Story Share

Juan was an incredible, teacher, writer, poet, critic, storyteller, and at times instigator who impacted many people around the world.  He always loved a good story and shared many with me throughout my life and even during the days before his death.  It would be incredibly meaningful to our family, if you would share a personal story, memory, or interesting anecdote about my father. We ask that you share these stories as an enduring remembrance instead of sending flowers. We think he would have enjoyed some good writing and entertaining stories.

We know Juan’s friends are great writers but if you need some inspiration: What is the most entertaining time you had with Juan? What is you favorite memory of him? What is the favorite story he told you? How did you meet him? What impact did he have on you?

If you have a personal story you want to share privately, please email jbruce @ (remove spaces).  You can also email photos to add to the album.

We hope to compile the content for his memorial celebration.  Stories in Spanish and English are welcome.

Juan Carlos Bruce-Novoa (Juan’s son)
jbruce @

Please share stories at the bottom of the page in the “Leave a Reply” box.

Email Addresses will be kept private.

89 responses to “Story Share

  1. Viola Miglio

    It is with great sadness that I just read the news of Juan Bruce’s passing. I knew him as a Mexicanista and although our paths did not cross often, I remember him with great fondness – especially on the occasion of the most moving, sensitive, thorough and gifted address he gave remembering our common friend Tim McGovern. May they both be at peace.
    My most heartfelt condolences to his family,
    Viola Miglio, UCSB

  2. Emily Hind

    I had few interactions with Juan in numerical terms, but whenever we crossed paths, the result was always fundamental to my professional development. I will never forget that he saved me at one conference in the US. At that time, I was a young professor at the Universidad Iberoamericana in Mexico City and my book of interviews had just come out with a European publishing house. The press had sent something like 20 copies to the conference, and even though I did my best to sell them, by the last day I still had something like 12 books. The thought of taking those heavy books back to Mexico on the plane and then facing customs was making me pale. After hearing me fret about the predicament, Juan Bruce Novoa, almost wordlessly, reached into his pocket, pulled out his wallet, and paid for the dozen texts. He took them away to California, where I believe he distributed them for free among his students (and others’ students too). He was a grand man.

  3. Astrid Fellner

    I first met Prof. Juan Bruce Novoa at a conference in Spain after I had just graduated from the University of Vienna. This was the first conference paper that I gave and I was pretty scared. And when I looked into the program I couldn’t believe my eyes: I was on the same panel as Prof. Bruce-Novoa. I introduced myself to him and he looked at me very suspiciously at first, asking me where I had come across Chicano literature in Austria. And then, while I was giving my paper, he had this questioning look on his face. Naturally, I felt very intimitated, and after my paper I ran away immediately. He caught up with me, told me that he didn’t agree with a couple of things I said. I thought this was the end of it, but, in fact this was the beginning of a 20-year friendship. Juan was my mentor, my role model and was always a great inspiration in my life. He was always there when I needed him. He invited me to Irvine where I met his wonderful family, and whenever I visited I felt very much at home. Without his help I would never have been able to finish my Ph.D. at U of Vienna. I feel very privileged to have known such a kind man, a great scholar and a professor who has inspired me also to become a professor. I will deeply miss him.

    • Adriana Gomez Castillo

      Hi Astrid,

      I am wondering if you are the same Astrid I met in Irvine California in 1997 when we both came to work on our project having Dr. Novoa as a mentor. I came from UNAM in Mexico City and spent 10 months in Irvine in 1997. I was friends with Carlos Vonson and I had a lovely friend named Astrid. Is this you?

  4. Rolando J Romero

    I first met Juan at the University of Pennsylvania back in the mid 70s when I was an undergraduate student, and Juan came to teach the first course in Chicano literature, commuting from New Heaven to Philadelphia every week. My professional life will always be bookended by these memories, and the moments we spent with him at the 2010 Mexicanistas conference at Irvine six weeks ago. A great friend, a great mentor, a great scholar. May we all live by his example, and honor his memory.

  5. Jerry McNeill

    John Bruce was my childhood best friend, we were inseparable for many years as you may recall from the grade school days and yes, very much so the neighborhood events. Most vivid memory in my minds eye were our bicycle trips to visit the girls from school. Even further back I remember the days and hours he and I played football on his front grass but we always played on our knees because of the space. John’s older bother Jim and my brother Pete were best friends and Saber Auto Club members I will send him this notice.

    Gosh, what a rush of memories I am having right now and even more feelings of regret for not staying in touch, I can’t remember the last time I spoke with John.

    Tom, this is terrible news and especially disturbing that we are not immortal and more disturbing that my childhood idol, my best friend is not invincible. I am so sad,

    • Pete Caruso


      Were it not but for a dream about John that I had last night I’d not likely have found this website today.

      None others from our class at St. Catherine’s here? Que lastima!

      I was happy to see your name here and hope you are well. You were not at the 40th class reunion, which was a disappointment to me. John was, which was a joy.

      I am going to email Jaun Carlos, so if you would like to reconnect via email he probably will be happy to send my email address to you.


  6. Analaura Brophy

    Conocí al Profesor Bruce-Novoa hace tres meses en una de mis clases en UCI. Cada día, durante todo el trimestre de la Primavera, mis compañeros y yo comentamos lo impresionante de su conocimento y su gran capacidad para compartirlo con sus estudiantes. Indudablemente, uno de los mejores profesores que he tenido en mi vida. Lo voy a extrañar profundamente porque después de esos tres meses él se quedó en mi corazón para siempre. Un abrazo fuerte para toda su familia…

  7. Jared White

    Dr. Bruce-Novoa was an impressive scholar with an incredible acumen. Capable of connecting seemingly impossible-to-connect ideas (his last class, for instance, was on intertextuality in Carpentier’s Los pasos perdidos), his keen insights were always appreciated. I can remember on many occasions wondering how the professor was going to join a slew of apparently tangential ideas and, after a brief explanation, I was always satisfied and very grateful for his astute literary analysis.

    On a personal level, Professor Bruce-Novoa helped rekindle my interest to Latin American literature. I have gained a new appreciation for what it has to offer and look forward to delving into LA texts in the future, pursuing meaningful ways to connect them with my own studies. Thank you Dr. Bruce-Novoa, you will not be forgotten!

  8. Bibiana Díaz

    Me llena de infinita tristeza encontrarme con esta noticia. Parece que lo veo caminando con su elegancia por el patio del Departamento para llegar a su oficina, la cual, al final de trimestre, se mantenía más ocupada que confesionario en Semana santa.
    Siempre con esa sonrisa, paciencia y generosidad para ayudar a todos. “Ahora que mencionas ese tema, tengo un libro por aquí que te puede ayudar.”
    Sus clases siempre amenas, acompañadas de anécdotas personales o de maravillosos invitados que traía de todo lado y que hacían del aprendizaje una experiencia inolvidable. Es muy difícil ver como una persona tan llena de vida y de entusiasmo en todo lo que hacía, nos haya dejado tan rápido. Siempre estará en nuestros corazones profesor. Muchas gracias por todo.

  9. Patty Tovar

    Imposible recontar una de las historias de Bruce-Novoa porque tenía varias favoritas (la belleza y crianza de su madre, su tío el banquero en quien se inspiró Carlos Fuentes en una novela, el tío escritor de la generación de los Contemporáneos, su abuela y los modales de otras épocas, sus encuentros con Juan Ponce, etc.). Siempre recordaré sus clases que fueron muy interesantes pero nada fáciles: cómo nos hizo leer, cómo nos hizo discutir aun cuando estaba de acuerdo y cómo nos hizo desatinar cuando NO estaba de acuerdo. Le agradezco a él y a Mary Ann por abrirnos las puertas de su casa y compartir su tiempo fuera de clase.
    A pesar de su erudición y su elocuencia, siempre saludaba con un “quiubo” que siempre me confundió por lo coloquial e inesperado de la frase. Un “quiubo” que era jovial, sin pretensiones de rango, abierto y amigable. Un “quiubo” que, como él, se queda grabado en la memoria.
    Gracias BN.

  10. I worked with Juan for several years in the Humanities Core Course and was very impressed by the preparation that he put into his lectures, particularly in choosing visual images, and his interest in having students pursue independent research projects in the local area. In a course with over a thousand students, his interest in the students’ individual stories, language backgrounds, and enthusiasms was really striking.

    One of my clearest memories of Juan involves when one of my own freshman students was working on an essay about the whitewashing of the mural Tropical America in downtown Los Angeles. Juan put this first-year UCI student in contact with local scholars working on Siqueiros and checked back with her periodically to see how she was doing on tracking down sources for her project. When you look at the research prospectus that this eighteen-year-old wrote (, you can see how valuable Juan’s mentorship turned out to be and the ways that he encouraged even first-year undergraduates to tackle complex stories about cultural contact and cultural conflict.

  11. Mauricio Rodriguez

    I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing one of the preeminent founders of the Chicana/o field of study during our “Las Platicas” lecture series at El Paso Community College in 2008. The brief moment I spent in his presence will be forever cemented in my memory. Anyone interested in listening to the good Dr. can view a short clip on YouTube. Type in “El Paso Community College-Chicano Studies”. The complete (hour long) video is on file at any EPCC library.

  12. Raquel Roman

    Words can hardly convey how exceptional Professor Bruce-Novoa is and how much he will be missed. He was the very first person to call me regarding my acceptance to UCI four years ago, and I was naturally thrilled. From the very beginning, he was very personable and easy to talk to and always available for guidance. He was an outstanding mentor, and I couldn’t be more grateful for having had the opportunity to discuss the art of literature at length with him. His knowledge was a treasure. Not only did he have a remarkable command over numerous texts, but he also knew most of the authors personally. He always had the best anecdotes to accompany the time and place of a literary movement.

    These four years that I have spent at UCI are filled with many fond memories of him. I remember the very first course I ever took with him was on the Artist’s book. The idea of rendering unusual objects as books was mind-altering, but that was just the way he was- always broadening our horizons. I truly cherish my experience with professor Bruce-Novoa as something that will last a lifetime. This moment has been very hard, but he will no doubt always live on in my heart. My deepest and warmest regards to MaryAnn and John.

    Fuerte abrazos,


  13. Susan Antebi

    I am deeply saddened and shocked by the news of Juan’s passing. I will always remember him as a brilliant and generous teacher (though I never had the privilege of actually taking a class with him). As a new assistant professor at UC Riverside, I attended my first Mexicanistas conferences at Irvine, where Juan and Mary Ann made me feel right at home. Juan’s extraordinary scholarship, combined with his kindness and openness, allowed us all to learn from him, whether we were his students, or occasional visitors. I will always be grateful for his support of my work from its earliest stages, and I know that so many other fledgling scholars found their way thanks to his guidance.
    Juan, you will be greatly missed and never forgotten. My thoughts are with you and your family.

  14. I first met Professor Juan Bruce-Novoa at his home on the occasion of a departmental end-of-the-year forum that also coincided with the completion of his tenure as Department Chair in June 1996 shortly before I officially went on the payroll as an administrative assistant. I worked with Professor Bruce-Novoa until March 2009.

