Sandra Benitez has spent her life moving between the Latin American culture of her Puerto Rican mother and the Anglo-American culture of her father. She was born March 26, 1941 in Washington D.C. A year later, her father, who worked for the U.S. State Department, was assigned to Mexico, and then El Salvador, where Sandra lived for most of the next 20 years.
When Benitez reached high school age, her parents sent Sandra to her paternal grandparents' modest dairy farm in northeastern Missouri, returning each summer to El Salvador.
In 1980 she began to write fiction. Sandra's work has earned her nearly two dozen honors, awards and grants, and she is much in demand as a teacher and speaker. In December, 2006, Benitez received one of the first United States Artists Awards, being named a USA Gund Fellow.
Benitez has lectured at colleges, high schools and professional organizations coast to coast. Benitez lives with her husband, Jim Kondrick, in Edina, Minnesota.
Her works include A Place Where the Sea Remembers (1993), Bitter Grounds (1998), The Weight of All Things (2002), Night of the Radishes (2004), Bag Lady: A Memoir, The Triumphant True Story of Loss, Illness and Recovery (2005).
This biography was last updated on 11/11/2014.
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You were 52 when your first novel, A Place Where the Sea Remembers, was
published. Have you been writing all your life, or did you come to it later?
I came to writing late. When I was 39, almost as a lark, I took a class in writing and all the stories that had impressed my heart began to bubble up. I was hooked and began to think of being a writer. I quit my job and began writing full time. It was an especially big risk because I was writing stories about "the other America," Latino stories that had not yet found a place in mainstream American literature. It took me 13 years to get my first book published.
You grew up between two culturesLatin American and North American. How do you think this affects your writing?
I'm the daughter of a Puerto Rican mother and a father from rural Missouri. I spent my first 15 years living outside the U.S.; then five more years moving back and forth between them; then finally moved to Missouri and Minnesota where I live now. As a result, I feel comfortable writing about either culture, and I think I benefit from understanding how the people in each culture think about the other.
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