Fiction •  Gender Studies •  Latin America •  Literature and Women

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Sor Juana's Second Dream: A Novel

Alicia Gaspar de Alba

This bold novel unravels the mystery and complexity of the woman Carlos Fuentes calls "the first great Latin American poet." Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz (1648-1695), poet, playwright, rhetorician, and musician, is often equated with Sappho, the lesbian poet whom Plato baptized the "Tenth Muse."

The Mexican nun has fascinated readers around the world for centuries as scholars have attempted to understand her brilliance, her feminism, the affairs of her heart, her decision to enter a convent at the beginning of her luminous intellectual career.

Juana Ramírez de Asbaje, an illegitimate criolla, is sixteen when word of her self-taught erudition travels to the palace in Mexico City and she becomes an attendant to Doña Leonor Carreto, Marquesa de Mancera. Wanting only to study, confused by her love for la Marquesa, and loathe to marry, in five years Juana becomes Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz in the Convent of Santa Paula of the Order of San Jerónimo. There, her quill becomes her salvation and damnation as her notoriety mounts with each new artistic commission. Popular with court and clergy, she receives a stream of guests at the convent, among them la Condesa de Paredes, who becomes Sor Juana's intimate friend. More than two decades later, after brilliantly defending her right to think, teach, and write, Sor Juana appears before the Inquisition and abruptly withdraws from the spotlight.
Mixing fiction with Sor Juana's own words, and drawing on the most recent Sor Juana scholarship, Alicia Gaspar de Alba creates the most full-bodied portrait of Mexico's Tenth Muse to date. This remarkable novel about a remarkable woman will enlighten a new generation of readers, and stoke the interest of devotees who already are captivated by the inspiring Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz.

"An adventuresome exploration into the lyrical and historical vision of an extraordinary woman, written by an extraordinary novelist who has given us a new possibility to dream and invent Sor Juana Inés all over again."--Marjorie Agosín, Wellesley College

"Beautifully written, without doubt the best book I have read this year. A masterpiece."--Greg Sarris, author of Watermelon Nights


Alicia Gaspar de Alba is professor of Chicano studies and English, University of California, Los Angeles. She is the author of Desert Blood: The Juárez Murders.


" Sor Juana's Second Dream is well-constructed and makes interesting reading. . . . Gaspar de Alba's Sor Juana is a dark and tormented genius trapped in a nightmarish world."


Indiana Magazine of History

"Gaspar de Alba brings to life Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz, a prolific, brilliant, and complex author and nun of seventeenth-century Mexico. . . . often considered North America's first lesbian feminist writer . . . Eminently readable."


Library Journal

"In her intelligent, thoroughly researched novel, Gaspar de Alba goes beyond established fact and paints a fictionalized, sometimes controversial portrait. . . . Commendably, Sor Juana's flaws are not glossed over, she is portrayed as vain, prejudiced and difficult. This work of fine scholarship and vision should increase awareness of a compelling historical figure."


Publishers Weekly

" . . . a superb and complex work of fiction and an exhaustively researched historical speculation. . . . an elegant blend of fact, fiction, and fancy that captures the reader's imagination and intellect. . . . The story is fascinating . . . (Gaspar de Alba) has done a wonderful job of communicating her understanding to the reader."


The Lesbian Review of Books

6.13 x 9.25 in. 480 pages 1 halftones, 1 maps