Named by the Texas Legislature in 2015 as the State Poet Laureate of Texas, Dr. Carmen Tafolla is the author of more than 20 books, ranging from collections of poetry to collections of short stories, and from historical non-fiction to children's books. A popular speaker, performer and educator, she was named in 2012 by Mayor Julian Castro as the first Poet Laureate of the City of San Antonio, and is one of the most widely anthologized of Latina writers, with works being published in newspapers and posters, high school and college textbooks, Kindergarten Big Books, elementary readers, literary anthologies in India and magazines in Mexico City. Called by Rigoberto Gonzales the Zora Neale Hurston of the Chicano Community and by Alex Haley “a world-class writer”, Tafolla, a native of the West-Side barrios of San Antonio, has performed in London, Madrid, Mexico City, Norway, New Zealand, Canada, and throughout the United States and has been recognized by the National Association for Chicano Studies for "giving voice to the peoples and cultures of this land."
A native of the West-Side barrios of San Antonio, Texas, 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. from Austin College in 1972, an M.A. from Austin College in 1973, and a Ph.D. from the University of Texas at Austin, in 1982. In 1973, she became Director of the Mexican-American Studies Center at Texas Lutheran College where she initiated, among other projects, the El Premio Roberto Salinas Award to recognize students who have worked to promote human understanding and cultural harmony.
Tafolla has held numerous faculty and administrative positions at universities throughout the Southwest, including Associate Professor of Women’s Studies at California State University Fresno and Special Assistant to the President for Cultural Diversity Programming at Northern Arizona University. She was the first Chicana to head a Mexican-American Studies Center, and the first Latina to be awarded a Charlotte Zolotow award.
Honored twice by the Library of Congress, Tafolla received the 2010 Americas Award. Numerous other distinctions include the Art of Peace Award for works which promote peace, justice and human understanding, five International Latino Book Awards, Outstanding Young Women of America, Foremost Women of the Twentieth Century, and the Dictionary of International Biography. In 1999, the President’s Peace Commission of St. Mary’s University selected her for its Art of Peace Award for writing which promotes peace, justice and human understanding. She has authored five books of poetry, eight children’s picture books, seven television screenplays, several non-fiction volumes, and a collection of short stories, The Holy Tortilla and a Pot of Beans. In addition, she co-authored with filmmaker Sylvia Morales a feature-length comedy entitled REAL MEN... and other miracles. Her works are archived at the University of Texas Benson Latin American Collection. Dr. Carmen Tafolla currently teaches at the University of Texas-San Antonio, as Associate Professor for Transformative Children’s Literature, and lives in San Antonio, where she is at work on the biography of noted 1930s civil rights organizer Emma Tenayuca.