of Wisconsin Press. Her book, Killer Crónicas: Bilingual Memories, was published by the University of Wisconsin Press in 2004.[3] This collection of chronicles began in 2001, after the US National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) awarded Chávez-Silverman a fellowship for a project on contemporary Argentine women's poetry. She spent thirteen months in Buenos Aires where, in addition to research and writing on her official (academic) book, she began to send bilingual, punning "letters from the southern [cone] front" to colleagues and friends by email. She has said: "Living in Buenos Aires, that gorgeous, turn of the century city in a country on the brink of (economic) collapse-home to many of the authors and artists I had long admired (Jorge Luis Borges, Julio Cortázar, Alfonsina Storni, Alejandra Pizarnik, and before them the foundational Romantics, Domingo Faustino Sarmiento and Echeverría)-brought out a sense of self, displaced yet oddly at home, in a cultural, linguistic and even tangible way. In Buenos Aires, the fragmented parts of me, the voices, cultures, and places inside of me rubbed up against each other and struck fire. I called my email missives "Crónicas," inspired by the somewhat rough-hewn, journalistic, often fantastic first-hand accounts sent "home" by the early conquistadores, and refashioned by modern-day counterparts such as Carlos Monsiváis, Elena Poniatowska, and Cristina Pacheco."[4] One of Chávez-Silverman's crónicas, "Anniversary Crónica," inspired by the June 16 anniversary of both her parents' wedding and that of the so-called "Soweto Riots" in South Africa, was awarded First prize in Personal Memoir in the 2002 "Chicano Literary Excellence Contest" sponsored by the U.S. national literary magazine el Andar.

Killer Cronicas: Bilingual Memories is written in an unorthodox style in that it code-switches seamlessly between English and Spanish, without translation of either language. For instance, Killer Cronicas is “teeming with such bits of clever bilingual wordplay, such as ‘feliz’ (happy) to refer to homosexuals, and ‘anyguey’ for ‘anyway.’ Mixed in are countless Latin American regionalisms, joking phonetic spellings and faux translations, such as ‘ternura’ for ‘tenure.’ ‘I know, ya se, mama,’ she writes.”[5]

David Newman from the New Delta Review asks: What exactly is a crónica, and why do you choose to write in this style?

Susana Chávez-Silverman: “Let’s just say, it chose me. Crónica translates as ‘chronicle.’ When I began writing in this style, in a terribly hot, humid Buenos Aires summer (February 2001), I was trying to capture some of the local flavor, the barrios and smells and sounds, the ways of being of the highly idiosyncratic, porteño cityscape that I had begun to love—to feel, even, more of a sense of belonging in than I’d felt in almost any other place in the world—but also found mysterious, frustrating, and sometimes hilarious, often all at once. I was writing as a kind of reminder to my close friend Pablo ‘Hugo’ Zambrano, who is from Spain, and had come to spend several weeks with us in Buenos Aires. Somehow, having a partner-in-crime, someone bilingual, yet foreign, decidedly non-Argentine spurred me to create an experimental text, kind of an amalgam, or mestizaje, a blend of short story, reportage, and a bit of prose poetry, in the form of an e-mail letter, to remind Hugo of some of our adventures, on the eve of his return to Spain.
Killer Cronicas: Bilingual Memories, which I wrote for Hugo, was one of the first pieces I wrote in this style. I decided to title it—and subsequent e-mail missives—a crónica, inspired by the somewhat rough-hewn, journalistic, often fantastic first-hand accounts of the so-called New World sent “home” by the early Spanish conquistadores, and refashioned by modern-day counterparts such as the Mexicans Carlos Monsiváis, Elena Poniatowska, Cristina Pacheco, and the Chilean Pedro Lemebel, whose writing I admire.
This is a form that works for me. It gives me a sense of both containment (due to its relatively short length) and freedom, flexibility. Like Saturn and Jupiter, both of which are prominent in my natal chart! The crónica can vary widely in subject matter and style, but central to its project is a keenly observing eye/I; close attention to detail; a sense of humor (I almost always relieve some of my more emo-moments with laughter, often at my own expense); a sense of the fantastic or uncanny, even in the most everyday; and a desire to connect with an often explicitly-acknowledged interlocutor."[6]



  • Scenes from la Cuenca de L.A. y otros Natural Disasters. (University of Wisconsin Press, 2010).
  • Killer Crónicas: Bilingual Memories. University of Wisconsin Press, 2004 (paperback January 2011). Includes a chapter that was awarded the el Andar Prize for Literary Excellence in the category of personal memoir.
  • Reading and Writing the Ambiente: Queer Sexualities in Latino, Latin American and Spanish Culture. Eds. Susana Chávez-Silverman and Librada Hernández. University of Wisconsin Press, 2000.
  • Tropicalizations: Transcultural Representations of Latinidad. Eds. Frances R. Aparicio and Susana Chávez- Silverman. New Hampshire: Dartmouth/University Press of New England, 1997.

Articles/Crónicas (select list)[edit]

  • “Magnetic Island Sueño Crónica.” Reprinted by permission in Ambientes: New Queer Latino Writing. Lázaro Lima and Felice Picano, Eds. Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press (forthcoming).
  • “Essays in Containment: Another Look at Madness and its Displacements Chez Pizarnik.” “Alejandra”, ed. Ivonne Bordelois and Pedro Cuperman

(New York/Buenos Aires: Syracuse University Press/Editorial Paidós, 2010), pp. 58–77. The volume is a special issue of “Point of Contact” 10:1–2.

