April 2, 1999

Writer Explores History and Culture

Grossmont College presents popular Mexican-American author

El Cajon — Graciela Limón, a Mexican-American native of Los Angeles, began writing fiction late in life. She brings her experience and knowledge to her novels of Mexican history and culture. Her latest novel, the Song of the Hummingbird, is the story of the life of an Aztec princess made a slave and concubine during the Spanish conquest of Mexico.

Her novels are popular with Grossmont College students in the Puente Project, a program that assists students to succeed in college. The Puente Project is sponsoring a public reading with Limón on April 8 at 7 p.m. at Griffin Gate in the Student Center. The event is free and the public is invited.

"We're proud that the Puente Project at Grossmont College is offering the community the opportunity to meet this gifted storyteller," said Ted Martinez, Jr., college president. "Limon will inspire our students so that they can achieve their goals and dreams."

Limón dreamed of becoming a novelist from an early age. While in college the dream of creative writing faded.

"It was almost as if every time I read a masterpiece of a scholarly article, the possibility of my becoming a novelist became more remote," she said.

She continued to earn her master's degree and doctorate in Spanish American Literature and became a professor. Currently, she teaches U.S. Latino Literature at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles.

Limón said over the years that she's broadened her experience, met a variety of interesting people and visited numerous places all contributing to a wealth of material for her stories.

Her first novel, In Search of Bernabé, was hailed by the New York Times Book Review as a work that "leaves the reader with that special hunger that can be created only by a newly discovered writer. Her prose is assured and engrossing." The novel, which humanized the political turmoil of contemporary Central America, also received a Before Columbus Foundation 1994 American Book Award.

Her second novel, The Memories of Ana Calderón, was lauded by BookList as one that "should awaken the conscience and compassion that drive and haunt every reader."

In the Song of the Hummingbird, Limón pays homage to the pre-Columbian woman and celebrates the endurance of the human spirit in the face of devastation of her land and people.

"I am convinced that even generations later, the descendants of the Aztec people must view the destruction of their civilization contrary to what's in our textbooks," said Limón. "I realize that it is almost impossible to learn the actual truth, because as with most acts of conquest and colonization, the loser's voice is silenced."

With this motivation, Limón lends a voice to the tiny hummingbird, whose song breaks the silence and sets free the spirit of a downtrodden people.

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