    I will always remember his graciousness toward me throughout the course of my employment in the UCI Department of Spanish and Portuguese. He was complementary about my work and encouraging about my personal plans and goals. I especially enjoyed hearing stories from him about his family of origin and about his international travels with his lovely wife, Mary Ann.

    Which reminds me that he absolutely never failed to bring back a sweet souvenir of his voyages for me and my colleagues on the admin staff. He was a thoughtful man with a wonderful laugh when he was tickled about something.

    Please accept my most heartfelt condolences in the loss of your father, Juan Carlos, and please extend those condolences to your mother, Mary Ann, about whom your father always spoke to me with pride and admiration––as he did also about you.


  15. Mary Bruce

    Dear Juan and Mary Ann,

    I am so saddened and sorry for you loss. John was a very good friend and a wonderful brother-in-law I do have some stories to share.

    I first met John in 1961 when Jim and I were dating. John had been driving Jim’s car. He had decorated the dashboard with some type of white furry material. The rearview window had a Holy Family tiger whose eyes were connected to the turn signals. It was something to see!

    Did you know your father had a band? It was called the Star Tones. I think they changed the name to something more modern. His band played at our rehearsal dinner. There used to be a place on Lookout mountain. The band played there many times during the week. They made good money. John loved to go out for dinner There was a special place near the state capitol . John loved to go to this restaurant. He always paid for us and probably others he invited. He was always very generous.

    There is tradition in the Bruce family. Your grandmother gave Mary Ann and me our diamond rings. It was a type of welcome to the family. Lola died shortly before our son, Bob was married. John continued the tradition by giving Rachel a beautiful necklace.

    Although we lived far apart, John and Mary Ann always called whenever they in Denver. They were always so interested in our family.

    Did you know that your father in our son’s Godfather. He bought the baptismal gown for him. We have used it for all of the children’s Baptisms
    Johnny was always very kind to me. Jim and I always knew that I could count on him and Mary Ann for anything.

    I knew that he was very ill when he and Mary Ann came to Denver this Fall. I can’t begin to tell you about how impressed I was seeing the way your Mother and Father helped and cared for each other during his illness. Juan, Your Papa loved your very much and was so proud of you. He always had a special, for want of a better word, twinkle in his eyes whenever he spoke of you.
    I would to close with some words from the Irish poet John O’Donohue:

    May you continue to inspire us
    To enter each day with a generous heart.
    To serve the call of courage and love
    Until we see your beautiful face again
    In that land where there is no more separation,
    Where all tears will be wiped from our mind,
    And where we will never lose you again.

    With love, Mary Bruce

  16. Magda Díaz y Morales

    Un cariñoso abrazo para la familia.

    Nuestro querido Juan Bruce-Novoa, siempre vivirá en nuestro corazón.

  17. Gonzalo Navajas

    Dear Mary Ann and Juan Carlos,
    Juan was an exceptional human being, intellectual, and friend. The perfect collaborator in all the many projects in which we worked together. To me, he is irreplaceable. All his
    contributions will be with us forever and they will continue to be an example for both his colleagues and students. He will be especially missed in the Film Forum, the book presentations, colloquiums, and the many other events in which his presence was essential. But he is and will always be with us because his personal and intellectual integrity and lucidity will continue to enlighten us.
    Juan, un gran e imborrable abrazo.
    With my deepest sympathy and friendship. Gonzalo

  18. Brian Cope

    Dear Mary Ann and Juan Carlos,

    I am stunned and deeply saddened by the news of Juan’s passing. I met Juan when I entered the graduate program at UCI in 1996 and during my eight years in the program I came to think of him as a mentor and friend. There is no question that he was an extremely erudite scholar, and my work on the Spanish author Miguel de Unamuno–someone who technically falls outside of Juan’s area of expertise–benefitted immensely from the conversations I had with him. It was the everyday things, however, that I carry with me and upon which I will never cease to reflect as I pursue my own career in the profession.

    Juan approached everything he did with heightened purpose, which was nothing short of inspiring. The talks he gave at the Sigma Delta Pi inductions and before film forum screenings were as enlightening and as carefully prepared as the lectures he gave to his classes and at professional meetings. He never seemed to cut any corners.

    Juan was a distinguished scholar, yet he treated everyone as his equal. He listened with genuine interest, even (and especially) if he held a different viewpoint. Most of all, when he would take the time to share something with you, when he would go the extra mile to prepare a set of remarks, he made you feel that you were worthy of his time and his knowledge. Many of us will remember him for his seemingly endless generosity and the confidence he both nurtured and inspired.

    In the eight years I spent at UCI, I never saw Juan give up on a student. He gave them his full and unconditional support. He also enjoyed telling stories, and he enjoyed intelligent, lively conversation. It was always such a pleasure to be around him, and I think of him truly as a role model.

    Finally, to Juan Carlos, your dad talked about you often, and it was always with great pride and even sometimes awe. He came back from one of his visits with you when you were at Stanford talking about how fast your internet connection was in your dorm room. As he was relating what he had seen to a room full of graduate students and professors (yes it was during an open lecture in the department), a distinguished professor from History informed him that what he was describing was called the “ethernet” and we had the same thing in most parts of UCI. But to your father it was as if you lived somewhere on the new frontier, where everything was better, and he was just bursting with pride that you were a part of it all. You often came up in this kind of random way, and whenever he spoke of you, it was always with a mixture of pride and admiration.

    To Mary Ann and Juan Carlos, please except my condolences and deepest sympathies for your loss. Juan will be missed by many.

  19. William Arce

    I never met Mr. Novoa, never had him for a class, never heard him speak live. Still, I am writing this short message because Mr. Novoa had a tremendous impact in my life. During my first two year of undergraduate study at U.C. Berkeley I was having a terrible time at school. I struggled through all of my classes, and I felt tremendously isolated. I was admitted to U.C. Berkeley because of affirmative action and so I had to work extremely hard to keep up with the rest of the students in my class. Still, no matter how well I did on an exam, or how hard I worked on a paper, I always felt out of place at U.C. Berkey.
    One day as I walked through the halls of Berkeley’s central library I came across Mr. Novoa’s book RetroSpace: Collected Essays on Chicano Literature, Theory, and History. I am not Chicano, I am from Costa Rica, but the few friends I had in school all said they were Chicanos. I read through the book, and the analysis of the literature was truly beautiful, Mr. Novoa’s was writing about issues I was struggling with: isolation, marginalization, bi culturalism, and the overall feeling of being unwanted. I began reading many of the novels he talked about and declared myself an English major.
    Well, that was 13 years ago. Today I am an Assistant Professor in the Department of English at the University of Texas at Arlington. I still use some of Prof. Novoa’s essays in my class. My students say his writing is clear and not “highfaluting.” I agree with my students and understand that Prof. Novoa’s writing speaks to them as well.
    My sincerest condolences on your loss.
    William Arce

  20. Gail Hart

    Juan was a wonderful teacher in Humanities Core Course as Liz has indicated. His lectures were so carefully crafted and multi-dimensional that they were sometimes breathtaking. I remember him coming into the office with stacks of art books and showing me what he planned to do. He was so excited about bringing sources, media, and disciplines together and he always wanted to tell you about his ideas for the next lecture. He literally knew everything and he really enjoyed sharing his knowledge and his enthusiasm with students. I did not know he was slipping away and I will really miss him. He was a brave thinker and a fine teacher.

  21. If Juan hadn’t been my professor at Yale, I might have never considered getting a Ph.D. I went to college thinking I would get a teaching certificate and return to El Paso, but from the time I arrived in New Haven, Juan pointed me in a different direction. During my freshman year he told me about a job opening as Professor Juan José Arrom’s student assistant, and I am sure both of them were instrumental in my getting a Fulbright-Hays fellowship to Mexico City.

    Juan and Mary Ann opened their home to all of the Chicanos at Yale and if it hadn’t been for their constant support many of us may have not stuck around and finished. It was with them that I first saw New York city and went up to the twin towers along with Lorna Dee Cervantes; it was with them that I saw Brecht’s Mahogany at the Yale Repertory Theater; and it was at their place where I first got introduced to haute cuisine. I can still taste the fine wines, the various cheeses, and the assorted patés that were a common staple at their gatherings. And who can forget Mary Ann’s Baked Alaska and Pecan Sandies? I still have the recipes she hand wrote. My senior year, after I got back from my junior year abroad in Barcelona, Mary Ann and Juan entrusted me with their newborn, Juan Carlos, whom I baby sat many a times.

    For my senior project, Juan suggested that I translate Juan García Ponce’s La casa en la playa, which then allowed me to put together a proposal for the Fulbright Commission to go to Mexico and translate several works by García Ponce. At the same time Juan encouraged me to apply to the University of Kansas. I was accepted to the graduate program in the Spanish Department and postponed entrance after I was awarded the fellowship.

    In Kansas I worked with John S. Brushwood and received my Ph.D. in Spanish in 1985, but throughout my career Juan continued to give me advice and to encourage me to attend conferences and publish my work. Juan always seemed to be thinking ten steps ahead and could visualize how all the pieces fit together. I always marveled at his ability to organize scholarly events, to write, to create, to act, and to communicate his ideas so clearly in class and at the podium to audiences large or small.

    Because of Juan we all had the opportunity to meet and listen to the first generation of great Chicano writers. While I was at Yale between 1975 and 1979, in addition to Lorna Dee Cervantes, he invited Rudy Anaya, José Montoya, and Bernice Zamora among others. At an MLA in San Francisco he introduced me to Cecile Pineda and in Paris—while I was three months pregnant with my first child, whom he baptized— to Judith Ortiz Cofer.

    Thanks to Juan I was introduced to the artistic scene in Mexico City and met some of the members of the Ruptura generation. The year I spent in Mexico City, I met Arnaldo Coen, Manuel Felguérez, Roger von Gunten, and Fernando García Ponce. I also met writers Inés Arredondo—and translated a couple of her stories under Juan’s supervision—, Juan Vicente Melo, René Avilés Fabila, Manuel Ulacia, José Emilio Pacheco, and others.

    A true friend, an accomplished scholar, and a great teacher has moved on to “la vida perdurable,” as García Ponce called it, but his legacy remains forever in this ephemeral world.

  22. Efrén Ortiz Domínguez

    Es lamentable, en todos los sentidos, la pérdida de Juan. Recordamos con afecto su estancia en Xalapa, hace cinco años, cuando vino a compartirnos su sensibilidad, su talento y su experiencia. Nos unimos con su familia en la pena de perder a un gran ser humano.

  23. Dorothy Reyes

    Juan was my teacher, my mentor and, above all, my friend. He encouraged me to enter graduate school to get my M.A. in Spanish Literature when I wasn’t sure I could succeed and he made me believe that I could. (I did). Four years ago when my sister died, it fell to me to speak at her memorial service. Again with self-doubts, I wrote to Juan who encouraged me again and told me “You have my absent presence.” It was the exact thing I needed and gave me the strength to write and deliver a eulogy for my sister that was worthy of her.

