I, Dr. Grisel Y. Acosta, am very happy to have all of you in my class this semester, whether it is my ESL 3, ENG 11, or ENG 21. Unfortunately, I will not be able to see you until the third week of the semester because I am recovering from major abdominal surgery--my doctor removed 21 tumors from my abdomen! They were all benign but, obviously, I have to take it easy for a while. In the meantime, I leave you in the hands of some great educators. However, I don't want you to wonder who is walking into your class come the third week, so I thought I could introduce myself to you a little bit now. Is that cool? Great!
A little bit of background: My father is from Barranquilla, Colombia, which is where Shakira and Sofia Vergara are from, and my mother is from a tiny town in Cuba, the birthplace of mambo, salsa, and Celia Cruz. I have two brothers who were born in Colombia, but I was the first one born in the U.S. in Chicago. I grew up in Logan Square, which is a gorgeous neighborhood there. My favorite things to do in Chicago were to go to punk concerts and dance to house music--Chicago is the birthplace of house! Here are some of my favorite songs:
Pretty diverse, right? That is the essence of who I am. I also like Leontyne Price, who is an opera singer, and Zola Jesus, who is a newer alternative singer. As an English professor, you can be sure that I love to read, too. I read everything, from The New York Times, to alternative news sources from around the world, from novels by Junot Diaz, to poetry by Maya Angelou. I also love graphic novels - one of my favorites was made into the movie, "The Watchmen."
When I was in high school, however, I hated school and I hated my English classes. I was into art then. Some of my favorite painters incude Ed Paschke
and Candido Veras.
I spent most of my time, then, painting and dancing. It wasn't until I became a college student, at Columbia College Chicago, that I discovered I could write - three professors within one semester's time told me I should go into the profession. I ended up graduating with honors in journalism, with a minor in film (another one of my loves!) - not bad for someone who was failing high school English.
For about two years I worked at Chicago's only bilingual newspaper at the time, Extra Community Newspapers, but because I wasn't making much money, I decided to go back to college. This time, I earned a master's degree in education at the University of Illinois at Chicago. When I graduated in 1999, I moved to New York. There, I met my husband, Vincent, at a poetry reading in Harlem. I wrote a lot of poetry and got published for the first time, and several times after. Still, I was mainly doing adjunct work in community colleges and high schools, which does not pay much. I decided to try to get my Ph.D. Vincent and I moved to Texas, of all places, and I earned my Ph.D. at the University of Texas at San Antonio. It took five years, but once I graduated, we moved back to New York and I've worked for CUNY ever since.
Today, I still publish a lot of work, but most of it is academic. My most recent publication is a chapter in the Routledge Companion to Latino/a Literature, seen here:
Other publications include poetry in the NAACP Image Award nominated Check the Rhyme
and one of my favorites, the Cuban American issue of MiPOesias.
Last year I traveled to London to present a paper on various films, and then to Puerto Rico to present a chapter on environmentalism in Latino/a literature. I had no idea my life would be filled with such blessings. I owe all of it to my extremely supportive husband, my wonderful friends, and, of course, my viejitos. Mami and Papi.
Here they are when they got married in Matanzas, Cuba,
My parents grew up very, very poor, but with HARD WORK and LOTS OF LOVE, they raised me and took care of so many other people, too. But that is another story. I hope you enjoyed learning a little bit about mine.
I can't wait to meet all of you and learn what your story is!
I'll see you in week three!
Dr. Grisel Y. Acosta