Named State Poet Laureate of Texas in 2015, Dr. Carmen Tafolla is an award-winning poet and children’s author, storyteller, performance artist, motivational speaker, scholar and university Professor Emeritus.
The author of more than 40 books and a Professor of Transformative Children’s Literature at UT San Antonio, she holds a Ph.D. in Bilingual Education from the University of Texas and a B.A., M.A., and a Doctorate Honoris Causa in Humane Letters from Austin College. Tafolla has performed her one-woman show throughout the Americas, Europe, and New Zealand, and her work appears internationally in textbooks, newspapers, journals, magazines, elementary school Big Books & posters on city buses, and engraved on sidewalks and museum walls. Tafolla credits the community around her with her inspiration and her training, and says her works are inspired by “ancestors whispering over my shoulder.”
A native of the West-Side barrio schools of San Antonio, Texas, where teachers’ stereotypes of Mexican students as hoods resulted in daily frisking, Tafolla was told by her junior high principal that she had potential to make it all the way to high school. Instead, she completed high school, a B.A., M.A., and Ph.D. In 1973, she became Director of the Mexican-American Studies Center at Texas Lutheran College, formed part of the Chicano Literary Movement of the 70s and 80s, and in 1978, Head Writer for Sonrisas, a bilingual children’s television series. Tafolla went on to work at universities and educational research centers throughout the Southwest.
Tafolla has received numerous distinctions, including the prestigious Americas Award, presented to her at the Library of Congress in 2010; first Poet Laureate of the City of San Antonio 2012-2014; six International Latino Book Awards; two Tomas Rivera Book Awards; two ALA Notable Books; the Art of Peace Award; the Texas 2 by 2 Award; and Top Ten Books for Babies. Called by Rigoberto Gonzales “the Zora Neale Hurston of the Chicano Community” and by Alex Haley “a world-class writer”, Tafolla has been recognized by the National Association for Chican@ Studies for work which "gives voice to the peoples and cultures of this land."
The first Latina to be elected President of the Texas Institute of Letters, Tafolla has just completed a middle-grade novel-in-verse which earned a starred review from Publishers' Weekly and which Kirkus Review called "an exuberant, rousing celebration of youth activism." She is currently at work on the biography of noted 1930s civil rights organizer Emma Tenayuca..