    His absent presence will be with us forever in the form of his amazing writings, his trailblazing achievements in Chicano Studies and the spark of creativity he has lit in the minds of his multitudes of students.

    I will never forget his kindness and generosity to me.

    My sincere condolences to his family.

    Que descanses en paz, Juan.

  24. Cynthia A. Quintero

    Professor Bruce-Novoa was a unique, extraordinary, and brilliant scholar. His knowledge of history, literature, the arts, among others was astounding. As a mentor, he guided with patience, always challenging and encouraging us to perceive the unique in the quotidian. Bruce-Novoa was grand because he challenged conventions, forever questioning, never conforming. When discussing literature, he’d recommend a few titles, and if he had the book on hand, he’d give it to me with a gentle and enthusiastic, “Quizás esto te sirva o te interese.” No visit to his office or to his home was without learning from him. Thank you Professor Bruce-Novoa for the privilege of working with you, for the numerous emails encouraging my work, and most importantly, for all the gifts you shared with us all. You are in our hearts and your work is forever with us. My deepest condolences to Mary Ann and Juan Carlos.
    Infinitely grateful to you,
    Cynthia A. Quintero

  25. My first encounter with Professor Bruce-Novoa occurred when he reached out to me in a phone call of 1985 asking me was I a Chicana. He was the first of many critics to include me, an atypical, New York City-born Mexican-American, as a member of a writing community whose welcome has been warm and deeply valued through these many years. I will always acknowledge my gratefulness for the important role he played in helping my work become part of the Mexican American canon. My deepest condolences to la Señora Mary Ann and to John.

  26. Brook Haley

    What sadness. I glimpsed Juan on campus not long ago in passing and thought to contact him later with a brief hello–a chance passed.

    As a Teaching Associate for Humanities Core, I was very fortunate to witness Juan’s lectures, and to work with students on the material he supplied. His lectures on changes in approaches to monuments and memorials in Mexico City and on world expositions helped me learn to teach using architecture and visual analysis.

    But in some ways I was more impressed with his work on the Graduate Council of the Academic Senate. This kind of service work is not glamorous, but Juan did his homework, listened carefully and respectfully to students’ views, and worked to improve programs across the campus with his contributions to discussions on anything from international exchanges to Ph.D. exam structures.

  27. Gloria L. Velasquez

    Me dio tanta tristeza en el corazón for Juan Bruce was one of the first literatos I met during our involvidable Flor Y Canto Days. Lo estimaba tanto and his kindness to a young poeta starting out still remain in my heart. We will miss you, Juan Bruce, nosotros los “Lifers de Xicanisma/o” will always remember you, especially esta Xicanita del Barrio de Aztlán. Nunca olvidaré the last time we shared our love of Chic Lit., as well as our friendship, allá en Alemania….

  28. Ha sido una noticia inesperada. El profesor Bruce-Novoa siempre estaba tan lleno de entusiasmo y energía.
    Hace un tiempo cuando pasaba por el dolor de otra gran pérdida me llamó por teléfono para darme una buena noticia; tan cortés y amable como siempre permaneció ecuánime y me brindó su apoyo sin comentar, elegante.
    Lo voy a extrañar. Descanse en paz.

  29. Jim Bruce

    John was my younger brother. Six years separated us and we were not able to share similar activities as we grew up. As we grew, I went the way of the corporate world and he in academia. As such our paths differed. All the while we cared for each other but in different worlds.

    When we were growing up we played together. I recall he was the catcher as I was the batter in baseball. I played football in High School and even made the all-league team. John played and he made the High school All-American squad. Rather than being jealous, I was happy for him and proud. I recall the previous summer when the family went to Europe and John left early to return with my father so that he could join in his football practice.

    As I grew older and entered the work world John continued in his studies. While in college he was highly influenced by a Jesuit priest, Fr. McGinnis. I believe he entered the teaching profession in part through his influence. His Chicano studies influenced his life. One day while I was at coffee with some colleagues I ran into John at the coffee shop. After I had talked to him a friend asked who that was and I told him ‘my brother”. He said “I didn’t know you were Hispanic…you should let HR know” …to aid in my advancement.

    We lost touch and only saw each other occasionally. Our visits were short and usually with other relatives. They were happy visits but we did not share as we did the last one.

    Last fall I went to spend some time with him after the loss of his leg. It was the time we had together that brought us so much closer. We shared stories of your youth, stories of our family both immediate and other relatives. We talked about his travel. How he loved Germany. These memories will remain private for me but in this sharing he and I were able to grow together…so much closer than other times of our lives. I went home and prayed that he would heal. He treated this loss of limb so bravely. He looked forward to continue teaching. I’ve never witnessed someone who could easily have become bitter but remained positive. My prayers were not to be answered. We got the call that his conditioned worsened. I was looking forward to the visit we planned in July; but it wasn’t to be.

    Goodbye Juan (Johnny). I shall miss you.

    • mike curry

      Jim, I hope you have a good memory.
      My brother, Ron Curry, went to school with you. I was the little brother always hanging around. John and I were classmates and I have many fond memories of him. Sports, girls, laughs and so much more. I lost touch with him for many years but we renewed our friendship at class reunions. The stuff we laughed at this past reunion were the dumb things that young and dumb kids do. I really don’t think either one of us would change a thing.
      Jim, I’m sorry for your loss.
      mike curry
      P.S. Ron died in 1992, six months before Dick Callahan died.

  30. Tom and Pat Giroux

    Mary Ann and Juan, we certainty have had a lot good times with you all of you. We will miss John. There were many good times just talking and making tamales’ on 46 Ave in Denver, traveling the boarder of the US. Pat and I enjoyed the auto and other events we were able to attend with all of you.

    The one that stands out in my mind was with Juan Carlos’s BMW club event, I was elected to drive Juan’s BMW by John , as he did not like heights and we were in a rally going up a pass either on California Highway #1 or going towards Highway #1. I think this was before Juan had a driver’s license. We were told that as we neared the top of the mountain there would be a drop off of the road just past crest at the top of the mountain. The pass was steep and relatively narrow. There was no oncoming traffic because of the club event. As we crested the mountain it felt like you were going air born and it looked like you were going out into space and the ocean below. The road drop felt like a roll coaster hill only you could not see it coming. What I remember is that Juan and John both ducked down and I would of if I could have but I was driving. I remember us having a good laugh over this hill.

    We have had wonderful times with all of you and we are going to miss John. Know that he will always be with both of you.
    Love always,

    Tom and Patty Giroux

  31. Juanita Luna Lawhn

    I am so saddened by Juan’s death and I send you my sincere condolences. Some of us are fortunate to run into one or two persons in our lives who have an incredible impact on who we become. Juan was that person for me. Without his guidance, mentoring, and professional friendship, I would not have been able to contribute to my institution all that I have contributed concerning Chicano Literature. I met him in Houston in the mid-70’s and before I dropped him off at his parents home in San Antonio, I had already invited him to lecture on Bless Me, Ultima at San Antonio College the following morning. His presentation was brilliant–Ultima as an axi-mundi. The following summer, he conducted a 16–week seminar on Chicano literature. I am from Texas and this was not Juan’s favorite state because of the unbearable heat that is so much part of our climate, but I always teased him that if he gave Texas a chance, he might grow to enjoy it–even love it. He always answered with a smile, “NO!” –an affimative “NO!” He guided me in so many conferences and seminars that we organized here in San Antonio College–in fact, since 1980, I have organized and directed a conference on Chicano literature at SAC, always with his professional advice and guidance. It is because of him that I was able to convince my institution of the significance of such conferences–through the years, many Chicano scholars have participated in our conferences. I recalled an international conference “Mexico/US”–present were scholars such as Don Luis, Francisco Lomeli, Rolando Hinojosa, Chuck Tatum, Rene Aviles Fabila and Cecil Robinson. As we met for our Friday morning sessions, he asked, “So what did you do last night?” I answered, anticipating his reaction, “James (my husband) and I took Rene and Cecil to a western music dance hall–“The Bluebonnet.” He replied in astonishment, “You took Cecil.” “Yes,” I answered. “We danced to Hank William’s songs.” He shook his head as he smiled. There were so many occasions that brought smiles to his face as I related some of my adventures. Like the one in Stuttgard where James and I went to the hot springs. When I called him–he too was in Germany–to relate the excitement of meeting a group of German women feminists that he had introduced me to and with whom he had organized a venue for me to present my research on Mexican women in San Antonio–he asked, “Juanita, have you had a glass of wine?” He knew that a half a glass of red wine would totally knock me out. I could not convince him that my relaxed voice was a result of the hot springs and not of “red-wine.” There are so many stories like this that I could tell–stories that often included him, James, and myself. He was always a good friend to James and myself. In my last e-mail, I shared a couple of my poems and informed him that one of my articles on the Mexican women in San Antonio was going to be published–for it was our work on Chicano literature that nurtured our friendship–he answered {yes, being a mentor} responding to the content and style of my poems. That is what Juan has done for so many of us–encouraged us to continue studying/reflecting on our written/our literary history. For us to come to an understanding of who we are, we must not only know our oral traditions, but we must recuperate the written words of our past–and Juan spent countless hours going to the pages of La Prensa to recuperate the original words of Martin Luis Guzman.
    Que en paz descance.
    Juanita Luna Lawhn

