Category Archives: My Own True Name

Suggested Reading for Pat Mora’s My Own True Name

By Tanya Baylon, Christopher Duong, Travis Edwards, and Ruby Ruiz

1.  “The Expanding Canon: Teaching Multicultural Literature – Theory Overview.” The Annenberg Foundation. Web. 23 Feb. 2012.

In this hour-long video from the Annenberg Learner, Pat Mora is seen at the twenty-minute mark teaching in a classroom. During her lecture she reads the teenage students one of her poems. We get to see how Pat Mora emphasizes the tone and pace of various words in her poetry. In the student exercise, we get to hear teenagers interpret Mora’s poems. At the end of her lesson, she explains the poem she read and the actual story behind it. It is interesting to learn, for example, how she takes the life story of a friend and transforms it into a poem. By learning the exact background information of the poem, we see how she incorporates her culture into her works.

2.  Melendez, Maria.  “An Interview With Pat Mora.” An Interview With Pat Mora. Web. 23 Feb. 2012. <>.

Pat Mora has written six bilingual poetry books. On the Latino poetry review website there is an interview between Maria Melendez and Pat Mora. During her interview she mentions that My Own True Name was assembled after a librarian said more books with a Latino focus were needed for high school students. Mora later says she finds ways to incorporate not only Spanish but other languages into her work. In the interview she brings up the fact that about 2% of the 5,000 children’s books published each year are by or about Latinos, which can cause conflicts in educational success because not enough books are published for Latino/a and other children who want to learn about the culture.

3.  Mora, Pat. “Bookjoy!: Books for Teens.” Bookjoy! Pat Mora. Web. 23 Feb. 2012.  <>

This is Pat Mora’s personal blog, Bookjoy!, which she started in 2008. Its main focus is “celebrating the zing of creativity, reading, and día.” The posts include discussions of Latino children’s literature and community partnerships as well as interviews with various authors. More specifically, she has a category on her blog labeled “books for teens.” In this section, she has interviewed authors who write in the same genre as My Own True Name, such as Guadalupe Garcia McCall, Dr. Carol Brochín Ceballos, and Christina Díaz Gonzalez. Her interviewees span from award-winning authors to teachers with published novels. These authors have a lot in common with Mora, and it sounds like their books do as well, as they typically involve bicultural and bilingual characters and plot lines. Mora also has posts encouraging teens to ask her about her latest young adult books.

4.  Mora, Pat. “Bookjoy!: Dizzy.” Bookjoy! Pat Mora. Web. 23 Feb. 2012.  <>

Mora, Pat. Dizzy in Your Eyes: Poems About Love. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2010. Print.

Dizzy in Your Eyes is Pat Mora’s most recent teen book. The collection of fifty new poems express emotions as Mora thinks they are experienced by those in their early adult years. Each poem is told by a different (fictional) teen narrator. Her inspiration and incentive for writing this book was finding out that “boys sometimes copied [love] poems and signed their names” and then gave them to girls. Upon hearing this, Mora decided that she wanted to create a book of poems that really speak to her teen audience. With her knowledge of teens copying love poems, she decided to incorporate their interest in poetry into her book. In Mora’s footnotes, she explains the type of poetic form used for each poem. Not only is this an educationally fresh ingredient to her literacy campaign, but it also gives teens motivation to write their own verses.

5.  Mora, Pat. Borders. By Pat Mora, Award-winning Poet and Author of Books for Adults, Young Adults and Children. Web. 23 Feb. 2012. <>.

Borders is one of Pat Mora’s six collections of poetry. The book was published in 1986 and received the Southwest Book award in 1987. The book was aimed at adults and young adults, as it explores political, cultural, social, and emotional issues that shape an individual’s identity and that can divide people. The poems in Borders show how our positions respecting these borders shape how we define ourselves. According to the Bloomsbury Review, in Borders, “Mora confronts the clash of cultures in a courageous, tough tone that masks a gentle sensibility. What finally gives this book its healing power is the mesmerizing honesty of Mora’s celebration of herself as a woman, mother, lover.”

6.  Mora, Pat. Communion. By Pat Mora , Award-winning Poet and Author of Books for Adults, Young Adults and Children. Web. 23 Feb. 2012. <>.

Communion was published in 1994 by Pat Mora and was aimed toward adults and young adults. It is the third of her six poetry collections. Communion is built upon her other writings and her new experiences in life but has more deepness and maturity in its poems. The collection can be universally appealing, since it takes into account the reality of male and female relationships, the pain of separations from children, the significance of one’s homeland, and the traditions affecting one’s life. According to Betsy Colquitt in the Texas Review of Books, Communion “ is aptly titled: her poems often reveal a communion of sorts between poet and subject that inspires the poet’s empathetic, imaginative response.”

