A Critic's Journey

Ilan Stavans

One of the leading voices in Latino literature writes about his life and work


Ilan Stavans has been a lightning rod for cultural discussion and criticism his entire career. In A Critic's Journey, he takes on his own Jewish and Hispanic upbringing with an autobiographical focus and his typical flair with words, exploring the relationship between the two cultures from his own and also from others' experiences.

Stavans has been hailed as a voice for Latino culture thanks to his Hispanic upbringing, but as a Jew and a Caucasian, he's also an outsider to that culture—something that's sharpened his perspective (and some of his critics' swords). In this book of essays, he looks at the creative process from that point of view, exploring everything from the translation of Don Quixote to the Hispanic anti-Semitism and the Holocaust in Latin America.

Cover photo: Sam Masinter

Praise for Ilan Stavans

"Latin America's liveliest and boldest critic and most innovative cultural enthusiast."
The Washington Post

"One of the most influential figures in Latino literature in the United States."
The New York Times

"An intellectual force to reckon with."
The Philadelphia Inquirer

Ilan Stavans is Lewis-Sebring Professor in Latin American and Latino Culture and Five College Fortieth Anniversary Professor at Amherst College. A native of Mexico, he received his doctorate in Latin American Literature from Columbia University. Stavans's books include The Hispanic Condition, On Borrowed Words, Spanglish, Dictionary Days, The Disappearance, Love & Language (with Verónica Albin), Resurrecting Hebrew, and Mr. Spic Goes to Washington, and he has edited books including The Oxford Book of Jewish Stories and the upcoming Norton Anthology of Latino Literature. His story "Morirse está en Hebreo" was made into the award-winning movie My Mexican Shivah.

Stavans has received numerous awards, among them a Guggenheim Fellowship, the National Jewish Book Award, an Emmy nomination, the Latino Book Award, Chile's Presidential Medal, the Rubén Darío Distinction, and the Cátedra Roberto Bolaño. His work has been translated into a dozen languages.

Praise / Awards

  • "For Stavans, criticism is a way of life: risky, gorgeous, heart-stoppingly urgent. He does it brilliantly, and not without a little mischief."
    —Esther Schor, author of Emma Lazarus and Professor of Judaic Studies, Princeton University

  • "Stavans's vigorous engagement with Hispanic, American, and Jewish traditions makes him an ideal critic and mediator for these cross-cultural times."
    —Morris Dickstein, author of Dancing in the Dark

  • "A literary feast of astonishing variety, but centered by the recurring enigmas of Spanish and Judaism and Cervantes, and always delightfully attentive to authors frequently overlooked."
    —Ariel Dorfman, author of Heading South, Looking North

Look Inside

Copyright © 2009, University of Michigan. All rights reserved.

News, Reviews, Interviews

"Discovering Cuban Sci-fi"  | Boing Boing | 9/19/2014

Feature | Hispanic Marketing & Public Relations | 9/3/2010

Review Boston Globe | 2/13/2010

Review Forward | 12/9/2009

Q&A with Ilan Stavans | PDF | 12/9/2009

UMP Author Podcast Series: Ilan Stavans | MP3 | December 2009

Product Details

  • 6 x 9.
  • 208pp.
Available for sale worldwide

  • Hardcover
  • 2009
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-11706-2

Add to Cart
  • $79.95 U.S.

  • Paper
  • 2009
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-03382-9

Add to Cart
  • $26.95 U.S.



  • Jewish life, Latino life, Jewish-Latino relations, translation, language, literary criticism, Yiddish, Miguel de Cervantes, Gabriel García Márquez, Roberto Bolaño, Sandra Cisneros, Richard Rodriguez, autobiography