ORTEGO, Sheila 1952-
PERSONAL: Born August 15, 1952, in New Orleans, LA. Ethnicity: "Acadian"
Nationality: American Education: University of New Mexico, Ph.D.
ADDRESSES: Office--Santa Fe Community College, 6401 Richards Ave., Santa Fe, NM
CAREER: Santa Fe Community College, Santa Fe, NM, faculty member and
administrator, 1983--, began as adjunct professor, became executive vice
president and vice president of instruction and student services, served as
president, 2006. GROW Santa Fe Community College Foundation, initial
president.Has worked on committees, including the Santa Fe Economic Development,
Inc., Workforce Development Alliance, the Higher Learning Commission of the
North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, and the Council on Podiatric
The Road from La Cueva (novel), Sunstone Press (Santa Fe, NM), 2008.
Contributor to poetry journals.
Sheila Ortego's debut novel, The Road from La Cueva, was some fifteen years in
the making, as the author balanced fiction writing with her primary career as a
faculty member and administrator at Santa Fe Community College and as a poet. "I
think I was driven to write the book," she told Journal Santa Fe Online
contributor Polly Summar. The novel, loosely autobiographical, is the story of a
New Mexico woman struggling to break free from an unhappy marriage to a violent
and controlling husband. Ana Howland, who works as a hematology technician at a
hospital in Santa Fe, New Mexico, lives several miles out of town with her
husband Frank and daughter Emmy. Raised by a strictly religious mother, Ana was
taught to be submissive to her husband's rules; as a result, she has no friends
of her own and no self-esteem. The action begins when Ana meets Michael Woods,
who works at the same hospital as a nurse and is also a potter. In Michael, Ana
sees a man who will treat her with consideration and respect; in turn, she can
respect and love him. They begin a passionate affair, yet despite Michael's
pleadings, Ana cannot find the courage to leave Frank. When Michael finally
breaks things off, Ana blames herself. She eventually quits her job, takes Emmy,
and leaves Frank's house for an apartment in Santa Fe, but her actions may have
come too late to regain Michael's love.
Discussing the novel with Summar, Ortego explained that she wanted to emphasize
the importance for women of getting out of emotionally abusive relationships.
"People would say women aren't oppressed like that anymore," she said, "but my
contention is that they are."
A writer for Kirkus Reviews considered The Road from La Cueva a "low-energy" and
predictable story that lacked sufficient narrative drive and tension. Others,
however, enjoyed Ana's story and praised Ortego's novelistic skill. An Internet
Bookwatch contributor recommended the book as sensitive and "deftly told."
January Online reviewer Linda L. Richards found the novel both intellectually
rewarding and emotionally moving, and she praised the "sharp eye and delicate
tread" that make Ana's story such a "vibrant journey of discovery." A
contributor to Terra's Book Blog described The Road from La Cueva as a
"touching, heart melting story," which "could be any one of our lives."
Ortego, who holds a Ph.D. in American Studies from the University of New Mexico,
was named president of Santa Fe Community College in 2006.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Internet Bookwatch, June 1, 2008, review of The Road from La Cueva.
Kirkus Reviews, February 15, 2008, review of The Road from La Cueva.
Women in Higher Education, July 1, 2006, "Dr. Sheila Ortego," author profile, p.
January Online, http://januarymagazine.com/ (November 14, 2008), Linda L.
Richards, review of The Road from La Cueva.
Journal Santa Fe Online, http://santafe.com/ (November 14, 2008), Polly Summar,
"Long, Winding Road to a Novel," review of The Road from La Cueva.
Santa Fe Community College Web site, http://www.sfccnm.edu/ (November 14, 2008),
author faculty profile.
Terra's Book Blog, http://terra57.blogspot.com/ (November 14, 2008), review of
The Road from La Cueva.*