In Memoriam: Judith Ortíz Cofer

Jaquira Díaz

We lost Judith Ortíz Cofer just before the New Year, on December 30, 2016. She will be remembered by many of us as a trailblazer and advocate for women writers and writers of color. A critically acclaimed poet, essayist, memoirist, and novelist, she was perhaps best known for her lyrical nonfiction and multi-genre books, Silent Dancing: A Partial Remembrance of a Puerto Rican Childhood, The Latin Deli, and Woman in Front of the Sun: On Becoming a Writer.

She wrote about the duality of the Puerto Rican experience, personal narratives and poetry about negotiating two cultures, landscapes, and languages, and about her experience as a woman of color in the Deep South, engaging and championing the work of writers such as Toni Cade Bambara, Alice Walker, and Virginia Woolf. Some of her work is steeped in mythology and folklore, explorations of religion, tradition, memory, storytelling, and spirituality.

For me, finding her work, her voice, her poetry, was an awakening. I still remember that lost girl I was in college, how when I finally came upon The Latin Deli, I thought, Here is a writer who understands. Here is a writer who sees me.

In 1998, we were lucky enough to publish “Notes for My Daughter on the Morning of a New Year” in the Kenyon Review. Even as we mourn her, it is in so many ways, so full of light, as she was for me all these years. A beacon of hope.

Click here to read “Notes for My Daughter on the Morning of a New Year” from the Summer/Fall 1998 issue of the Kenyon Review.

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