Andrea Mortimer Rhoads was born and raised in Madera, California, spending her youth surrounded by the rich agricultural landscape of the central San Joaquin Valley. She was educated at Fresno State, going on to teach English, French, and creative writing at area high schools. She later returned to her alma mater to pursue her passion for poetry and earn her Master of Fine Arts degree in 2006. Her writing drew from her childhood memories and family, art and religion, and her reverence for the natural world.
This month marks the fifth anniversary of Andrea’s death; she passed away July 24, 2014. Her debut chapbook of poems and short essays, “The River: Reflections on Life and Poetry,” was published posthumously in 2017 by Tourane Poetry Press, an independent press based in San Jose, California. Tourane is a project of Vuong Quoc Vu, who studied poetry alongside Andrea and is also a Fresno State MFA alum. A native of Saigon, Vietnam, Vuong lives in the San Francisco Bay Area, but his heart is still in the Central Valley.
In a June email interview, MFA communication specialist Jefferson Beavers spoke with Vuong about his deep connection to Andrea’s poetry, the process of pulling together a posthumous collection to honor her, and how Andrea’s work fits into the tradition of Fresno writers.