Biography of Benjamin Alire Saenz

Sáenz was born the fourth of seven children in New Mexico. A graduate of Las Cruces High School, he received his B.A. in Humanities and Philosophy from St. Thomas Seminary in Denver, Colorado before heading to Belgium to study theology at the University of Louvain. After spending a few years as a priest in El Paso, he went back to school, first at the University of Texas, El Paso in their MA Creative Writing program, then briefly at the University of Iowa before being awarded a Wallace E. Stegner Fellowship from Stanford University. During his time at Stanford, he completed his first book of poems, Calendar of Dust, entering the Ph.D. program there. Before receiving his doctorate, he moved back to El Paso and began teaching in the bilingual MFA program at the University of Texas, El Paso.

Sáenz has been the recipient of much critical acclaim. In addition to the general critical attention his work generated, Sáenz has received the American Book Award (in 1992, for his book Calendar of Dust), the Lannan Poetry Fellowship, and the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction for his collection of short stories Everything Begins and Ends at the Kentucky Club, making him the first Latino winner of the Prize. In the late 2000s, Sáenz came out as gay and describes much of his fiction's exploration of LGBT themes as one of the ways he comes to terms with his own sexuality. Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe has generated more interest than any of Sáenz's other works and is the winner of a Stonewall Award, the Michael L. Printz honor, a Pura Belpré Narrative Medal, and a Lambda Literary Award. Sáenz currently teaches creative writing at the University of Texas, El Paso.

Study Guides on Works by Benjamin Alire Saenz