  • “Gender, Sexuality and Silence(s) in the Writing of Alejandra Pizarnik.” “Arbol de Alejandra: Pizarnik Reassessed.” Ed. Fiona Mackintosh with

Karl Posso. England: Tamesis, 2007 (13–35).

  • “Trac(k)ing Gender and Sexuality in the Writing of Alejandra Pizarnik.” Chasqui 35.2 (November 2006), 89–108.
  • Entry on Alicia Gaspar de Alba in “Encyclopedia of Latinos and Latinas in the United States.” Eds. Deena J González and Suzanne Oboler. (Oxford University Press, 2005), 185–187
  • “Latina Desire: Textualizar lo imposible.” Letras Femeninas XXX:1 (June 2004): 15–25.
  • “Gendered Bodies and Borders in Contemporary Chican@ Performance and Literature.” “Velvet Barrios: Popular Culture & Chicana/o Sexualities.” Ed. Alicia Gaspar de Alba. (New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2003), 215–227.
  • “La función de lo erótico en la poesía de Marjorie Agosín y Alicia Gaspar de Alba.” “La Poesía Hispánica de los Estados Unidos: aproximaciones críticas.” Eds. Lilianet Brintrup, Juan Armando Epple, and Carmen de Mora. (Seville, Spain: Universidad de Sevilla Press, 2001), 89–104.
  • Entry on Alejandra Pizarnik. “Who’s Who in Gay and Lesbian History.” Eds. Robert Aldrich and Garry Wotherspoon. (London: Routledge, 2001). 331–333.
  • "The Poetry of Octavio Paz and Alejandra Pizarnik." “Jewish Culture and the Hispanic World: Essays in Memory of Joseph H. Silverman.” Eds. S.G.Armistead and Mishael Caspi. (Newark, DE: Juan de la Cuesta,

2001), 129–143.

  • “Tropicalizing the Liberal Arts College Classroom.” “Power, Race, and Gender in Academe: Strangers in the Tower?” Eds. María Herrera-Sobek and Shirley Geok-lin Lim. (New York: MLA, 2000), 132–153.
  • “The Autobiographical as Horror in the Poetry of Alejandra Pizarnik.” “Critical Studies on the Feminist Subject in the Americas.” Ed. Giovanna

Covi. (Trento, Italy: Universitá degli Studi di Trento,1997), 265–277.

  • "The Look that Kills: The 'Unacceptable Beauty' of Alejandra Pizarnik's La condesa sangrienta ." “¿Entiendes? Queer Readings, Hispanic Writings.” Eds. Emilie L. Bergmann & Paul Julian Smith. (Duke University Press, 1995), 281–305.
  • "Signos de lo femenino en la poesía de Alejandra Pizarnik." El puente de las palabras. Ed. Inés Azar. (Washington DC: O.A.S., 1994), 155–172.
  • "The Discourse of Madness in the Poetry of Alejandra Pizarnik," Monographic Review/Revista Monográfica VI (April 1991): 274–281.

Review Articles[edit]

  • Review of “Easy Women: Sex and Gender in Modern Mexican Fiction” by Debra A. Castillo and “The Shattered Mirror: Representations of Women in Mexican Literature” by María Elena Valdés. “Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society.” 27 I : 1 I (Autumn 2001): 275–279.
  • Review of “Poesía y experiencia del límite: Leer a Alejandra Pizarnik” by

Cristina Piña . “Letras Femenina”s XXVII: 1 (May 2001): 249–251.

  • Review of “Chicana Adolescents: Bitches, ‘Ho’s, and Schoolgirls.” Lisa C. Dietrich. and Pierre T. Rainville. “Letras femeninas” XXV: 1–2 (October 1999): 236–237.
  • “La otra voz.” Review of “El testimonio femenino como escritura contestataria.” Emma Sepúlveda and Joy Logan, Eds. “Letras femeninas” XXIV: 1–2 (1998): 194–196.
  • Review of Alejandra Pizarnik. Cristina Piña. “Inter-American Review of Bibliography.” Washington DC: O.A.S. 1 (Fall 1992): n.p.



  • 2006: Lucas Artist Program Fellowship at the Montalvo Arts Center, Saratoga, CA[1]
  • 2000–01: NEH Fellowship for College Teachers[1]


  • 2002: First Prize (for “Anniversary Crónica”) in “el Andar” magazine’s “Chicano Literary Excellence Contest”[1]
  • 1988–89: Dissertation Fellowship, UC Davis[1]
  • 1986–87: Regents Fellowship, UC Davis[1]
  • 1985-06: Graduate Opportunity Fellowship, UC Davis[1]
  • 1978–79: Graduate Fellowship, Harvard University[1]

Online Recordings[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i "Susana (Suzanne) Chavez-Silverman." The Bilingual Mind. Syracuse University. Web. Mar 2, 2011. <>.
  2. ^ "Susana Chavez-Silverman." Montalvo Arts Center. Montalvo Arts Center. Web. Mar 2, 2011. <>.
  3. ^ "UW Press – : Press Kit for Killer Crónicas by Susana Chávez-Silverman." Killer Cronicas. University of Wisconsin Press, Feb 12, 2008. Web. Mar 2, 2011. <>.
  4. ^ Gamst, Erika. "Bookshelf: Voices De Amor." Pomona Online Magazine. Pomona College. Web. Mar 2, 2011. <>.
  5. ^ Hernandez, Daniel. "Defining Life by Way of Blurring Language." The Los Angeles Times. The Los Angeles Times, Apr 27, 2005. Web. Mar 2, 2011. <>.
  6. ^ "Interview: Susana Chávez-Silverman Speaks with David Newman,” in New Delta Review 27:1 (2010), pp. 223–33.

External links[edit]