Aya De Leon
Aya de Leon (born 1967 in Los Angeles) is a novelist who teaches at the University of California Berkeley. She first came to national attention as a spoken word artist in the underground poetry scene in the San Francisco Bay Area, and a hip-hop theater artist. De Leon is of Puerto Rican, African American, and West Indian heritage, and much of her work explores issues of race, gender, socio-economic class, body and nation.
She attended Harvard University, where she received a Bachelor of Arts. After, she returned to the Bay Area and began to perform spoken word, she won a spot on the San Francisco Slam Team (they won the Western Region Poetry Slam in 2000). From 1998-2008 she toured extensively as an independent artist. In 2001, she began to develop the hip-hop theater show, "Thieves in the Temple: The Reclaiming of Hip Hop" focused on fighting sexism and consumerism in hip-hop  She began her college teaching career at Stanford University in 2001. In 2006, she was chosen as the Director of June Jordan's Poetry for the People at UC Berkeley, where she currently teaches poetry and spoken word. She earned her Master of Fine Arts in fiction from Antioch University Los Angeles.
From 1995 to the present, her work has been published in Essence Magazine and various journals and anthologies. From 2000-2008, she released several independent publications: CDs, chapbooks and a video of "Thieves..."
In 2009, she stopped touring to start a family and transition to being a novelist. In 2013 she began to blog and to write for various online outlets, such as xoJane, Bitch Magazine, Ebony, Racialicious, Writers Digest, Fusion, Womans Day, Movement Strategy Center, and The Feminist Wire. In late 2013 she self-published the children's book puffy: people whose hair defies gravity on Create Space. The book was originally written for her own daughter, and she wanted to offer it others in an attempt to create positive images for children of African heritage and others with "puffy" hair. In 2014 she secured representation with literary agent Jenni Ferrari Adler of Union Literary in NYC. In 2015, she sold her debut book, a feminist heist novel with a Latina Robin Hood protagonist in a 2-book deal to Kensington Books in New York. Her first novel is due out in 2016. She is also working on a collection of essays.