Graduate Student from UMass Amherst Wins Literary Prize in Spain

AMHERST, Mass. - University of Massachusetts graduate student Ana Maria Diaz-Marcos has been awarded Spain''s Asturias Joven (Young Asturians) prize by the Principado de Asturias (regional government of Asturias) for her collection of short stories "The Affections of Heat." The prize, which is awarded annually to a young writer of the Asturias region of Spain, includes a monetary gift of $1,800 and publication of the collection.

Diaz-Marcos says that she began writing the stories last summer after taking a trip to Puerto Rico with a friend. According to Diaz-Marcos, the similarities between Puerto Rico and her native Spain triggered something in her subconscious that led her to begin writing during the plane trip back to Boston. Within three months she had written seven of the eight stories in the collection, and the following September she had entered the final manuscript in the Young Asturians contest.

"I wanted to write something good before I was 30," says Diaz-Marcos, who recently celebrated her 30th birthday. "I think the combined pressure of wanting to do so, and the associations created by that trip helped to trigger the writing."

Diaz-Marcos also attributes her inspiration to both the University and the Massachusetts landscape. She says that her studies in Latin American literature have influenced her to write in the magic-realist style of writers she admires such as Gabriel Garcia Marquez. In addition, she says the cold, sometimes severe, landscape of the area has brought her own background into even starker relief and caused her to try to recall "a fictional warmer place that is connected to the summers of my childhood."

Diaz-Marcos says that a desire to empower women also played a part in her fictional work. She says that most of the stories deal with episodes in the lives of female members of a family, and significantly, are narrated by them.

"In many ways, Spain is only now emerging from a very macho, sexist period in its history," Diaz-Marcos says. "I wanted to give literal voice to the women who had lived through this period. I drew on stories I''d heard from my grandmother''s generation, and allowed characters much like my grandmother the opportunity to tell them."

Diaz-Marcos is now entering her second year in the department of Spanish and Portuguese at the University. She is a teaching associate and hopes to complete her Ph.D. in approximately two years.