Alejandro Morales, the son of Mexican immigrants, was born in Montebello, California and lived his childhood years in Simons, the company town of the Simons Brick Yard #3, bordering Montebello. He earned his B.A. from California State University, Los Angeles, and a M.A. and Ph.D. from Rutgers University. Morales is a professor in the Department of Chicano/Latino Studies at the University of California, Irvine.
His interest in writing began in junior high school when he wrote short sketches of people and places around his neighborhood where he heard stories and witnessed events that compelled him to write resulting in a completed draft in Spanish of his first novel. While in graduate school at Rutgers University Morales continued to hone his novel for publication. After attempting to publish the book in the United States he left to study at the Centro de Estudios Literarios at the University of Mexico, Mexico City where he met the editors of Editorial Joaquín Mortiz who publish his first novel Caras viejas y vino nuevo. That’s how his writing career began.
Recognized by many as a pioneer of Chicano Latino literature who writes in Spanish and English, Morales has authored several historical biographies in which he tells the fictional story of a character’s life using historical personages and events, bringing together his love for both history and writing. His works are examples of Miguel de Unamuno’s idea of Intra History, writing about the significance of the lives of ordinary people; of Linda Hutcheon’s theory of Historiographic Metafiction, the practice of writing aware of theory, history and fiction as strategies to rethink and reevaluate the past; and Irving Stone’s practice of writing biographical novels.
He considers that the sites between epistemological discourses have coalesced and are continuously intersecting. In reference to any one of his books Morales says “If you read my books like a works of history, you are reading fiction; if you read my books like a works of fiction, you are reading history.” He believes that creative, imaginative works are equal in importance as empirical works, perhaps even more important as catalysts for inquiry and change.
His research explores a variety of topics that concern the Chicano/Latino community including: history, immigration, race relations, ethnicity, family, labor, education, religion, memory, gender, power, border, borderlands and the fantastic. “Professor Morales’ fiction engages the formation of the Mexican American experience from Mexico through Southern California. He brings alive the roots of the Mexican American culture and shows different paths for its evolution in the future,” stated Louis DeSipio, Director of the Center for the Study of Democracy, Professor of Political Science and former department chair of Chicano/Latino studies at UC Irvine. “In all cases, this shared history and culture is presented in an engaging manner that speaks to both readers seeking an engaging read and to scholars seeking a deeper understanding.”
His writing rule to live by:
Write down, therefore, what you have seen, and
what is happening, and
what will happen afterwards.
Morales interprets this as write about the past, the present and the future.
Morales’ literary works include: Caras Viejas y Vino Nuevo (1975); La Verdad sin voz (1979); Reto en el paraíso (1983); The Brick People (1988); The Rag Doll Plagues (1992); Waiting to Happen (2001); Pequeña nación (2005); and The Captain of All these Men of Death (2008). His novel River of Angels is scheduled for release in the spring of 2014.
Morales received the Luis Leal Award for Distinction in Chicano/Latino Literature in 2007 from the University of California, Santa Barbara. The award recognizes Morales’s contributions to Chicano/Latino literature and his accomplishments as a major American writer.
A documentary film inspired by his novel The Brick People was released in 2012. The film chronicles the story and legacy of the Mexican immigrants who came to work at Simons Brickyard #3 in Los Angeles during the early part of the 20th century.
In 2013 the Stanford University Libraries acquired Morales’s collection of original manuscripts, articles, research notes and professional papers. “The Morales collection will richly enhance the possibilities for important work in the area of the multi-ethnic literatures of the Unite States at Stanford,” stated Professor Ramon Saldivar of the English Department and director of the Bing Overseas Study Program at Stanford.
In his latest novel, River of Angels, scheduled for release in 2014, Morales introduces two very different families and the unpredictable Los Angeles River to tell of the promise and allure of Southern California, where the unexpected is the norm, where names tell a hidden story. From these two families of bridge builders emerges a story of interconnectedness, a unique system of relations linking both sides of the river. Although these two families come from different backgrounds—ethnic, social and linguistic—their lives and fortunes become inextricably linked through their children, whose illicit love affair leads to a tragedy, and their families wrenched apart by racism and the pseudo-science of eugenics propounded during the 1920s.
Morales lives in Santa Ana, California and is now working on three projects at different stages of development: A Rainbow of Colors, a biographical novel, The Integrals, a collection of short stories and The Zapote Tree, a book of poetry.