7.  “Pat Mora.” Interview by Teaching Books. Teaching Books. 28 Jan. 2008. Web. 23 Feb. 2012. <>.

In this interview by Teaching Books, Pat Mora discusses not only her writing but also her life and her reasons for writing poetry, her favorite genre. In this interview, she explains that she writes in Spanish to show children who are embarrassed to speak Spanish that there are assets to speaking the language in certain places. In her book Tomas and the Library Lady, for instance, she inserts many Spanish phrases. Mora also explains how she wants her poetry to convey that it is natural for women to be strong and outspoken. In her book Doña Flor: A Tall Tale About a Giant Woman with a Great Big Heart, for example, Dona Flor plays a strong female role by showing not great physical strength but a large capacity for love.

8.  “A Video Interview With Pat Mora.” Reading Rockets. U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs. Web. 23 Feb. 2012.

Pat Mora is an avid supporter of literacy, especially in children. She is a featured author for a national multimedia literacy organization called Reading Rockets. On their website, a concise biography of Mora is available along with ten video conversations with topics ranging from childhood stories to her literacy advocacy program. The biography expands upon and explores her bicultural upbringing, which provides us with the background knowledge to understand the American and Mexican contexts involved in her poems. The video conversations compliment the biography, with Pat Mora describing her Mexican/American home, and then discuss how and why she writes fiction, non-fiction, and poetry. Mora believes that successful writing is done by “bringing everything we are to the page.” This advice influences her poems about desert culture and ties into the final video conversations, which explain her literacy program for children.


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A Review of Pat Mora’s My Own True Name

By Tanya Baylón, Christopher Duong, Travis Edwards, and Ruby Ruiz

Pat Mora’s My Own True Name is a collection of new and old poems written from 1984 to 1999. The poems tell readers about Mora’s past and about things, people, and ideas that have influenced her and her works.   Many of Mora’s poems speak of the challenges often found in bilingual and bicultural homes, such as language barriers between generations and racial and gender conflict in Mexican-American women’s lives. The book is split into three parts: Blooms, Thorns, and Roots. These titles are analogies between plants and human life, where Blooms are the beauty in life, Thorns are the pain and hurt in life, and Roots are pieces of the past that shape not only Mora’s identity, but also her ancestors’.

The Blooms section reflects not only the good and beauty in Mora’s life, but also the good parts in life for most people, including everything from food to family. For example, one poem goes from mangoes to pizza and lists twenty different names for cheeses (“Ode to Pizza”), such as queso (Spanish), fromage (French), panir (Hindi), and bu (Vietnamese). Another poem speaks of a boy being the first in his family to graduate from school and includes the viewpoint of his mother upon seeing her child graduate after her hard work (“Graduation Morning”). The Blooms section is mostly about the positives in family ties, like the impact of grandparents and the maturation of teenagers. She even includes a joyful ode to Georgia O’ Keefe, one of her idols.

The Thorns section reflects the ugliness of people throughout life, especially the hardships and maltreatment of Mexican Americans. A main issue of miscommunication recurs for the Mexican families that move from their native homeland of Mexico to the foreign America, as a barrier of language grows between the older generations and the American-born children (“Abuelita’s Ache,” “Elena”):

… Sometimes I take

My English book and lock myself in the bathroom,

Say the thick words softly,

For if I stop trying, I will be deaf

When my children need my help.


In Mora’s poems, parents often find it difficult to learn a new language–or just do not want to learn English–while their children are quick to throw away their native tongue to fit in. One can tell throughout these poems that Pat Mora has seen plenty of discrimination against Mexican Americans.

The Roots section reflects on ancestors – from grandparents to ancient Indian tribes. Mora’s poetry shows that the identities of many Mexican-Americans are shaped by their connections to ancient Mexican culture. Mora writes of the strong women of Indian tribes as well as of the strong women of today (“Desert Woman,” “Strong Women”):

Some women hold me when I need to dream,

Rock, rocked my first red anger through the night.

Strong women teach me courage to esteem,

To stand alone, like cactus, persevere

When cold frowns bit my bones and doubts incite.

“Strong Women”

Mora also writes of ancient magic (“Abuelita Magic”) and Indian Legends (“Bribe”) in this section.

