From Night of the Radishes (2003) by Sandra Benitez
Unfamiliar sounds awaken me: Swish, swish, a pause. Swish, swish, again. Other sounds I recognize: birds chirping in the cages I'd seen the night before. I roll on my side, head resting on a bent arm. The pillows are plump and hard as salami. I'll have to ask for softer ones, or else do without. The travel clock on the night table reads almost seven. The room is already flooded with light. Walls faux-painted a dusty sage. A canvas of red poppies. A shelf displaying a carved trio of musicians. Animal musicians in polka-dotted bras. Across the room, a long dresser. Above it, a mirror framed in punched tin and little tiles. In the corner, a massive armoire. Rough-hewn wood the color of caramels.
Birth: March 26, 1941, Washington, District of Columbia
Author Sandra Benitez, previously known as Sandy Ables, attended high school and college in Missouri. She earned a B.S. in education (1962) and a M.A. in comparative literature (1974) from Northeast Missouri State University. In 1979 Benitez left her job translating management training manuals and enrolled in a creative writing course. Her first novel, a murder mystery, was not published. After her early writing attempts received negative criticism, she decided to return to her Latin American roots, changed her name to Sandra, and adopted her mother's maiden name, Benitez. An early version of her book A Place Where the Sea Remembers (1993) won her a position in the mentor program at the Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis allowing her to work with experienced writers such as author Tim O’Brien.
Benitez has won several awards including the Loft-McKnight Award, Fiction (1988); Loft-McKnight Award of Distinction, Fiction (1993); the Barnes and Noble Discover Award (1993) and the Minnesota Fiction Award (1994) for her book, A Place Where the Sea Remembers (1993); University of Minnesota Keller-Eisenstein Distinguished Writer in Residence for the 1997 winter quarter; an American Book Award (1998) for Bitter Grounds (1997); the Writers Community Residency Award for the YMCA National Writer’s Voice program in 1998; the Knapp Chair in Humanities as Associate Professor of Creative Writing at the University of San Diego (2001); Judith Anderson Stoutland Writer-in-Residence, St Olaf College, Northfield, Minnesota (2004); National Hispanic Heritage Award for Literature (2004); and she received one of the first United States Artists Awards, being named a USA Gund Fellow (2006).
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Minnesota Historical Society Links
• Sandra Benitez - Author web site
• Sandra Benitez: Voices From the Gaps: University of Minnesota - Biography and literary criticism
• Mayan and Modern Worlds Vie in El Salvador Tale - Bitter Grounds book review from the Christian Science Monitor
• Sandra Benitez - Biography
• Review: ‘Night of the Radishes’ a Homegrown Yarn - Book review in the Star Tribune