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OU to honor alumnus Tomás Rivera with poetry reading, performance

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Tomás Rivera

Irasema, Javier, and Ileana Rivera with their father, Tomás Rivera, outside their apartment near campus, Norman, Oklahoma, in 1969

OU's Modern Languages, Literatures and Linguistics department and World Literature Today will host a commemorative day of events honoring a Chicano author and OU alumnus on Thursday. 

"Celebrating 50 Years of Achievement in Latinx Scholarship and Higher Education 1969–2019" will honor Tomás Rivera's life and commemorate 50 years since Rivera graduated from OU with a doctorate in Spanish.

The events will feature a performance adapted from his novella, titled "y no se lo tragó la tierra," or "and the Earth Did Not Devour Him," a bilingual poetry reading, reception and discussion from noon to 6 p.m. Nov. 21, according to a press release. 

Rivera, born in Texas in 1935 to migrant farmworkers, received his doctoral degree in Spanish from OU in 1969 and was the first Mexican American to be chancellor at the University of California, Riverside, from 1979 until his death in 1984, said Daniel Simon, assistant director and editor in chief of World Literature Today, in an email.  

"Dr. Rivera is probably the most famous writer to have ever graduated from OU," Simon said. 

Events begin at noon in Lab Theatre in Old Science Hall Room 201, with a presentation and workshop from Tiffany Ana López, founding director of the Latinx Play Project at the University of California, Riverside.

López adapted Rivera's  "y no se lo tragó la tierra," for the stage and will discuss the process of adapting the novella and lead an open workshop with OU student actors. 

"As a first-generation student, creative, professor and administrative leader, I want to speak about Rivera’s work as a creative voice, scholar and administrator who was both ahead of his time and urgently present to the call of his social and historical moment," López said in a press release.

At 2 p.m. in Kaufman Hall Room 221B there will be a poetry reading. OU students will read selected poems from Rivera's book of poetry, "Tomás Rivera: The Complete Works" in Spanish and English, including Rivera's most renowned poem, "The Searchers."

Final events are from 4-6 p.m. in the gallery in Gould Hall, with a reception at 4 p.m. and roundtable discussion at 4:30 p.m. Refreshments will be provided.

Participating scholars López; Julián Olivares, professor emeritus of hispanic studies at the University of Houston; and RC Davis-Undiano, OU director of Latinx studies and executive director of World Literature Today, will speak about Rivera's work and legacy in 2019, followed by a Q&A with the audience. 

All events are free and open to the public. 

Culture editor

Abigail Hall is a journalism senior and culture editor at The Daily. She previously worked as the culture assistant editor, and arts & entertainment reporter.

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