  32. Juan Bruce-Novoa, un gran mexicanista
    René Avilés Fabila

    Me dicen que la noticia de su muerte apareció en algunos medios, yo me enteré por medio del escritor Bernardo Ruiz, a quien le llamó la crítica literaria norteamericana Norma Klahn. Mi entrañable amigo Juan Bruce-Novoa falleció el pasado viernes 11 en California. Amigos norteamericanos habían sido avisados por su único hijo. Como indican sus apellidos, mi amigo Juan (cuando lo conocí usaba el nombre John) era hijo de una maravillosa mujer de origen mexicano y de un distinguido norteamericano. Ambos habían muerto hace algunos años. A Johny lo conocí en 1967, vino a México a investigar para concluir sus estudios superiores especializados en letras mexicanas. Yo acababa de publicar mi novela Los juegos y vivía rodeado de un gran escándalo: todos querían saber quiénes eran los destacados intelectuales que aparecían en el libro, criminalmente satirizados. En México Johny fue recibido por un escritor latinoamericano, cuyo nombre por desgracia he olvidado, y le habló de mí. Entramos en contacto, éramos casi de la misma edad y ambos estábamos recién casados.
    De inmediato inició una amistad que jamás dejamos. Cada que le era posible, me invitaba a la universidad donde él trabajaba. De este modo, di conferencias en Yale, Columbia, en la Universidad de Nueva York y más adelante en los distintos planteles de la Universidad de California. En cada encuentro la amistad se afianzaba. Con el tiempo se identificó como chicano y cambió el John por Juan. Era un crítico literario de gran intensidad, un muy buen novelista y un hombre sensible, capaz de encontrar los secretos de un cuadro de arte moderno. Cuando en 1970 mi esposa y yo fuimos a estudiar el posgrado a Francia, mi querido amigo me envió una carta indicándome en qué países tenía familiares para que no llegáramos a Europa totalmente desprotegidos de amistades. Conservo un buen número de sus cartas, la mayoría escritas a mano. En esta larga e impecable amistad hubo un viaje a Alemania para discutir el estado de las letras mexicanas luego de la masacre de Tlatelolco. Era un grupo grande, estaban algunos de los mejores narradores y críticos mexicanos. La exposición de Juan Bruce-Novoa fue brillante, aguda, llena de aportaciones, envidiable. Debo añadir un largo encuentro en Minnesota, donde coincidimos, entre otros, con el muy exitoso Óscar Hijuelos, ganador del Premio Pulitzer, fueron días de intensas pláticas literarias entre el narrador de origen cubano, Juan y yo. Una noche conté de mi amistad con Alejo Carpentier. Hijuelos se interesó mucho, quería saber más de la gran literatura cubana. Juan y yo le dimos nuestros puntos de vista en una larga noche que se extendió hasta la madrugada, cuando apenas podíamos hablar por la fatiga y el vino.
    Juan se afianzó como exponente teórico de las letras chicanas y del modo de ser de este tipo de escritor que se expresa en espanglish y vive atrapado por dos culturas. Hablaba de manera impecable inglés y castellano, además del francés y el italiano. Tenía especial cariño por la literatura y la persona de Juan García Ponce y yo me empeñé en que leyera a otro autor de esa generación, Juan Vicente Melo. Fue también amigo de José Luis Cuevas, Sebastián, Rubén Bonifaz Nuño, Marco Antonio Campos, Carlos Montemayor, Bernardo Ruiz y de un alto número de exponentes de la cultura nacional. Su trato era cordial y distinguido. Combinaba lo mejor de las dos culturas. Su esposa, Mary Ann es bella, llena de talento y sensibilidad. A su único hijo, sólo lo vi de pequeño, mis recuerdos son vagos, pero estábamos en casa de sus padres, espero no equivocarme, Margarita Vargas, Norma Klahn y yo.
    Hace dos años, Juan Bruce Novoa vino a México a impartir un curso en la UNAM. De los grandes mexicanistas quedaban pocos. Había fallecido John Brushwood, quien mereció recibir el Águila Azteca y jamás la burocracia aceptó la propuesta pese a las solicitudes de muchos escritores y reconocidos intelectuales que sabían de los libros que sobre las letras nacionales escribió. Con sentido del humor, Brushwood decía que era el único en el mundo que había leído toda la literatura mexicana. Pero a cambio vivían personajes como Luis Leal, autor de una de las mejores antologías sobre el cuento mexicano, Theda Herz, que trabajó intensamente sobre la llamada generación de la onda, Seymour Menton, especialista en cuento, y muchos más profesores norteamericanos que amaban a la América Latina y en especial a México.
    Juan Formó un gran número de alumnos y a todos los enriqueció. Tanto en EU como en México. Era siempre positivo y generoso, fundamentalmente un gran profesor, un educador por excelencia. Gracias a él conocí a nuevas generaciones de maestros interesados en las letras mexicanas. Su muerte me ha afectado muchísimo. Me produce tanto a mí como a Rosario un enorme dolor y deja un hueco imposible de llenar.
    La última vez que tomamos una copa juntos, fue en casa del escultor Sebastián, antes habíamos platicado largo y hecho proyectos. Querido Juan: los llevaremos a cabo en el Cielos de los Escritores, allá te alcanzo para continuar nuestra amistad perfecta.

  33. John Waldron

    Juan was my professor, my dissertation director, mentor and friend. Though I hadn’t spoken to him as much as I would have liked since leaving U.C. Irvine, I always took for granted the fact that I could pick up the phone and call him, or turn on my computer and e-mail him with any question I might have about something or maybe just to chat. He was always there for me, but now he’s gone.

    Reading over what other people have written here, I can only repeat what others have said about his generosity, his intellectual acuity and drive, as well as his warmth and understanding for those of us who did not, and will probably never, know as much as he does. In all things, he is a true model to us all. How often do you go to conferences these days and see anyone, let alone someone of the stature of a Juan Bruce-Novoa, go to all of the panels and comment on just about every paper? When I asked him why he did that he said; “Well, if they accept my proposal, I take it for granted that I am invited and expected to participate fully in the conference.” A true model to us all as we go to conferences where panels are ever more sparsely attended. He loved all the aspects of his profession as no one I have ever known before or since.

    As I have been meditating on Juan’s death this week, I am left with the feeling of a great emptiness; as if my life no longer has a center and as if everything has fallen apart. Nothing makes sense; it is all a shambles lying in fragments. I don’t know how to put it back together again or, if I did, I don’t know if I have the energy to do it. The words that Juan Vicente Melo uses to begin “La obediencia nocturna” keep repeating themselves in my head as I think of reading, writing, doing anything at all, “da lo mismo”, it’s all the same, it doesn’t make any difference. What difference will anything I say make? Why go on? These are my thoughts upon receiving the news as I feel the great void open up from the pit of my stomach extending to everything around me. At first it seems that though Juan taught me a great deal, nothing could have prepared me for his death; for what life would be like without him. Knowing that I will never see him, hear his wry comments, or look at his face out in the audience as I try to read a paper that lives up to his standards leaves me in tears.

    There is only silence, the void, and nothingness. Nothing seems to matter, da lo mismo. But as I say those words– fragments, silence, void, nothingness– I am reminded of everything Juan taught me and how his principle lesson was that subjectivity is in constant flux; that the “I” of any narrative puts things together in his or her own way, to the best of his or her abilities, trying to make sense out of non-sense, to put order in chaos. As I think of my own despair and hear the words “da lo mismo” over and over again, I remember the homenaje Juan did for Juan Vicente Melo at the second Mexicanista conference organized by Carl Good and me when we were graduate students at UCI. Juan repeated the words “da lo mismo” and then spoke poetically, as only Juan can, to show how yes, yes it does matter, que sí, sí importa y que no, no da lo mismo. So in the face of unbearable loss, we have to make an effort to put things back together as best we can. I wish I could remember everything he said there, because that is exactly what I want to say now. I need to hear those words now to bring me out of the abyss where Juan’s death has thrown me.

    For Juan, art’s purpose is to transform the chaotic even if only in the artistic realm. Yet, he also was quick to say that a good work of art also recognizes its own inability, its own incompleteness and the possibility for infinite interpretations. No order is permanent, chaos, movement, flux, change or death, whatever you want to call it, always wins out. The first way he explained this was by how we see constellations in the stars at night; some of us connect the dots created by the stars and see Orion. But, he always reminded us that others see something else. So, as we put order to that which has no order, we have to remain open to other possible readings and interpretations. If we truly want to be human, we need to listen to different stories about the same chaos. With that said, I’d like to share some stories Juan told some of us, stories that may or not be true; we’ll never know. One thing I will always remember about Juan was how he was such a trickster; he was always so ironic. He could sit there with a perfectly stone serious face and tell us the most outrageous stories. I’m wondering if any of you have heard versions of the stories I am about to tell or if you have heard others.

    The first unbelievable thing he told us was that as he played in his rock band he also read books. That is to say, during concerts as he was playing his bass, he would have books propped up on the music stand and be reading them as he played to a live audience. How can that be? As someone who has difficulty reading when on a treadmill, I can’t believe someone could play music worth listening to and read a book at the same time. Yet, in an entry on this page, we are told that his band was quite good. The other story related to his non-stop reading was that he devised a special contraption so he could read as he rode his bike around town from place to place. Now we all know how he became the “guy who read everything”. We also see how Juan, as always, was ahead of his time as the precursor to the “text-driving” phenomenon that is so plaguing our roads and highways. Whether these things are true or not, I’ll never know. When I asked Mary Ann whether or not Juan was having us on, she corroborated his stories with a serious face. Though it is possible that, as is always the case, Mary Ann is his collaborator in the confabulation of these remarkable tales. I’m sure when we left their home after another delicious dinner spiced by Juan and Mary Ann’s stories that she and Juan had a good laugh at our expense. No wonder Seymour Menton in his own homage to Juan at the UCMexicanista conference this year mentioned that Juan was the only one to truly understand his own fantastic–or should I say magical real?– “autobiography”, “Un tercer gringo viejo”; they both know a good tale when the read or write one.

    Another time I was lucky enough to be present when Juan began to create a tale with the help of Juan Carlos and Mary Ann. Juan had been asked to provide an autobiographical piece for a publication on Chicano authors and professors. Since it was just about the time the movie, “Braveheart”, had come out Juan decided that he was going to tell the people asking for his autobiography how he had descended from the great Robert the Bruce of Scotland. Not satisfied with having come up with a story that connected him to the great historical figure, Juan Carlos also decided to add the more subversive Rasputin to the genealogical tree. From there they created a narrative that included the presence of a mysterious “uncle Raspy” who suddenly started appearing at family dinners and other festive events after 1917. Uncle Raspy apparently lived long enough to have an influence on Juan’s upbringing and to have conferred upon him one of his unorthodox and perhaps even demonic blessings. Maybe that explains how Juan knows everything. I’m not sure if any of these stories made it to print, but it was fun watching their creation. Though Juan is a great critic of all things cultural, he is also a great story teller as his novel, “Only the Good Times”, and his award winning collection of short stories, “Manuscrito de origen”, will attest.

    Then there is the tie. Is it Rulfo’s or Arreola’s? During a conference in Vienna—organized by Astrid Fellner—Juan wore a tie that both Marcus Embry and I commented on due to its unique design. Promptly Juan launched into a tale of how Juan Rulfo had given him the tie the last time he ever saw him. I believe the story is that they were both together at some sort of gathering and Juan mentioned how much he liked Rulfo’s tie and began commenting on the abstract design, the possible artist and other related things as only he can. Rulfo, seeing how much Juan liked the tie, immediately took it off and gave it to him. Juan reciprocated by giving Rulfo the tie he had on. The story continues that Rulfo was buried in the tie Juan gave him as a lasting remembrance and an eternal connection to Juan. In this way Juan’s tie becomes like Manrique’s famous poem, “Coplas a la muerte de mi padre”. Manrique buried a copy of the poem with his father, creating a connection between life and death using literature as the bridge. Here the fictional tie takes the place of the poem. Juan told this story with a stone cold, straight face even though we all laughed at its outrageousness. Perhaps due to my incredulity– and to torture me for not believing him– Juan made sure to wear the tie if he knew he and I were going to coincide at a conference. Given all of the ties he must own this was obviously no coincidence. He wanted me to see the tie so I would comment on it. In fact, I saw him with the tie at the UCMexicanista conference this year and last. Each time I remarked on the tie saying, “I see you’re wearing Rulfo’s tie” to which he replied, again with a totally straight face, “No. Arreola gave me this tie. Rulfo would never have worn a tie like this.” I’ll never know the truth. It might be that he simply purchased the tie at Nordstrom’s or some other such place. Maybe he told one of you a completely different story about the tie. I can’t ask Mary Ann or Juan Carlos because they are co-authors or co-conspirators. It could have been uncle Raspy’s or perhaps Alejo Carpentier’s!

