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Life Changing Literature: Ana Castillo

Ana Castillo

International authors like Jorge Luis Borges, Carlos Fuentes, Gabriel García Márquez, Octavio Paz and Mario Llosa Vargas had already established themselves in the pantheon of great literature by the time U.S. Latina authors like Ana Castillo started churning out works that demonstrated their own literary prowess.

I keep coming back to the works of Ana Castillo again and again for one reason: she is unafraid to seek a deeper truth, the truth of the human heart. Ana Castillo is honest with the reader. She is the voice of a generation.

Black Dove: Mama, Mi’jo, and Me is that rare book that gets 5-star reviews across the board. It is the heart-wrenching true story of a mother reflecting on the incarceration of her only child. She articulates well the complexities of this particular time in history, including rarely discussed reflections on sexuality and the prison-for-profit racket.

Watercolor Women, Opaque Men is unusual in that it is a novel written in verse. It seems to have been breathed into existence whole, written in record time as many works of genius are. The book reads surprisingly quickly, even for those who don’t take easily to poetry. Each fascinating vignette resonates with the truth of growing up within the narrowly defined lines of time and place, and then successfully breaking out to find her own voice.

Give it To Me (2014, The Feminist Press) is “Sex in the City” with Latina women. Ana Castillo’s 6th novel was written in only 2 months. As with everything she writes, it’s a fun jaunt and you may learn something, too.

Her non-fiction book The Massacre of the Dreamers blazed a trail when it came out in 1994. In it Castillo invented the term Xicanisma for Chicana feminism. Through interviews and ethnographic research, she documents the labor struggles, spirituality and sexuality of Chicanas in the 20th century. Perhaps her most influential book, it was recently re-released and has been influential throughout the world.

Ana Castillo also penned My Father Was a Toltec (1988), I Ask the Impossible (2001), Peel My Love Like an Onion (1999), The Guardians (2007), Loverboys (1996), a children’s book, My Daughter, My Son, the Eagle, the Dove (2000), Psst…I Have Something to Tell You, Mi Amor (2005) and So Far from God (2005).

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