Tamis Hoover Renteria

When Tamis was ten, she started a novel about trolls (the cute plastic ones with wild colored hair) and decided to become a writer. Thirty-five years later she finally became serious about this decision. She now writes novels and stories about the wide variety of people and cultures she’s encountered in the interim: Mexican Americans, Christian fundamentalists, Wiccans, Walfdorfians, pagans, modern Jews and ancient Israelites, to name a few. Her characters are often trapped by a culture, or stuck between cultures, situations she understands from her own life experiences.

Tamis started her cultural balancing act the day she was born to conservative, Southern parents who incongruously lived in the liberal, university town of Palo Alto, California. She spent much of her childhood explaining to her neighbors and classmates not only why Jesus was her Savior, but also why her father had posted a giant picture of Nixon on their garage door at election time.

Later, she faced a new set of cultural challenges when she entered Stanford University and plunged into the foreign world that her parents and preacher had always warned her about. She ended up exploring Marxism and liberation theology, immersing her WASP self in the on-campus Mexican-American community (temporarily becoming a “wannabe Chicana”), and going on to receive an MA in Theology at Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, and a PhD in Anthropology at Stanford University.

In the middle of acquiring all this education and life experience, she married her Chicano sweetheart, Beto, and was welcomed into his vast, Mexican immigrant family. This relationship continues, after 34 years, to provide her with endless material about people caught up in cross-cultural dilemmas, and has taught her a fundamental—and sometimes painful—awareness of how differently people from disparate cultures may view the world.

This lesson was reinforced when she eventually converted to Reform Judaism. Now she had to explain to her family and friends why her sons, Lucas and Eli, would be celebrating Hannukah rather than Christmas, and why Passover dinner took precedence over the traditional Easter egg hunt.

While embracing her new religion, she joined a small, but growing group of Jews who believe that goddesses and feminist spirituality belong within the broad spectrum of Judaism. Needless to say, that has been a delicate cross-cultural dance, to suggest, as a new member of a traditionally monotheistic Jewish community, that the spiritual feminine lurks within the pages of Kabbalah and that Jewish ancestors in Israel worshipped a goddess!

This fascination with feminist Judaism inspired her to write her first published novel, The Prophet’s Woman, a story about women, prophets, goddess worship, as well as cross-cultural and religious conflict in ancient Israel. She is currently writing a sequel to that novel, and will soon be celebrating the publication of a short story about the daughter of a contemporary goddess priestess, called “The Mother of Us All,” in an anthology by GoddessInk Press.

What’s in store for the future? It could be a novel about a preacher’s wife and a Chicano activist in the 1970’s. Stay tuned.

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