Something really interesting Mora does throughout the book is write many poems in both her native tongue of Spanish and her learned language, English, as she does in “The Desert Is My Mother” and “El desierto es mi madre.” This reflects the language conflict she writes about throughout the book, and also made us wonder in which language she writes those poems first. Either way, we thought these poems were great for all ages and were very moving and insightful.

Mora, Pat.  My Own True Name:  New and Selected Poems for Young Adults, 1984-1999.  Houston:  Pinata Books, 2000.


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A Biography of Pat Mora

By Tanya Baylón, Christopher Duong, Travis Edwards, and Ruby Ruiz

Mora's READ poster
Created by the Durham, NC County Library

Patricia Mora was born on January 19th, 1942, in El Paso, Texas. Her family moved to the United States during the Mexican Revolution, which lasted between 1910-1920. She received her Bachelor’s degree from Texas Western College in 1963, and four years later, she obtained her Master’s degree from the University of Texas, El Paso. Mora is a Chicana author known largely for her poetry and children’s books. She is a former teacher, university administrator, museum director, and consultant. She is a mother to three adult children and is married to anthropology professor Vern Scarborough. They live in beautiful Santa Fe, New Mexico. ( authorbios/index2.jsp?author=9patmora).

Pat Mora has written more than forty books, which include adult & young adult literature, young adult poetry and children’s books. Some of her award-winning works are House of Houses, Neptantla, Adobe Odes, Borders, My Own True Name, Abuelos, The Bakery Lady, and Confetti. Through poems and bilingual stories, these works represent the Mexican-American culture of which Pat Mora is so proud. In “Mango Juice,” this culture is richly illustrated: “Eating mangoes/on a stick… is tossing fragile cascarones/on your love’s hair,/confetti teasing him/to remove his shoes/his mouth open/and laughing/as you glide/more mango in,/cool rich flesh/of Mexico/music teasing/you to strew/streamers on trees/and cactus…” (Mora 8). It took Mora fifteen years to finish this collection of poems, and she hopes it will inspire young writers to create their own poems and wishes “lovers of poetry will find it an eye-opening and delightful place to enjoy and explore.” (

Mora speaking at the University of Texas, El Paso.

Pat Mora is committed to children’s literacy, and she supports Children’s Day/Book Day on April 30th. Many institutions, such as universities, libraries, schools and museums, participate in the celebration of childhood and bilingual literacy on this day. “As a result, its [Children’s Day’s/Book day’s] goals have included commitments to: 1. Honoring children and childhood; 2. Promoting literacy and the importance of linking all children to books, languages and cultures; 3. Honoring home languages and cultures, and thus promoting bilingual and multilingual literacy in this multicultural nation, and global understanding through reading; 4. Involving parents as valued members of the literacy team; and 5. Promoting library collection development that reflects our plurality” (Rowlands). Through her writing, Mora encourages the preservation of “culture while making it accessible and understandable to others” (Rowlands). She has lectured at universities as well as local schools and libraries to promote awareness of this  literacy event. While supporting this event, Mora also wishes for publishers to commit to publishing more work produced by Latinos and Latinas.

Pat Mora has won ten adult book awards, seven young adult book awards, and fifty-eight children’s book awards. My Own True Name: New and Selected Poems for Young Adults has won two awards: The New York Public Library Books for the Teen Age List in 2001, Tayshas High School Reading List from the Texas Library Association in 2001. It was also a finalist in the Writers’ League of Texas in 2001. (http://www.patmora. com/awards.htm). Mora has greatly affected the genre of children’s literature with her positive and expansive view of childhood and bilingual literacy.

Works Cited

“Author Biography: Pat Mora.” Elements of Literature. Holt. Web. 19 Feb. 2012. <;.

Mora, Pat. “Mango Juice.” My Own True Name New and Selected Poems for Young Adults, 1984-1999. Paw Prints, 2008. 8. Print.

Mora, Pat. “My Own True Name.” By Pat Mora , Award-winning Poet and Author of Books for Adults, Young Adults and Children. Bookjoy. Web. 19 Feb. 2012..

Mora, Pat. “Pat’s Awards.” Awards given to Pat Mora, Award-winning Poet and Author of Books for Adults, Young Adults and Children. Bookjoy. Web. 20 Feb. 2012..

Rowlands, Kathleen Dudden. “The Influence Of Pat Mora: How—And Why—Literacy Becomes Political.” Children & Libraries: The Journal Of The Association For Library Service To Children 5.1 (2007): 20-25. Academic Search Premier. Web. 20 Feb. 2012