    Speaking of Carpentier; the other story that neither Juan nor any of us will ever know the answer to is related the great Cuban writer, Alejo Carpentier. In fact, maybe the whole thing is a story Juan invented. Apparently Carpentier and Juan had a phone conversation near the time of Carpentier’s death. Carpentier alerted Juan to the existence of some key information related to “Los pasos perdidos” that would help us once and for all, unravel some key elements that all critics had missed up until now. I think it had to do with the mysterious “threnody” that Carpentier had re-discovered at last. The Cuban writer was unable to explain everything over the phone, but he had put the information down on paper and promised to send it to Juan. He told Juan the letter was on his desk awaiting the next day’s post. The letter was never sent and Juan could remember only bits and pieces of the incredibly important information. When he spoke to Carpentier’s widow, she claimed that the letter had disappeared after the brief visit of some unnamed professor from Yale. If you know anything about Juan you know who the professor is. If it is true, then this particular professor and nemesis has never bothered to reveal the information and instead has decided to allow us all to continue to function in error. When I asked why this professor wouldn’t reveal the information Juan just shrugged and said; “He probably is unable to interpret it.” This sounds like a story right out of Borges. But it could be true.

    There are other stories of course. These are just the highlights or the ones I can remember now as I try to battle my way out of the darkness. Juan was a great teacher and a great story teller. I’m not sure which memories will stick with me the longest; the dinners he and Mary Ann would invite us to, the hours I spent with him and other students in his office, in the seminar room or at conferences, or the gallons of coffee we drank together talking about art and philosophy. As I sit here writing this, the one memory that keeps coming back is again from the conference in Vienna. After the conference was over, Juan, Marcus, a few others and I went to one of Vienna’s many cafés. We arrived in the café around three o’clock. We sat there long enough in the mid-summer’s warmth to see an amazing orange sunset set fire to the newly cleaned, lovely buildings of Vienna’s inner ring. As usual with Juan we had endless cups of delicious coffee and, a record for me, at least three different pastries each, one more delicious than the next. No wonder Juan loved Europe! I remember sitting there with Juan as he entertained us with his stories. He also taught us a lot about literature, how to be professionals in a difficult business, and how to face the inevitable and the ineffable void that we all face; the nothingness that always surrounds us.

    We sometimes disagreed as to literature’s relationship to the cold, hard reality of the world. To put it simply, I sometimes thought that literature can change politics for the better. Juan seemed to argue that literature had to remain separate, that it transformed reality, but only in the literary realm. He wanted to preserve this difference because art is the one place we can try to make momentary sense of a world in chaos or to find a refuge from a harsh, uncaring reality. The more I think about it and think about Juan and what I learned from him, it seems apparent that he is right again. We can write all the testimonials or politically engaged novels, poems and criticism we want; those with power will always abuse those who don’t have it. There will always be an oppressor and an oppressed, what changes is who is in which role; as The Who sang, “meet the new boss, same as the old boss.” We can vote for “change we believe in” only to be disillusioned once again. Politics fails. And literature ultimate fails as does everything. No story I tell you can conjure Juan back from the dead except as a memory, but Juan would say that those stories and memories, “are all we have so we must persist in telling them”. He constantly emphasized that the world continues to fall apart and our politicians will always fail us, but what we do have is art, literature, and the stories we tell each other. They are what make us human and what bring us together, hugging each other for warmth around the campfire as the storm rages outside our caves. As Juan often told us, the power of writing and creativity gives us all the power to tell our own stories, stories that let us make meaning, laughter, joy, beauty and love in the face of interminable, unendurable loss and sadness. That’s what I’ll remember.

    To Juan, Mary Ann and Juan Carlos
    Un abrazo infinito,

    • Ines Farcher

      Dear John –

      John, thank you. Thank you. Thank you so much. Your words are soothing when nothing can soothe my pain.
      Juan once told me that no darkness was ever absolute, that there was always a dim light coming from somewhere. Your words are this light for me, they make me smile in the midst of tears. Thank you so very much.

      All my love to you. Ines

      • John

        I’m seeing that as with all gatherings of important events we begin to make reconnect with people we thought lost for ever. Ines, María, and others, I’ve thought a lot about you in recent days and wondered where you were and how you are doing. If anyone wants to get in touch with me, here is my e-mail ( I hope this isn’t inappropriate.

    • Maria Falcón

      Thank you John for this beautiful tribute to Juan and for bringing back memories of the best moments of my time at UCI.

      Un abrazo,

  34. Dorothy Reyes

    I remember sitting across from you at a dinner in San Antonio when you and Marcus tried to get me to tell you if his stories of reading while on a bicycle were true. (because I had known Juan since 1970 at CU Boulder). I never saw him do that but I do not doubt that he did. He always wanted to work and told me once that he didn’t like holidays because he couldn’t work on those days.
    Another time, also in San Antonio, Juan had told a story to a group of us about how his junior high school history teacher turned the class over to Juan and had him teach it. Marcus whooped with laughter at that story obviously thinking that it was an outrageous (and false) claim. Juan later told me in all seriousness that he didn’t understand why people couldn’t believe such stories. He seemed genuinely sad that people thought he would make up something like that.

    Thank you, John, for your wonderful letter that you posted on this page. You did make me smile and laugh out loud at the stories (even as I am consumed with sadness at his loss). I believe that Juan was right (as always). As he wrote in his beautiful essay Life’s Impossible Death (2003) upon the death of his mentor Juan García Ponce, “Art retrieves what death renders invisible, a possibility of reappearance that returns life to life as death’s sacred impossibility. . . a radical literature few understand, so it waits for the few who can.”

    • John


      I remember that Marcus laughing at Juan’s story too. Juan told me so many stories like that one about the history class that I probably didn’t laugh. I sometimes wonder if he didn’t look hurt because his tale– whether truth, fiction or somewhere in-between– failed to convince us and that he needed to return and edit it again. I guess all that really matters is that we have the stories now that he’s gone.

      Un abrazo,

      • Friends,
        I am Juan’s eldest sister. I was 12 years old when he was born. Soon after that we came to the United States, so I can testify that most of the stories you question are true.
        When Johnny (the name family has used) was in first grade, he had decided he did not need to learn to read–the Indians did fine and they did not read.– when he was in third grade he had the good luck to have an excellent teacher who tol.d her students stories about Egypt, Greece, Rome and other interesting places. That motivated him and he and Lillian, my sister, used to go frequently to the library with a wagon to carry the books they had read or would be reading. He soon developed a great love for reading and, in high-school, a great relationship with his history teacher, Sister Francis Regina, SL.
        Sister had difficulties with asthma, so when she felt an attack coming, she would ask Johnny to teach her class at Holy Family. Later, their friendship continued and Sister Francis Regina on occasions stayed at the Denver house while John traveled. When she died, John was one of her pall bearers.
        Once, when Johnny was in second grade, the family came to visit me at Loretto, Kentucky, where I was studying. My mother shared that John was having trouble with reading. So I asked him, “Johnny, what do you do in Reading class?” He answered, “I play football.” “And how?” He then explained that he picked out a word at the bottom of the page. If that word was on every line, he made a touchdown.”
        I always enjoyed our long conversations whenever I visited home. We hardly ever corresponded, but spent hours sharing whenever we met. He will always remain my little brother, and later a good friend. I will miss him but know he is probably sharing as the always shared with my mother, especially since he became interested in Mexican literature and history. Enough for now, but I wanted to have you understand that he had many more stories from the harvest of creativity. Much love to all of you,
        Patsy Bruce Novoa, SL

  35. Jackie Dooley

    Dear Mary Ann and Juan Carlos,

    What a sad day in all of our lives, but yours above all. What a wonderful man with whom you had the privilege to spend your lives.

    Juan became a wonderful friend to me during my years in special collections and archives at the UCI library. We first met when he gave a fabulous illustrated lecture at the opening of Lourdes Bates’ exhibit on Mexican artists’ books, and ongoing collaborations to build the collection ensued, as well as a lovely friendship with Juan and Mary Ann. As I expanded the collection of Latin American artists’ books for UCI, which numbered in the hundreds last I knew, he (happily!) offered terrific advice about potential purchases from Howard and Beverly Karno, the great booksellers of Mexicana–though Juan did have a tendency to ask plaintively “Can’t you just buy them all?”

    We shared a particular passion for the amazing work of the artist Yani Pecanins, and we were working toward an exhibit of her work as a joint project with UCSD’s Mandeville Special Collections Library, which also has a great collection of Yani’s work. Mary Ann completed a daunting project to transcribe the texts from all of the “books,” which I dearly hope will be published at some point, if it hasn’t been already. Not being able to bring the exhibit to fruition was a casualty of my 2008 departure from UCI that I much regret, and I still dream of a collaboration with both libraries to make it happen. Mary Ann: let’s figure out how to do it one of these days. You know that, with inspiration from Juan, you would be a magnificent curator.

    What a wonderful, wonderful man.

  36. Juliet Falce-Robinson

    I also met Juan when I was a graduate student at UC Irvine. He was my professor and dissertation advisor. He had such high expectations in his graduate courses, I felt so challenged, and in the end understood why he challenged me. When it came time for me to write my dissertation, I was all but abandoned by the “advisor” I had been working with. I spoke to Juan and he immediately offered to take over my dissertation, although, I had never worked with him before and certainly was not a star student in his class. That year, my mother was dying of cancer, and although my dissertation was not nearly ready to be turned in, Juan agreed to participate with me and “hood” me in the hooding ceremony for the doctoral candidates, so that my mother could see me receive my PhD before she died. I was then offered a full-time position and needed to finish the dissertation within an incredibly short time frame. As fast as I could write pages, he had them reviewed and ready to return to me, with carefully placed post-it notes, with suggestions for improvement or change, or even corrections to my punctuation, but his detail was impeccable. And ever the educator, throughout the writing (which I just wanted to finish) he kept introducing me to new authors, critics and perspectives that might help to enrich my knowledge in the area, and allow me to grow as a writer. If it were not for him, I would not have written that disseration and I would not have finished my degree. Much later, I was hired as a discussion leader for Humanities Core during a year that Juan was a lecturer, and was amazed again at his unbelievable talent for reaching the freshmen in that course and introducing them to the art, history and literature he was so passionate about – he even began each lecture with a carefully selected musical piece, which he blasted in Crystal Cove, that somehow matched the theme of his lecture that day. I really learned what it meant to be a scholar and an educator and how to put it all together, he made a 300 student lecture feel like an intimate seminar, he was amazing. I will be eternally grateful to Juan Bruce Novoa, he supported me, mentored me and taught me, because that is the generous person that he was. Much like John commented earlier, my world is spinning, I have lost two great mentors, Juergen Kempff and Juan Bruce Novoa in less than a year’s time. I hope I can find a way to honor them and what they have done for so many of us.

    Thank you Mary Ann and Juan Carlos for sharing such a wonderful person with us. We will miss him.

