UH Literary "Genius" Cristina Rivera Garza Wins José Donoso Ibero-American Literature Award 2021

Distinguished Professor in Hispanic Studies Cristina Rivera Garza
Distinguished Professor in Hispanic Studies Cristina Rivera Garza, Ph.D.

Distinguished Professor in Hispanic Studies Cristina Rivera Garza, revered as one of the most eminent and prolific Mexican fiction writers of her generation, has won the José Donoso Ibero-American Prize for Letters 2021. This distinction recognizes the trajectory and career of Spanish and Portuguese-speaking writers and has been awarded since 2001 by the University of Talca (Santiago, Chile) in memory of Chilean author and journalist José Donoso.

Last year, the University of Houston College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences (CLASS) celebrated Rivera Garza, founder and director of the doctoral program in Spanish with a concentration in creative writing, for receiving the MacArthur “Genius Grant” Fellowship, a prestigious $625,000 award.

Rivera Garza has won many of the country’s top awards and is the only author to have won the Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz Prize for fiction twice. This most recent award is one of the most prestigious recognitions a writer can receive in the Spanish-speaking world. In addition, Rivera Garza’s work has been translated into English, Portuguese, German, Italian and Korean.

“I commend Professor Rivera Garza for her literary accomplishments and intellectual diligence as she continues to produce work that casts light on the University and across the world. I am pleased to share her excitement about this prestigious award,” said Paula Myrick Short, UH provost and senior vice president for academic affairs.

A team of jurors chose Rivera Garza unanimously, who expressed, “Hers is a poetic, critical and nomadic voice, always improbable, unexpected and surprising. Each book by Cristina Rivera Garza is a brave adventure that combines contemporaneity and atavisms. To the reflection on language itself is added her work as a translator and promoter of indigenous languages and Spanish that migrates around the world.”

“Elated. Furiously happy. Humbled,” Rivera Garza said after learning of the award. “The José Donoso Ibero-American Literary Award is a highly respected recognition in the Spanish-speaking world. The list of awardees includes writers I admire and whose work has been fundamental in my own practice and worldview, such as Diamela Eltit or Ricardo Piglia. I am especially grateful for the attention this award brings to a whole trajectory of work, including the work we do here in the department of Hispanic studies with the Ph.D. concentration in creative writing in Spanish – the first one of its kind in the nation!”

A native of Matamoros, a city in the northeastern Mexican state of Tamaulipas, Rivera Garza published her first book in 1999 and has since written numerous novels and collections of short stories and poetry. Three of her novels have been translated into English: “No One Will See Me Cry,” “The Iliac Crest” and “The Taiga Syndrome.” Last year saw the release of “Grieving: Dispatches From a Wounded Country,” an English translation of her essays and poetry about violence along the U.S. and Mexico border.

“Professor Rivera Garza has a unique literary gift as a writer, translator and literary critic,” said Daniel P. O’Connor, interim dean of CLASS. “We are pleased to have her talents in the College as she continues to impact her students and the world.”

Cristina Rivera Garza will receive a medal, a diploma, and a check for this recognition for $50,000.