posted March 16, 2009

Chavez Lecture Series Scheduled for March 31

The 11th Annual Cesar Chavez Lecture Series at Hope College will take place on Tuesday, March 31.

This year's keynote address, "César Chávez' Legacy in Obama's America," will be presented at 4 p.m. in the DeWitt Center main theatre by Dr. Ilan Stavans, who is the Lewis-Sebring Professor in Latin American and Latino Culture and Five College-Fortieth Anniversary Professor at Amherst College.  A book signing and reception will follow.

The public is invited.  Admission is free.

Stavans is an internationally known, award-winning cultural critic, linguist, translator, public speaker, editor, short-story writer, and TV host, whose best-selling work focuses on language, identity, politics, and history.  His publications include the 2008 book "César Chávez: An Organizer's Tale," which collects speeches and writings by Chávez.

Born in Mexico in 1961 into a Jewish family with roots in Eastern Europe, Stavans was raised in a multilingual environment. His autobiography, "On Borrowed Words," appeared in 2001, followed four years later by "Dictionary Days."

He is best known for his research on Yiddish, Ladino, and, in particular, Spanglish. In 2003, he published "Spanglish: The Making of a New American Language," which includes a lexicon of approximately 6,000 terms and a Spanglish translation of the first chapter of "Don Quixote." He is completing a translation of the entire novel by Miguel de Cervantes. He is the author of a couple of award-winning short-story collections, including "The Disappearance."

An internationally released feature film co-produced by John Sayles was based on his story "Morirse está en hebreo." He is currently finishing a meditation on the Hebrew alphabet, a book on love, and a biography of Gabriel García Márquez. His work has been translated into a dozen languages. A reader of his work was published by Routledge.

Stavans is the recipient of numerous awards, fellowships, and other honors, including an Emmy nomination, a Guggenheim Fellowship, the National Jewish Book Award, the Latino Hall of Fame Award, Chile's Presidential Medal, and several grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities. His essays are published in periodicals such as the "Washington Post," "El País," "Le Monde," the "Chronicle of Higher Education," the "Los Angeles Times," the "San Francisco Chronicle," the "Forward," the "Times Literary Supplement," the "Boston Globe," the "New York Times," the "Nation" and the "New Republic."

He has collaborated with musicians, opera librettists, cartoonists, actors, filmmakers, educators, and politicians in a variety of projects. He has been involved in museum exhibitions on art, photography, and folklore. Between 2001 and 2006, he hosted the syndicated PBS show "Conversations with Ilan Stavans," which included a companion book.

He is widely known as an anthologist and is responsible for, among other volumes, "The Oxford Book of Jewish Stories," the centennial edition of "The Poetry of Pablo Neruda," the three-volume Library of America edition of Isaac Bashevis Singer's "Collected Stories," and "The Shocken Book of Modern Sephardic Literature."  Stavans is also editor-in-chief of the multivolume "Encyclopedia Latina," a reference book about every aspect of Latino life in the United States.

Stavans joined the faculty at Amherst in 1993. He has also taught at Columbia, Oberlin, Mount Holyoke, Bennington and Smith, among other institutions. An editor of the quarterly "Hopscotch," he is also co-founder of the Great Books Summer Program at Amherst and Stanford, which is dedicated to introducing canonical works of world literature to middle- and high-school students. Professor Stavans has lectured extensively in Europe, Latin America, Asia, the Middle East and all across the United States.

The Cesar Chavez celebration at Hope is named in honor of Cesar E. Chavez (1927-93), who played a leading role in the 1960s in organizing the nation's migrant farm workers, and was the first head of the National Farm Workers Association, later the United Farm Workers. March 31, his birthday, is the official Cesar E. Chavez Day of Service and Learning, which is a holiday in multiple states, including Michigan, and dozens of cities and counties throughout the nation.

The lecture on March 31 is underwritten by the Chrysler Corporation and co-sponsored by the college's La Raza Unida student organization, Office of Multicultural Education, and Dean for International and Multicultural Education.

The DeWitt Theatre is located at 141 E. 12th St., facing Columbia Avenue at 12th Street.