Biography Writing Teaching Appearances  

Amelia M.L. Montes is a literary critic and creative writer interested in the intellectual and corporeal matters of the body as well as the spiritual energies surrounding it. How does the individual assist (or falter) in balancing and healing the body while also contributing to a profoundly infirm society? Montes is interested in literary, historical, medicinal methods or rituals of survival and stasis.

She is presently investigating (through literature, history, science) how food culture has become a highly concentrated carbohydrate-infested phenomenon leading to a striking rise in individuals diagnosed with diabetes (Type II). The kind of diets a society creates affects every aspect of an individual body. The effect is reciprocal so that, after a period of time, the “societal body” reflects homeostasis or instability.

When a society supports a food production-for-profit, and a pharmaceutical industry-for-profit, the individual becomes a cog within a manufactured environment. Food addictions and maladies follow. Societal, environmental, communal, and individual identity formation collapses.

Montes, then, is interested in literary and scientific narrative contexts that complicate and contradict national/international, social, and personal identities: how our own complex relationships to power (political, personal, cultural, dietary, medicinal, spiritual) cross ethnic, gender, sexual, and racial borderlines. Hemispheric or transnational studies are terms that describe such explorations. Montes’s studies in intellectual and corporeal narratives span the geographic areas of North America, Latin America (specifically Mexico), and the crossroads of Central and Southeast Europe (specifically Serbia).

Montes’ most recent scholarly work to date focuses on these studies, most notably her essay entitled “Rituals of Health” (Routledge Press, 2016). She has published several articles that span nineteenth, twentieth, and twenty-first century Latinx and Chicanx writers.* As well, her research investigations include an in-depth lens into Ethnic Studies and Latinx programs and departments at Midwestern universities (The Latino Midwest Reader, University of Illinois Press, 2017).

Her earlier publications focused on the Mexican American writer, María Amparo Ruiz de Burton (1832-1895), publishing several articles in national and international journals and essay collections on Ruiz de Burton. She has also edited a critical collection on Ruiz de Burton and edited one of Ruiz de Burton’s novels for Penguin Press. Montes consistently notes that Ruiz de Burton sought to contribute to nineteenth-century public conversations about different kinds of power and within this project, Ruiz de Burton reveals her own complicity within power relations (adhering to an upper class, Spanish monarchical regime). Montes posits that Ruiz de Burton’s writings mirror our own negotiations of power in the twenty-first century. In all literatures and public discourse, says Montes, we cannot think or imagine ourselves out of being implicated in power.

From studying the nineteenth-century early Mexican American era, Montes sees connections with her present writings on the body as another site of power relations and power struggles. In other words, how much do we consciously or unconsciously give ourselves over to the body politic and for what reasons?

In the area of fiction, poetry, and creative non-fiction, Montes has published in journals and collections such as the Afro-Hispanic Review, Korima Press, River City Journal, Saguaro, Elixir, Hers3. She is currently finishing a creative non-fiction memoir entitled, Nothing Sweet About Me.

Currently, Montes is a Fulbright Scholar at The University of Novi Sad, Serbia where she is writing and also co-teaching a graduate seminar on Chicanx and Latinx literature and theory. Central and Southeastern European countries are especially interested in Chicanx and Latinx studies due to their own preoccupations with immigration, border theory, and diasporic investigations.

Montes is an active member of The Modern Language Association (MLA), The American Studies Association (ASA), The Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP), The National Association for Chicana and Chicano Studies (NACCS), PEN West. She is an active and founding member of The Society for the Study of Gloria Anzaldúa (SSGA).

Montes was born in Los Angeles, California. At the time of her birth, her parents were recent immigrants from Mexico and she spent her childhood living on both sides of the border. From Los Angeles to Tijuana, Hermosillo, Guaymas, Coahuila, Guadalajara, and back. Because her parents created a traditionally Mexican home in Los Angeles, Montes has often noted that leaving her home to walk to her elementary school and later high school, was like leaving Mexico and going to the U.S. every day. Perhaps that is why, as an undergraduate student at Loyola Marymount University, she double-majored in English and Spanish literature—always straddling both cultures, languages, and histories. After receiving her B.A., she taught high school at various schools in the Los Angeles area (Edison Jr. High in South Central L.A., Hawthorne High School, El Segundo High School, and Redondo Union High School). She earned an M.Ed from Azusa Pacific University during this time. She was also a Language Arts Consultant for the State of California. In the early 1990s, Montes began graduate work in creative writing and American literature at The University of Denver. There, Montes received an M.A. in creative writing (1994) and a Ph.D in American literature (1999). In 2000, Montes joined the faculty at The University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL).

In 2004, she was a visiting scholar at The University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign (UIUC). She is currently an associate professor at UNL with a joint appointment in English and Ethnic Studies. She has served as Director of The Institute for Ethnic Studies. Montes has received numerous teaching awards. During her tenure as a high school teacher in California, she was awarded the South Bay Teacher of the Year Award. In 2004, UIUC awarded and appointed Montes to the UIUC List of Excellent Instructors. In 2005, she was awarded The University of Nebraska-Lincoln College of Arts and Sciences Distinguished Teaching Award, and The Beta Theta Pi Recognition for Outstanding Efforts in Education. In 2017, she was given The Star Teaching Award by the English Graduate Student Association (EGSA).

*The use of “x” for Chicanx and Latinx (pronounced “Chi-can-ex” or “La-teen-ex”) denotes the gender neutral terms for Chicano/Chicana and Latina/Latino.

Montes lives in Lincoln, Nebraska.

Download her CV here.