  37. Alberto Blanco

    JUAN BRUCE-NOVOA: Only the Good Times

    Nos conocimos hace 28 años en la Galería Pecanins de la Ciudad de México. Nadie nos presentó. Era una día como cualquier otro, y la galería estaba prácticamente desierta de gente, y colmada de bellezas: una maravillosa exposición de cajas del maestro surrealista Alan Glass. Yo llevaba ya mucho tiempo contemplando las piezas y me llamó la atención la única otra persona que estaba en la galería, disfrutando con detenimiento de la obra; era Juan. Comenzamos a platicar sobre las cajas, y de inmediato me di cuenta de que conversaba con alguien a quien le importaba tanto el arte como a mí. La plática siguió fuera de la galería, en un café, y ya no se detuvo nunca. Al despedirnos en aquella ocasión, nos presentamos al fin y nos dijimos nuestros nombres: en el acto reconocí el nombre de Juan Bruce-Novoa como el de un afamado crítico de la literatura chicana; no sabía mucho más de él entonces. Y él también reconoció el mío: acababa de leer mi segundo libro de poesía, “El largo camino hacia ti”, publicado por Huberto Bátis en la UNAM el año anterior. Los comentarios que me hizo sobre el libro me dejaron bien claro que no sólo nos unía el amor a las artes visuales, sino a la literatura y, en particular, a la poesía. Ya vendrían después el cine, la música, la arquitectura, la historia de México y las amistades comunes. No tardamos mucho en establecer la conexión entre Huberto Batis y Juan García Ponce -su compañero de generación- y alter ego y casi guru personal de Juan Bruce-Novoa. Tampoco tardamos mucho en comenzar a conspirar, aunque los primeros frutos de esa conspiración fraternal hayan tardado más de diez años en manifestarse hasta la publicación de un enorme volumen bilingüe de poesía norteamericana del siglo XX –también bajo el sello de la UNAM- luego de que una beca Fulbright, y el apoyo de Juan, me llevaran a UC Irvine en 1991 para completar esta difícil tarea.
    Son muchos los buenos momentos –y sólo buenos momentos- que recuerdo con Juan. Las conversaciones sobre poesía mexicana, norteamericana y chicana en las plazas de San Ángel y Coyoacán de la ciudad de México; las conversaciones en los bares de Ciudad Juárez cuando a ambos nos fue concedido en 1989 el premio de literatura “José Fuentes Mares”… a él por la Antología retrospectiva del cuento chicano, y a mí por el libro de poemas y dibujos, Canto a la sombra de los animales, que hice con Francisco Toledo; la conversación en el íntimo, a la vez que imponente, escenario californiano del escultor Isamu Noguchi, en Costa Mesa; la conversación frente a la gran tela de Anselm Kiefer, Midgard, que preside el Museo de Arte de Milwaukee; la conversación en torno a una deseada y siempre pospuesta exposición de los libros de artista de Yani Pecanins; las conversaciones terciadas con Don Luis Leal, con Seymour Menton, con José Agustín, en tantas partes; las interminables conversaciones en las interminables carreteras de Nuevo México con el atardecer encendido en el espejo retrovisor… siempre la conversación.
    Después de innumerables encuentros, visitas, conversaciones, correos y viajes compartidos se dio nuestro último encuentro en casa de nuestro común amigo Jacobo Sefamí hace unas pocas semanas, luego de la clausura de la conferencia de mexicanistas en Irvine que culminó con un sencillo homenaje a su persona y a su obra. Con esa misma naturalidad que lo caracterizó siempre, yo comparto estas líneas hoy con su hijo Juan Carlos y con la pareja de toda su vida, Mary Ann, a quienes deseo, de todo corazón, el tesoro de la gratitud hacia el padre y el esposo; el amigo y el compañero. Solamente la gratitud. ¿Qué más? Y las comparto con todos los amigos, discípulos y colegas para quienes Juan dejó muy en claro que, a final de cuentas, lo que cuenta (perdón por el juego de palabras) es la bondad del tiempo que se nos concede compartir en esta tierra. Tan sólo un momento aquí… O como el título de su novela: Only the Good Times.

    Alberto Blanco

  38. Jennifer Ryan-Jauregui

    I am deeply saddened to learn of Professor Bruce-Novoa’s passing. My heart goes out to you Juan-Carlos and Mary Ann. I first met Professor Bruce-Novoa in 1994 while I was studying in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese as an undergraduate. I had the pleasure of having him as my professor in at least one undergraduate literature course. He was serving as Chair of the Department of Spanish and Portuguese at the time. I remember as I was nearing my graduation date, he called me into his office and urged me to apply for the PhD program. He recognized a potential in me that I had not seen in myself. I did apply and got accepted and entered a year later. As a graduate student, Professor Bruce-Novoa was my mentor. I was fortunate to take many of his courses. He continuously inspired me to do my best work. Three weeks ago, I visited the UCI campus for the first time in 10 years, and that was when I learned of Professor Bruce-Novoa’s illness. I just missed seeing him that day as he arrived on campus to teach a graduate course. It makes me happy that he was able to continue to do what he truly loved even while he was ill. Professor Bruce-Novoa’s legacy will live on for many many years to come through the many students he inspired.

  39. Maria Falcón

    The first time I walked into Juan’s class at UCI and heard him speak, I knew that was going to be no ordinary class. As that class and my years at UCI progressed, I found out Juan was no ordinary man. I can add no more than what has already so eloquently been said about him here except for this:
    Juan, gracias por todo. De la nada ha salido algo muy bello.
    My condolences to Mary Ann and Juan Carlos.

  40. Lillian Moskeland

    Dearest Mary Ann and Juan Carlos,
    There are so many memories from different ages of Johnny,my “little brother.”
    One that you might not know. Themoment occurred
    about 23 years ago after I came to Louisiana. I was hired to teach Spanish here and so I joined the LA teachers’ organization. I went to my first large meeting in Baton Rouge and felt really insecure around all these professors who knew each other well. One person brought out a question about Chicano literature and no one could answer it so I said “Well, my brother Johnny always said…” and I proceded to respond even though I do not today recall the actual discussion. I was asked more about my brother when one prof. looked at me with awe and said “Surely, your brother is not Juan Bruce Novoa?” After I identified Johnny she told me that he is the only reason that the loaning Library at Tulane University was her work because of Dr. Bruce Novoa. He was then and would always be her mentoe and model. How proud I was of him, always have been and always will be. I have so many more stories and I will send more. I love you both and share your sorrow. Your sister and aunt,

  41. Beverly & Howard Karno

    Dear Mary Ann and Juan Carlos

    My husband and I met Juan about 6 years ago through the Special Collections Librarian at UC Irvine. We came to show an artist book collection from Mexico dating from the 1960s to the 1980s. The then librarian, Jackie Dooley, had invited Juan to come and see the collection. It was immediately apparent in the glow of his face that he loved books. His love for the material was only exceeded his knowledge of them and the artists. Howard and I felt an instant rapport with Juan, a man of no pretense, who loved what he did and the people around him.

    We had the pleasure of meeting his interesting and charming wife, Mary Ann, who joined us for lunch. We reveled in the stories Juan had about the artists he knew in Mexico, about Mary Ann’s work We realized that these two beautiful people had one of the most sincere, loving, and respectful marriages that we have seen.

    Our last meeting was this last February over the Valentine weekend. We invited Juan and Mary Ann to the Antiquarian Book Fair in Los Angeles. We were delighted to see both of them and sadden to see that Juan was not in the best of health. One of the most beautiful moments that I have been privileged to see occurred in our booth. Juan and Mary Ann looked at and discussed several pieces by the book artist, Yani Pecanins, an artist that they both deeply admired. Juan, made a decision on which piece he wanted to purchase. While I was writing at the order, I glanced over and I saw Juan very tenderly and with much love give the piece to Mary Ann, and say, “Happy Valentine’s Day”. The look of love that transpired between the two of them is something that I shall never forget.

    Gracias por todo lo que nos has dado, por lo que aprendimos, por lo que compartimos. Por ello no te decimos adios sino hasta siempre nuestro querido Juan Bruce-Novoa

    Un abrazo infinito
    Beverly Joy-Karno and Howard Karno

  42. Lillian Moskeland

    As I’ve read some of the wonder-full memories surrounding my brother, Juan/John/Johnny, I have had a smile that doesn’t go away. It started in our childhood when Johnny’s laughter was so infectious that whoever was near could not contain their own laugh until we were holding onto our stomach that ached.
    Johnny would sit with me when I insisted on watching horror programs on t.v. and was too afraid to sit alone. We got a t.v. when Johnny was 9 and I, 12. It fit in perfectly with the Bruce Novoa household love of film. People regularly saw the
    “B ruces” walking home down Federal Blvd. after an afternoon of movies.
    Johnny spent many a night with a flashlight reading in bed after light’s out. His love of literature started early. And reading wasn’t alwas easy for Johnny as he was mildly (if mildly is possible) dyslexic.
    Johnny often read and wrote “in his sleep”. He would lie on the sofa with eyes closed and inform us when we woke him that he was conferring with the muses. The delightful thing was that where most people would just be fibbing, John would then
    produce unbelievable poetry or prose.

    Juan helped my daughter understand her background. During one of their meetings in Germany where Andrea was living and Juan and
    Mary Ann had dinner with her and her family she must have asked him about what she could reply to such a question regarding her ethnic origin, Juan summed it up clearly and much to her pleasure. “Consider who we are and it is clear that you are a Celt” – Spanish, French, English, Irish, Scotish, Welsh … How much better than going through life thinking oneself as a “mutt”!

    So the memories continue to flow… Oh, and a small correction given with love… Yes, Johnny was the only substitute teacher who Sr. Agnes Regina would permit to take her place when her asthma acted up. When one principal wanted to complain Sr. Agnes Regina told her in no uncertain terms that John Bruce was the smartest person at Holy Family High School and that included the other sisters!

    Love and many more memories. I love you Mary Ann, Juan Carlos, and all of our family,

    • Thanks, Lillian, for correcting my senior lapse, almost as soon as I sent my letter I realized it was Sister Agnes Regina and Juan who shared so much respect and friendship.
      And as I read so many memories, it only increases my appreciation of my baby brother. Also of our tremedous family history that grows and is renewed in all we are and do.
      Thank you, Juan Carlos and Mary Ann, it was so good to see you and spend a few days with you! Patsy

  43. Scott Shull

    Profesor Bruce-Novoa’s course “El cuento mexicano” was a high point of my undergraduate studies at UCI. He treated students’ comments and questions with what could be described as an “intense sincerity.” In our last exchange, I recounted my fruitless México D.F. quest for a photo of 815 Donceles. His final words to me, with that conspiratorial smile: “Cuidado al buscar la realidad en la literatura.”

  44. Margarita López

    Recuerdos? Los tengo… gratos e inolvidables… largas e interesantes charlas o discusiones académicas.
    Agradecimientos? Son muchos… por todo lo compartido –la inspiración, la disciplina, el “sí se puede”– por brindarnos su hogar y su tiempo.
    Saludos? Siempre! El infalible y natural “quiubo” acompañado con una humilde sonrisa.
    Gracias, Bruce-Novoa.

