Monica Brown: Inspiring through Writing
Monica Brown, PhD
Professor of US Multi-ethnic Literature and Women's Studies
College of Arts and Letters
Monica Brown is telling stories. Lots of them.
As a professor of U.S. multiethnic literature and women's studies, her published works range from Delinquent Citizens: Nation and Identity in Chicano/a and Puerto Rican Gang Narratives to Chavela and the Magic Bubble. The former is a scholarly examination, the latter is a children's book. Both reflect Brown's lifelong advocacy of cultural studies and bilingual education.
As it turns out, Brown has quite a knack for both genres. Her first bilingual book for children, My Name Is Celia: The Life of Celia Cruz, published in 2004, was awarded the Americas Award for Children's Literature. The story is a first-person narrative of the Cuban-born salsa singer and the award was given in recognition of Brown's authentic and engaging portrayal of one women's gift to the culture of the Americas. Since then, she has published five other children's books-with six more written and forthcoming-and has been a featured author at the Kennedy Center Multicultural Book Festival, The Texas Book Festival, and the International Book Fair in Panama.
That, of course, is only one chapter of Brown's diverse life. On the academic side, Brown is also the recipient of the Rockefeller Fellowship on Chicano Cultural Literacies, a prestigious honor from the Center for Chicano Studies at the University of California.
Whatever tale she's telling, however, Brown leverages her many talents and perspectives for the benefit of her students at Northern Arizona University. As former co-chairwoman of the Commission on Ethnic Diversity, she helped spearhead the proposal that resulted in the global and U.S. ethnic diversity requirement. As she's picked up her second career in children's literature, she's lent a hand to students interested in entering multiple career paths, and has led creative writing workshops with other authors.
"I work with many students who are education majors," Brown says. "While we don't use my texts in class, my understanding of children's literature and children's publishing specifically, and U.S. Latino/a literature and cultural history always informs my teaching."
Not only does Brown teach her students about some of authors she writes about, but she also remembers that it was a Chicano/a literature professor at U.C. Santa Barbara who first recognized her talent as a writer over 20 years ago, urging her to go to graduate school - an option she likely wouldn't have considered on her own.
"I want to make sure that students realize their potential if it is there," Brown says. "If I think that they are not working to that potential, I will be the first to tell them that, too."
Brown believes strongly in her responsibility as a mentor to students, hoping she serves as an example, especially to those who haven't found encouragement elsewhere.
"Clearly I get to serve as a role model for ethnic minority students on campus," she says. "Sometimes I am the first Latino with a Ph.D. that they have ever met - I see it as my job to encourage and inspire the way that I was encouraged and inspired."