Books by Ana Castillo

BLACK DOVE by Ana Castillo
Released: May 10, 2016

"There are points when the writing veers from emotional into overly sentimental. However, Castillo succeeds more often than she fails, and her book provides a compassionate look at those crossing points in our shared lives."
A memoir of a writer—single, bisexual, mother, feminist—and her thoughts on social injustices, culture, and families. Read full book review >
THE GUARDIANS by Ana Castillo
Released: Aug. 7, 2007

"A nuanced, vibrant look at the American experience through Mexican-American eyes."
Pride and tragedy unfold in this tale of Mexican Americans navigating the artificial border that splits their ancestral homeland. Read full book review >
Released: March 27, 2001

"Energetic, down-to-earth."
"I ask the impossible: love me forever," Castillo's second collection begins. This curious mix of ambition and limitation—if one is going to ask for the impossible, "love me forever" seems almost petulant—stalks the book, making its poems seem both weighty and insubstantial, at some times strident and at others safe. Chicagoan Castillo (Peel My Love Like an Onion, 1999, etc.) presents poems written over a 12-year period. Her utterly unsentimental subjects range from autobiography (including a marvelous poem, "Chi-Town Born and Bred, Twentieth-Century Girl Propelled with Flare Into the Third Millennium," whose title is an accurate description of its content) to political activism (as in "Like the people of Guatemala, I want to be free of these memories . . . —Sister Dianna Ortíz," which describes in excruciating detail the tragedy of an American nun captured and tortured by the Guatemalan secret police), to poems of heterosexual and lesbian love (the best of which is perhaps "La Wild Woman," a fable about a woman who steals a bride away from her own wedding). A few of the poems are in Spanish, with translations by the poet Rosario Ferré. But although bilingualism is a fact of the book, it never becomes a point of intense exploration in the way it does for a writer like Gloria Andalzúa. The poems tend to stop short of real radicalism either in form, language, or statement, instead exerting a kind of steady pressure on the wrongs of urban life and on the violence directed against the disenfranchised. Ultimately, the love poems tell the most nuanced stories of the book, showing strong women who "make the impossible / a simple act." Read full book review >
Released: Sept. 14, 1999

Castillo (Loverboys, 1996, etc.) covers familiar territory here—the trials and tribulations of passion, displacement, and cultural identity—but offers a pleasing combination of the light and cheeky with the lyrically romantic. Forty-year-old Carmen "La Coja" (the cripple) finds herself at the crossroads of life, though both paths seem to lead into the abyss. Once locally renowned as a flamenco dancer (despite her one polio-afflicted leg), Carmen now finds herself doing piece work in a Chicago sweatshop and trying to cope with both the devastating reemergence of her polio and the abandonment of her two lovers. Splicing the dismal present with her glorious past, Carmen tells of her 17-year relationship with Agust°n, her dance troupe's dictatorial leader and her passionate one-year affair with his godson Manolo. The complicated triangle is alternately concerned with the heartstrings of love and the rigid customs of culture; both Agust°n and Manolo are Romany and follow a strict code of conventions, including a ban on marriage outside of the tribe. Though Latina, Carmen is accepted as a fellow gypsy, which serves to further splinter her identity-doting daughter to a mother whose disappointment is all too palatable, disabled dancer, muse to one man and siren to another. When Carmen issues an ultimatum to Manolo—he—ll be loyal to Agust°n or to her?—the two men disappear, leaving Carmen for five long years yearning for the erotic memory of Manolo and the comfort of Agust°n. Then both suddenly reappear in her life, with the same old demands and dilemmas. How she resolves her not-so-unpleasant quandary is a testament to her newly discovered sense of self as a singer and the old resilience that brought dance to an immovable leg. Observant and witty, if not altogether exceptional: Castillo creates a poignant portrait of passion lost and regained. Read full book review >
LOVERBOYS by Ana Castillo
Released: Aug. 1, 1996

While explicitly probing the politics of otherness, this debut collection of 26 stories from Chicago writer Castillo (So Far from God, 1993, etc.) also concerns itself with the universal patterns of love. The varied permutations of love and lust—gay, straight, or familial—probed in these tales, most of them told from the viewpoints of Latino men and women, reflect a kaleidoscopic view of life in el Norte. Castillo has an unobtrusive tone, believably capturing the voices of her characters, who range from smooth- talking hustlers to exotic fortune-tellers like the turbaned, one- eyed Miss Rose. The longest and most fully realized piece, ``La Miss Rose,'' follows this hectic woman of magic powders and erratic advice after she adopts two women she believes to be in desperate need of her guidance, dragging them from the desert to Chicago for a steamy summer of adventures. Comic and endearing, it and the ``Christmas Story of the Golden Cockroach'' are the most purely enjoyable stories here. In ``Cockroach,'' contemporary Chicagoans attempt to breed (with explosive results) a very special variety of roach to help ease their winter hardships. Though often amusing, the majority of the stories consider the less magical and blithe aspects of life. The title piece, a powerful narrative of lost love, is narrated by a woman watching two boys make out in a bar while she pines for the lover who has abandoned her. In ``Vatolandia,'' the beautiful and independent Sara Santistevan lists, categorizes, then dismisses all of the crazy, mixed-up men in town, choosing to remain alone. And in ``Maria Who Paints and Who Bore Juan Two Children,'' the title character, who has left her husband, watches in despair as he takes her children to a survivalist retreat. Only occasionally missing the mark (there are some failed narrative experiments), Castillo offers a substantial and noteworthy first collection, both honest and witty in its portrayal of love among the exiled. (Author tour) Read full book review >
SO FAR FROM GOD by Ana Castillo
Released: April 17, 1993

Chicana writer Castillo (whose reputation until now has been mostly regional) brings a warm, sometimes biting but not bitter feminist consciousness to the wondrous, tragic, and engaging lives of a New Mexico mother and her four fated daughters. Poor Sofi! Abandoned by her gambler husband to raise four unusual girls who tend to rise from adversity only to find disaster. ``La Loca,'' dead at age three, comes back to life—but is unable to bear the smell of human beings; Esperanza succeeds as a TV anchorwoman—but is less successful with her exploitative lover and disappears during the Gulf War; promiscuous, barhopping Caridad—mutilated and left for dead—makes a miraculous recovery, but her life on earth will still be cut short by passion; and the seemingly self-controlled Fe is so efficient that ``even when she lost her mind [upon being jilted]...she did it without a second's hesitation.'' Sofi's life-solution is to found an organization M.O.M.A.S. (Mothers of Martyrs and Saints), while Castillo tries to solve the question of minority-writer aesthetics: Should a work of literature provide a mirror for marginalized identity? Should it celebrate and preserve threatened culture? Should it be politically progressive? Should the writer aim for art, social improvement, or simple entertainment? Castillo tries to do it all—and for the most part succeeds. Storytelling skills and humor allow Castillo to integrate essaylike folklore sections (herbal curing, saint carving, cooking)—while political material (community organizing, toxic chemicals, feminism, the Gulf War) is delivered with unabashed directness and usually disarming charm. Read full book review >