  45. Edda Luckas

    I first came across Prof. Bruce-Novoa’s work in a Chicano studies class at the University of Southern Colorado at Pueblo in 1998. Back home in Germany, at the Universitaet des Saarlandes, I went on to write my Americanist M.A. thesis on the novels of Rudolfo Anaya–which called for in-depth engagement with Prof. Bruce-Novoa’s critical writings. Upon beginning my doctoral research in Chicano studies at Freie Universität Berlin in 2002, I was awed to learn that the scholar whom I had frequently quoted would actually teach at the John F. Kennedy Institute that summer.
    When I finally met him and during numerous personal get-togethers and conversations over the course of that semester and in subsequent years, Prof. Bruce-Novoa profoundly impressed me with his expertise as a scholar of literature. (Beyond Chicano and Latino studies, his casual roamings over world literature inspired me to expand my reading of authors like Thomas Mann and Franz Kafka and to even memorize Shakespearean sonnets.) I also came to admire his courage to think beyond established disciplinal boundaries, as well as his pedagogical skills in his classes. Prof. Bruce-Novoa tirelessly gave his time and energy to European students and young researchers in the field. He freely shared his ideas and unpublished work–a generosity I have never encountered anywhere else in academia. His impact on the development of German and European Chicano studies is inestimable.
    Prof. Bruce-Novoa greatly encouraged and stimulated my own doctoral research over the years–my dissertation owes a large debt to him. Danke.

    I am deeply saddened by the passing of my principal academic mentor.

    My most heartfelt condolences to his wife and family.

    Edda Luckas, Berlin

  46. Lillian Moskeland

    This letter was sent for the blog from my cousin, Javier Ortiz Tirado for his mother, Margarita Kelly Ortiz Tirado. I have copied the email and am adding it below in their name.

    Guardo en mi corazón y en mi memoria, con mucho amor, recuerdos de Johnny, mi primito, el menor de los Bruce Novoa.

    Cuando pasó por México de regreso a los Estados Unidos, después de Costa Rica, donde nació. Era un bebé hermoso. Lo recuerdo cuando viví con ellos en San Antonio en 1947, era muy chiquito, con su pelo rubio rizado y su linda sonrisa que le duró toda la vida.

    Después volví a vivir con ellos en Denver, ya era un jovencito muy guapo, inteligente, deportista y cariñoso.

    Cuando se casó con Mary Ann, vinieron a vivir con nosotros un tiempo aquí en México. Ya era todo un escritor, investigador. Los disfrutamos mucho a los dos, Mary Ann todavía no hablaba el español y Johnny le hacía muchas bromas. Nos reíamos mucho y aprendimos a querer mucho a Mary Ann, una muchacha muy linda, muy inteligente, compartía conmigo el Análisis Transaccional y muchos de sus conocimientos sobre Psicología. Eran un matrimonio joven que se querían mucho y empezaban su vida juntos, estaban apenas en su luna de miel.

    Se regresaron a E.E.U.U., y ya no los volví a ver, sólo había comunicación por correo. A Johnny lo vi sólo un rato cuando vino a dar una conferencia en el Palacio de Minería.
    Toda mi vida los he recordado con mucho cariño. Sé que Johnny ya está en donde encontró la felicidad plena con Dios y seguramente su sonrisa será eterna.

    Guardo a Mary Ann y a su hijo Juan Carlos en mi corazón y sé que su dolor es un proceso que los va a hacer crecer humanamente y a sentir siempre la presencia y el amor de Johnny con ellos. Les mando muchos abrazos y besos.

    Margarita Kelly de Ortiz Tirado

  47. Mary Jo Manes

    Dear Mary Ann and Juan Carlos,
    My memories of John are from when we were all very young. Juan, I was in your parents wedding. I remember how handsome your Father was and how beautiful your Mother on that day. I have not been to a more lovely wedding.
    One menory that comes to my mind was when John and Mary Ann(Juan, you were not born yet)
    lived on Grove street. They invited me for a Mexican dinner. We sat at the table and ate and drank until after midnight. We discussed anything and everything. I had my first Sangria, and Mexican coffee and chocolate. They made me feel so special that night.
    John was a very kind, gentle, man and will always remain in my thoughts.
    Love and Light,
    Mary Jo Manes

  48. Heiner Bus

    The sad news of Juan’s untimely death made me reflect on his legacy as an exemplary colleague, reliable friend, and exceptional inspirator of my own modest academic aspirations.

    It is Juan’s lasting merit to have given European scholars constant encouragement through his physical presence at European universities and conferences and his many profound and stimulating publications thus initiating and keeping up a vital exchange of ideas and projects between European and American scholars. He was the mind and heart of the first European conference on Missions in Conflict held at the University of Mainz in 1984 which was followed by a number of equally productive conferences in various European countries. Thus, he substantially expanded the space of Chicano Studies. I remember him as a skillful monitor of poets’ readings at conferences investing his remarkable professionality, personal engagement and sense of fairness.

    I also recall many conversations with him (at and after the 1984 Germersheim conference) about the state of the craft manifesting his enthusiasm about having started something and his readeiness to invest his time and energies to vigorously support his European co-workers in the field. Meeting him has always been an utterly rewarding experience for me as he was able to listen to what I was doing and willing to share his remarkable expertise in the larger contexts of the literatures of the Americas thus clearly distinguishing from each other the elements of exclusiveness and inclusiveness in Chicano literature. His occasional gloomy moods gave me a vague hint at the forces which had shaped him and kept him going.

    I will be forever grateful for what he freely gave to me and my colleagues. I mourn over this great loss together with his family.

    Heiner Bus (University of Bamberg)

  49. Lourdes Bates

    La primera vez que conocí a Juan Bruce-Novoa fue en una de las conferencias de UCI, me impresionó su facilidad para analizar las intersecciones entre la literatura y el arte. Debido a que mi interés académico se concentraba en este tema, no pude encontrar mejor consejero académico que él. También fue mi director de tesis doctoral, para lo cual me beneficiaron no sólo su manejo de la teoría, sino su conocimiento tanto de la imprenta como de la encuadernación. Puedo afirmar que le debo el haber completado mis estudios de posgrado en UCI.
    Al igual que muchos de sus estudiantes, tengo muchos recuerdos de él. Bruce-Novoa era un intelectual generoso y un profesor experimentado y ameno. Poseía una generosidad elegante; todos sus estudiantes nos beneficiamos de sus consejos y comentarios a nuestros trabajos. A todos nos prestaba sus libros, en varias ocasiones me prestó ejemplares valiosos de su colección.
    Con su esposa Mary Ann, nos recibía en su casa, donde se llevaban a cabo lecturas de poesía. Así fue como me enteré de su afición a coleccionar arte mexicano de la Generación de Medio Siglo, de la que formó parte desde su juventud. Una vez, pregunté quién era el autor de un cuadro que ocupaba un lugar central en la pared de la escalera entre autores como Vicente Rojo y Carlos Mérida, a lo cual los Bruce –Novoa contestaron orgullosamente: “mi hijo”.
    Como profesor, Juan Bruce Novoa tenía la capacidad de entretejer anécdotas personales a los temas de literatura e historia. Sus estudiantes conocimos a su esposa Mary Ann, a su hijo Juan Carlos, a su madre, a su abuelo porfiriano, a Juan García Ponce y a muchos escritores y artistas. En sus clases solía organizar discusiones y sabía manejarlas hábilmente. En las conferencias, tenía siempre comentarios que invitaban al diálogo.
    Juan Bruce-Novoa fue un buen profesor, un intelectual de talla internacional y una buena persona. Fue para mi un privilegio conocerlo y tenerlo como consejero académico y director de tesis.
    Me consternó inmensamente enterarme de su muerte, después de un mes de haber sucedido.

  50. Kristi Marie Steinmetz

    I met Juan Bruce Novoa several years back because Sheila Ortiz Taylor told me that it was important to meet him. (I always pay very close attention to Sheila’s suggestions.) After he spoke at the conference, I was honored to be invited to take part in Juan’s and Sheila’s enchanting lunch in enchanted Tallahasse. As I have learned, true geniuses are exceptionally kind, warm, humble. And they love dessert. I recognized this lunch as exceptional while Juan spoke and listened, while good friends shared (being shy, I was happy to mostly witness and enjoy). Forever, I will cherish this memory as very, very, very important.

  51. Alberto Blanco

    Sunday, August 29, La Jornada – the newspaper with the best cultural section in Mexico- published an extended version of the text I wrote about your father and for your site. You can see it and read it here:

    Alberto Blanco

  52. E. C. Correia-Jordan

    Juan will forever be in my heart!

    He really impacted my life. I first met Prof. Juan Bruce-Novoa as a young undergraduate, and continue to enjoy working and having conversations with him as a graduate student at UCI. He was my teacher, but soon after my intro to his class on Spanish literature, he became a mentor, a friend, and some one I really felt I could trust. Trusting anyone at that time was hard for me. I hadn’t been away from Venezuela for too long and had just completed a 15 days journey from Prince George’s County, Maryland to California. I had just transferred as a Jr. to UCI, and was rather rapidly adjusting to yet another segment of USA culture in Juan’s beautiful South West. I don’t think I’d have stayed at UCI to complete my master if it wasn’t for his wonderful support and encouragement.

    Last spring, my husband and decided to ride to UCI and drop our daughter, a senior from the School of Psychology. I decided to pay another visit to my old department. I really wanted to see my dear professor Bruce-Novoa. Not surprised that he wasn’t there, I left a message for him. … I can’t stop crying now.

    His physical presence will be missed forever, but I know that his intellectual legacy, his work as a genuine activist, his wonderful voice, and his fun, loving and kind spirit will live for ever in the hearts and minds of those who knew him and read his work. Meeting and knowing him was a great privilege!

    You are a hero to me, Juan!

    Thank you for giving so much! Thank you for believing! Thank you for shining as the star God made you to be!

    Not every body can shine so wonderfully, while nurturing a humble spirit and a graceful heart, willing to give as much you have.

    I love you forever Juan!


  53. E. C. Correia-Jordan

    TO: Mary Ann and Juan Carlos.

    I too had the wonderful privilege of enjoying the hospitality of your home and your benevolent disposition. You shared your hearts with us. We are all most greatful!

    I know there is nothing we can say nor do to fill the void this immense lost leaves in your loving hearts.

    May God’s strength and compassion surround you!



  54. Juan Carlos

    Juan Bruce-Novoa | A Celebration

    Join us on the afternoon of October 9 in Irvine for a special celebration of Professor Juan Bruce-Novoa’s life. Please RSVP for guest list and event details.

