New 2012 paperback edition of Calligraphy of the Witch by Arte Público Press available now! You may order directly from:

See Calligraphy of the Witch book trailer here.

News: Movie based on Sor Juana's Second Dream forthcoming.

Alicia reads from Desert Blood for GuerrillaReads.






  • Calligraphy
  • Desert Blood
  • Sor Juana
Calligraphy of the Witch - Paperback Edition (Arte Público Press, 2012)

Born of a Spaniard and a mixed-race woman, young Concepcion Benavidez was apprenticed as a scribe to a convent. At nineteen, she escapes and is captured in the siege of Vera Cruz in 1683. She unexpectedly becomes the property of the Dutch pirate Laurens-Cornille de Graffe, who rapes her repeatedly on the long, deadly journey to the Massachusetts Bay Colony where he will sell his cargo. Realizing the young mestiza has fine penmanship, the pirate promptly sells her when they reach the cold New England coast.

Concepcion is thrust into a strange world where she doesn't understand the language or the customs. Bought by a prominent Puritan, Merchant Greenwood, to tend to his old father-in-law and his chicken farm, the girl from New Spain is regarded with suspicion. She is considered a papist half-breed who speaks the language of the devil and practices an ungodly religion. Greenwood immediately forbids her to speak her native tongue, and he changes her name to Thankful Seagraves.

The merchant's barren wife discovers that the girl is pregnant with the pirate's child. And she covets the baby. In the following years, the two women spar for the child's love and affection. But when several women in Salem Village, including Concepcion's friend Tituba Indian, are imprisoned for witchcraft, it's not long before people and even her own daughter start whispering about Concepcion. After all, doesn't she keep a cat for a familiar and burn letters for the dead in the woods? Doesn't she appear lasciviously in men's dreams? How else could she have coerced the old man to marry and free her?

This riveting historical novel combines the horror of the Salem witch trials with the philosophy and poetry of the nun and writer known as the first feminist of the Americas, Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz. Meticulously researched and elegantly written, this novel takes a mesmerizing look at women in the New World in the 17th century and the stubborn men who accuse them for no reason.


On Sunday, December 9, 2012 from 2pm - 4pm, author Alicia Gaspar de Alba will be reading and discussing Calligraphy of the Witch at Chimmaya Gallery at 5283 East Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90022. For more information email



Die Hexen-Schrift (German translation of Calligraphy of the Witch, trans. Susanne Goga-Klinkenberg. Berlin: Weltbild, 2010)




Desert Blood: The Juarez Murders (Arte Público Press, 2005)

Ivon Villa, a women's studies professor who needs to finish her dissertation in order to keep her job, travels to her hometown of El Paso to arrange for an adoption for herself and her female lover. Just across the border, however, the pregnant Juarez factory worker who agreed to give up her baby becomes the latest victim in a long string of unsolved murders of Mexican women in the area. Ivon vows to get past the secrecy, coverups, and conspiracy surrounding the terror-inflicting murders while dealing with her mother's disapproval, her cousin's alcoholism, and a renegade priest's activism. Offering a powerful depiction of social injustice and serial murder on the U.S.-Mexican border, this is an essential purchase for both mystery and Hispanic fiction collections. A native of the Juarez/El Paso border, Gaspar de Alba (Sor Juana's Second Dream) is an associate professor of Chicano studies and English at UCLA. Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information. (from www.

Winner of the Lambda Literary Foundation Award for Best Lesbian Mystery of 2005 and a Latino Book Award for Best English-Language Mystery of 2005.



The Spanish edition, Sangre en el desierto/ Desert Blood: Las muertas de Juarez/ The Juarez Murders (Spanish Edition) , translated by Rosario Sanmiguel (Arte Publico Press, 2008) is also available.



Il deserto delle morti silenziose: gli feminicidi a Juárez (Italian translation of DesertBlood: The Juárez Murders. Rome: Nuova Frontiera, 2007)


A new Spanish edition of Desert Blood/Sangre en el desierto released in November 2011.

French edition of Desert Blood released May 2012


Alicia reads from Desert Blood for GuerrillaReads.

More about Desert Blood at

Writing on the walls: deciphering violence and industrialization in Alicia Gaspar de Alba's Desert Blood.(Critical essay): An article from: MELUS by Irene Mata.



Sor Juana's Second Dream (University of New Mexico Press, 1999)


In her first novel, poet and Chicano studies scholar Gaspar de Alba brings to life Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz, a prolific, brilliant, and complex author and nun of 17th-century Mexico. Although Sor Juana left behind several volumes of published writings, the more personal details of her life remainsketchy. Gaspar de Alba has artfully combined excerpts from the writings with explicit, fictionalized journal entries to create a vibrant, if sometimes anachronistic, account of a complex life. Long adored in Mexico, Sor Juana has only recently become popular in the United States. She is often considered North America's first lesbian feminist writer, and Gaspar de Alba clearly shares this view. Eminently readable, this book is recommended for larger public libraries; readers desiring a more conservative biography might prefer Nobel laureate Octavio Paz's Sor Juana; or, The Traps of Faith (LJ 9/1/88).--Mary Margaret Benson, Linfield Coll. Lib., McMinnville, OR Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information. (from Library Journal and

Winner of the 2001 Latino Literary Hall of Fame Award for Best Historical Fiction

The hardback first edition is out of print. If you would like a signed first edition, use the BUY BOOKS link above right. 




Sor Juana’s Zweiter Traum (German translation of Sor Juana’s Second Dream) trans. Andrea Krug. Berlin: Krug & Schadenberg, 2002)

El segundo sueño (Spanish translation of Sor Juana’s Second Dream, trans. Bettina Blanch Tyroller. Barcelona, Spain: Grijalbo mondadori, 2001)



Sor Juana Novel Adaptations
“The Nun and the Countess,” adapted for the stage by Odalys Nanin, produced by MACHA PLAY Theater Company, Los Angeles, CA, Oct. – Dec. 2003 ADAPTATION

“The Sor Juana Project,” composer and co-librettist, Carla Lucero, Co-produced by Queer OPERA Artists’ Coalition (QueLACo) and Queer Cultural Center, San Francisco, CA, ADAPTATION, June 2003 & June 2004 (AGA was co-librettist)