Helena Maria Viramontes

Viramontes was born in East Los Angeles on February 26, 1954 to a construction worker, Serafin Viramontes, and homemaker, Maria Louise La Brada Viramontes. With a family of eleven, Serafin struggled to provide for his wife and children. Viramontes attended Garfield High School, one of the few schools to participate in the Chicano Blowouts. These were influenced by the Chicano Movement, which focused on the unfair treatment of Mexican-Americans and the negative stereotypes that affected the Chicano community. It called for better, and fair, education of Chicanos, rights for farm workers, and accurate representations of the Mexican-American community. The Chicano Movement played a very significant role in Viramontes's development as a writer and activist.

Viramontes discovered her passion for writing in college.She began with poetry but soon moved to fiction. She attended Immaculate Heart College, where she recieved her B.A. in English Literature in 1975. She attended University of California Irvine, focusing on creative writing.

Her writings are vastly influenced by Chicanos experiences in the U.S., especially the struggles Chicana women face within their culture, society and religion. She focuses on the trials and tribulations of all Chicana women: mothers, daughters, and wives. She strongly believes that social change can happen through literature, and therefore tackles all types of social issues in her works. By looking at oppression through racism, classism and sexism, Viramontes tries to reconstruct the Chicana woman and empower her by giving her characters a voice. Currently, Viramontes is an Assistant Professor at Cornell University. She also co-founded the Southern California Latino Writers and Film Makers Association.