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Guide to the Arturo Islas Papers , 1956-1991
Special Collections M0618  
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Descriptive Summary
  • Administrative Information
  • Biographical Note
  • Scope and Content
  • Access Terms

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: Arturo Islas Papers,
    Date (inclusive): 1956-1991
    Collection number: Special Collections M0618
    Creator: Islas, Arturo, 1938-
    Extent: 18.5 linear ft.
    Repository: Stanford University. Libraries. Dept. of Special Collections and University Archives.
    Language: English.

    Administrative Information

    Access Restrictions

    Access unrestricted.

    Publication Rights

    Property rights reside with the repository. Literary rights reside with the creators of the documents or their heirs. To obtain permission to publish or reproduce, please contact the Public Services Librarian of the Dept. of Special Collections.


    Gift of Arturo Islas, 1985, and the Estate of Arturo Islas, 1991 & 1992.

    Preferred Citation:

    [Identification of item] Arturo Islas Papers , M0618, Dept. of Special Collections, Stanford University Libraries, Stanford, Calif.

    Biographical Note

    Arturo Islas was an English professor at Stanford and an author who explored the Chicano experience of living in two cultures in his novels. He was born on May 24, 1938 in El Paso, Texas, and left with a Sloan Scholarship and to study at Stanford University in 1956. He had intended to become a neurosurgeon, but his ambitions in the sciences gave way to his exceptional talents in literature. Referring to this switch, he once said, So it was that the poor Chicano boy came to teach the Anglos their literature. He graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in English, Phi Beta Kappa, in 1960, and entered the Ph. D. program in the autumn. In 1971, upon completion of his dissertation on Jewish-American novelist Hortense Calisher, Arturo Islas became the first Chicano in the United States to earn a doctorate in English.
    Arturo Islas stayed at Stanford and distinguished himself as a teacher, winning the Dinkelspiel Award for Outstanding Service to Undergraduate Education in 1976. That same year, he became Stanford's first tenured Chicano faculty member. Both in and outside the classroom, Islas was a major force in nurturing the growing Chicano community. He was an advisor to many Chicano students, taught courses geared toward their needs and interests, and was active in numerous Chicano organizations. Better known for his courses on American literature, he was a popular lecturer and was elected to speak at Senior Class Day four times.
    Outside the Stanford comnmunity, Islas won fame for his two novels, The Rain God, which garnered numerous awards, and Migrant Souls, published in 1990. Migrant Souls was the first novel by a Chicano to be published by a New York firm. After his long struggle against the New York firms to have his Chicano voice heard, his reaction was more of outrage than pride at having cracked the system. In the trilogy of books he was writing, he chronicled three generations of a fictitious Mexican-American family not unlike his own, struggling with cultural duality. His lyrical novels were a new and strong voice for the Mexican American experience.
    Arturo Islas was working on La Mollie and the King of Tears, the last book of the trilogy, and another novel, tentatively titled American Dreams and Fantasies when he died of AIDS related complications on February 15, 1991.

    Scope and Content

    The bulk of this collection consists of correspondence, manuscripts, teaching and subjects materials Arturo Islas kept on file in his years teaching and writing at Stanford. The collection also includes materials relating Chicano issues, particularly the Chicano community at Stanford University. Unless indicated as outgoing correspondence, the letters in files are incoming.

    Access Terms

    American literature--Mexican American authors.
    Mexican American studies.