Dexter CirilloDexter Cirillo

Dexter Cirillo holds a B.A. and M.A. in English from San Diego State University and a Ph.D. in English from the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. Beginning with her service as a Peace Corps volunteer in Colombia, South America, from 1965-1967, she has carved out a professional career devoted to advancing the literature and culture of minority groups in the United States. Her first teaching job in New York (1970-1974) was at Hostos Community College of the City University of New York, the first Puerto Rican college in the United States.

Among her several academic positions, she worked at the Modern Language Association from 1974-1981, where she coordinated a nationwide program funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities to incorporate minority literature into the curriculum in colleges and universities across the country. She also served as MLA’s Director of English Programs and Editor of the Association of Departments of English Bulletin.

With Robert B. Stepto, she edited Afro-American Literature – The Reconstruction of Instruction, a collection of essays that grew out of a groundbreaking seminar held at Yale University in 1977. Recognizing the lack of representation for minority women writers in the curriculum, she published The Third Woman: Minority Women Writers of the United States (Boston: Houghton Mifflin) in 1980, highlighting the literature of Asian American, Chicana, Native American, and Afro-American women. She has also written critical introductions to two reprint editions of works by American Indian women published by the University of Nebraska Press: American Indian Stories by ZitkalaSa and Cogewea –The Half Blood by Mourning Dove. (The above books were published under Dexter Fisher.)

In 1981, Dexter left academia to pursue her long-time interest in American Indian art as an independent scholar, art dealer, and curator. In 1992, she published Southwestern Indian Jewelry (New York: Abbeville Press), “one of a few to document contemporary Indian jewelry and one of a smaller number to incorporate interviews with living artists.” In 1998, she published Across Frontiers – Hispanic Crafts of New Mexico (San Francisco: Chronicle Books). Her 2008 book, Southwestern Indian Jewelry – Crafting New Traditions (New York: Rizzoli), won a 2008 New Mexico Book Award. In it, she charts the “new generation” of jewelers to emerge since the mid-1980s. As with her previous books, Dexter has interviewed all of the artists in the book—in this case, more than eighty jewelers from eighteen Southwestern tribes.

A recognized authority in her field, Dexter is a frequent guest lecturer at museums and universities around the country (see Lectures and Events). She and her husband live in Snowmass, Colorado.

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