  55. Horst Tonn

    Juan’s German
    None of us will ever know how good Juan’s command of the German language really was but I am sure it was much better than we all can imagine. Language and music and ideally a combination of the two were his life.
    Juan and I first met in Germersheim and Heidelberg in the early 1980s when he had come to Germany on his first Fulbright. In the beginning he used German very little although he had started out with an intensive language course at the Chiemsee in Bavaria which he had loved. But he seemed to be a bit shy about his German. When we went to stores and restaurants I would usually translate but after a while I thought he can do well on his own and he did. I loved to hear him say things in German. He had such a pleasant voice. When he spoke German he lowered it and his voice took on a somewhat hesitating and tender sound. These were rare moments. This man who was always so eloquent and graceful in English and Spanish – here he was groping for words, speaking in incomplete sentences, appealing to the good will of the natives. But he did well and could say what he wanted to say. The one word he was best at was “Kuchen” (german for cake). His pronunciation was impeccable and in addition there was an extra tender tinge which expressed his anticipation of what would be on his plate soon.
    Juan’s German was a measure of his fondness of Germany. No other visitor was as appreciative of and affectionate towards Germany as Juan. He always felt very much at home in our country. You are dearly missed in Germany, Juan!

  56. Juan Carlos

    We have uploaded video to youtube of the memorial service which took place at UCI on October 9.

    Here is the video in 8 parts:

  57. Juan Carlos

    Here are two additional homages:

  58. Adriana Gomez

    It is with great sadness that I come to find out that Professor Juan Bruce-Novoa has passed away. I met Dr. Novoa at the School for Foreign Students at UNAM when I was working at the Chicano Latino Studies Department from 1993 to 1998. I was able to obtain a Junior Research Scholarship to go to UC Irvine in 1997 for ten months with the help of Dr. Novoa. He was a friend, a mentor, and an inspiration. I have so much to be thankful for because of him. It was a great honor to be able to call him “Juan” just as a close friend. Juan helped me not only to obtain my research scholarship from UNAM to go to UC Irvine, but was kind enought to give me the opportunity to spend a couple of nights in his home with his beatufil wife Mary Ann when I first moved to UC Irvine. I remember their cozy elegant home and the delicious breakfasts Mary Ann prepared for us. I was just an exchange student and my English was not very good. Juan and his wife were so welcoming and made me feel safe when I was terrified of living in a foreign country. My life changed forever by attending UC Irvine with the help of Dr. Novoa. During my stay at UC Irvine, I met a student who later became my husband. I have lived in the U.S. for the past 12 years and I have a wonderful life with my husband and son. This all started in UC Irvine. Juan was a link to the future and a key piece in my destiny. Without his help to attend UC Irvine, the next chapter in my life would not have been written. I am so sad that I did not get to tell him how much he ment in my life. I went to UC Irvine this past summer and I stopped by his office with my husband and son. I wanted him to meet them and see how much he had done for me. I was suppossed to contact him by e-mail and I didn’t. I am so crushed by finding out about his passing.
    Juan, you were such a gentleman and a great inspiration. You helped so many people and you will be kindly remembered. May God bless you and your family!

  59. Jose Miguel Amaya

    There are too many stories and tales about Juan. I saw John Waldron (see above) in Vermont at Christmas and we had a chance to catch up and remember Juan.
    What do I remember best? Juan’s disdain for pomposity, for senile remembrances of things best forgotten. At more than once conference, he was asked some of the most inane questions. And yet, when they came from students, he was tirelessly patient.
    Juan never spared the compliments, or the critique. Some Juanisms I recall: “Eso sera una porqueria.” And if you’re in the field, you know to whom I refer here: “He’s testing your knowledge of Spanish?” “Who’s testing his?” Ayy. I still laugh when I tell that one. I will miss you, Juan. More than I expected. Adios, mi companero, good friend, Maestro.

  60. Josie Cruz

    I just came across this page and am saddened to hear of Prof. Bruce-Novoa’s passing. I was a student of his at Trinity University in 1986. I was fortunate enough to do an independent study lit course with him. He was insightful, supportive, always welcoming and encouraging. My condolences to the family.



  62. Rigoberto Rodriguez Villalpando

    i just found out today that juan bruce-novoa passed away, and i want to add my voice to the chorus of compliments. as an undergraduate student, i took four classes with him in addition to auditing a graduate seminar. no other professor had a deeper impact on my intellectual and political maturation, and it wasn’t just his intellect that impacted me. it was his caring approach, his mentorship. he knew my name, remembered my arguments and perspectives on specific books/authors, and always patiently and respectfully engaged me as a budding scholar.

    i will never forget the time when he was giving a presentation at a conference and, all of a sudden, stopped his train of thinking and pointed to me in the audience and gave me credit for some of the ideas he was advancing. nor will i forget his encouraging me to go to spain for a summer to tackle my deep seated bias against ‘espana’. best thing i did…

    although i chose to pursue a doctorate in a field other than literature, i fashioned my critical thinking after juan’s relentless penchant for debunking myths and taken-for-granted norms. the world so needs you and will miss you, Juan, but you live in all of us–and i daresay i can be certain about that….

  63. Davey Jones of the Monkees died yesterday and it caused me to think back on meeting Juan. It was the summer of 1983 and we were on a flight to West Germany to begin a year of study as Fulbright Fellows—he as an esteemed professor, me as a recent art school graduate to study and paint. Juan was warm and welcoming and within an hour of meeting him, I was given a primer on Chicano poetry and regaled with a story about how Juan was part of a team tasked to make the various Monkees seem more comfortable with their instruments. As a drummer, I could tell Mickey Dolenz was aping most of the moves on the drum kit and Juan confirmed my suspicions! Although I was excited at the prospects and possibilities for the coming year, I was unsure of my place in this impressive group comprised of brilliant students, scholars and educators. Juan was thrilled there was a visual artist in the mix and his interest made me feel more at ease and confident. He asked if I had any images he could see. On the plane I gave him a box of slides and one of those old-fashioned hand-held viewers. He spent almost an hour with the material and later had many questions. He was very interested in the theme of melodrama in the work. He posed many questions, nodded thoughtfully at my attempts to answer and made many keen observations. He settled on one painting in particular for his favorite—it was a plaster relief work in which the entire surface had been slathered with a grey color made from beeswax and oil. I’d blended and burnished much of it with my hands and somehow, in that crappy slide, Juan discerned undertones of viridian and alizarin within the grey! On a trip to Vienna Juan was a trusted fellow sybarite for fine food, drink and especially pastry. Towards the end of our grant year, all of the German Fulbrighters convened in West Berlin for the yearly conference. It was great to see Juan again and share our adventures. I remember fondly, his generosity of spirit, his encouragement and his immense curiosity.

    • Elizabeth C. Correia-Jordan

      What a wonderful story! It is amazing to see how wonderful and brilliant Bruce was. I enjoyed all of these stories. Thanks for sharing this personal moments with all of us. ECCJ

    • Kathy Vargas

      I know who you are, Russell, because I got a postcard about you, and your work, from Juan Bruce shortly after he arrived in Germany. It was a long time ago, and the card is who-knows-where, if it still exists at all, but I remember that he wrote that he’d been very impressed by your work. I’m an artist too, and I met him shortly before you did, in the summer of 1983, through a mutual friend who asked him to look at my work.
      And yes, he looked very carefully. Over the next few years he literally launched my career, finding exhibits for my work in Mexico City, Germany, and California, as well as being the person responsible for my meeting arts writer, and now life-long friend, Lucy Lippard, when they sat on a panel together and Juan showed slides of my work. She asked who I was; Juan put her in contact with me, and I’ve since made it into three of her books.
      Juan also wrote and published an article about my work as well as text for the Mexico City invitation, and I found his generosity amazing. Not many would go out of their way for a young artist as much as he did. And since I was a very unproven commodity, it was a total leap of faith on his part. I hope that in my various jobs (as arts administrator and teacher) I’ve been half as helpful to the young artists I’ve met as he was to me. Juan Bruce taught me by example that it’s a good idea to invest time and attention in those who art just starting out. Anyone I’ve managed to help along the way can thank Juan Bruce Novoa for infusing me with his generous spirit.

      • Hello Kathy, and very nice to meet you!

        Thanks so much for relating that story, it has been a while since I posted, so it was a very pleasant surprise to read at the end of a long day in the studio. The little interaction I did have with Juan, was emblematic of what you experienced, and I only regret I did not follow-up with Juan upon my return to the US. I’m flattered that he felt strongly enough about my work, that he sent you that postcard.

        I’m a huge Lucy Lippard fan, and the Dematerialization Notes were/are a favorite of mine.

        If you visit NYC, please know you have an open invitation to visit my studio—it’s near PS1/MoMA, or just to meet for coffee.

        All the very best, and many thanks again!
        Warm regards,

        PS-I especially appreciate your thoughts about how you’ve found ways to pay Juan’s generosity of spirit and mentorship forward. I teach as well and the best of my teachers and mentors are always “present” in class.

  64. Marco Aurelio Navarro Leal

    Ya no recuerdo bien si fué en el verano de 1969 o de 1970, cuando Juan Bruce pasó un tiempo en mi casa, en Tampico, Tamaulipas. Llegó con un grupo de jóvenes que venían de distintos puntos de Colorado. Vinculados de alguna forma a la Universidad. Por cierto muy buenos para tocar y cantar blues (Summertime blues), varios de ellos (y ellas).
    En Tampico, su grupo se unió al nuestro para recorrer varias comunidades rurales con medicinas, vacunas, animación (Altamira, Lomas del Real, Soto La Marina, Los Aztecas, Jaumave). Durante varias semanas a Juan se le veía platicar en forma muy amena con la gente del campo.
    Por las noches, cuando nos reuníamos a cenar en grupo, nos comentaba su gusto por releer a Rulfo en las pláticas con la gente.
    Aquellas noches estrelladas en el campo, se hacían interminables charlando de literatura. Fuentes, Arreola, García Ponce, Avilés, Yañez, se hacían presentes entre las sombras (vienen cruzando el río, hojarascas están tirándo a dar, la ausencia presente y la presencia ausente). Flashbacks, risas continuas.
    Al siguiente año Juan y Mary Ann (y Cocotte) me recibieron en su casa, frente al Parque, por Federal Blvd. Fueron días muy importantes para mi, días de mucha literatura, de Fever Tree, de Janis Joplin, de Gordon Lightfoot, días de Ron Huasteco (fuimos a comprarlo hasta El Paso). La primera y única vez que he comido pozole de venado. Mi agradecimiento por siempre a Juan Bruce y a Mary Anne por abrirme las puertas de su casa y con ello también las puertas de la literatura. Un abrazo y un beso.

    Pd. Ah, me encontré con este blog porque a propósito de la muerte de Carlos Fuentes, quise buscar lo que Juan escribió sobre él.

  65. John Fritz

    It is with great sadness I write these lines upon hearing about the death of Professor Juan Bruce-Nova. I was a graduate student at UC Irvine in the 1990s in the dept of Spanish & Portuguese. Juan was the first professor I had in the dept as an instructor and I was immediately taken aback by the depth of knowledge he could muster to many areas of the Humanities beyond Chicano Studies. I took as many courses as I could with him and I believe he made me a better person for it.

    I can’t explain it but I was just thinking of him out of the blue today as I had had no contact with him after graduating in 1997 from UC Irvine. And today is the anniversary of his death or there abouts, so I take a little comfort in the fact that maybe just maybe he is still looking after us from afar.

    Juan, Tú eres un buen hombre. Gracias y descansa en Paz.

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