Introduction to Latina and Latino Literature/Ana Castillo


Ana Castillo edit

Brief Biography edit

Born June 15, 1953 in Chicago, Illinois, Ana Castillo is a Mexican-American novelist, poet, essayist, short story writer and playwright. Her mother, Rachel Rocha Castillo, was of Mexican Indian descent and worked as an assembly-line worker in a television factory and her father was a night laborer in a Chicago bookbindery.[1] As early as high school in the late 60's she became an activist, talking about race issues. After graduating from Jones Commercial High School, Ana Castillo attended Chicago City College for two years and then entered Northeastern Illinois University. According to the Washington Post, "At Northeastern University, she felt acute alienation: there were no Chicano professors, no one teaching the history or literature of a huge segment of the U.S. population. Angry and determined to change things, she began to write." [2] She graduated with a B.A, majoring in Art with a minor in Secondary Education in 1975. She earned her M.A in Latin American and Caribbean Studies at the University of Chicago. Ana Castillo received a Ph.D., University of Bremen, Germany in 1991 [3] and an honorary doctorate from Colby College.

Place in Latina/o Literature edit

Ana Castillo is known for writing about Chicana feminism, her work centering around identity, racism and "Xicanisma". Castillo says, "Xicanisma is an ever present consciousness of our interdependence specifically rooted in our culture and history. Although Xicanisma is a way to understand ourselves in the world, it may also help others who are not necessarily of Mexican background and/or women. It is yielding; never resistant to change, one based on wholeness not dualisms. Men are not our opposities, our opponents, our 'other'"[4] Benjamin Carson says Ana Castillo earned her place among other prolific writers of Chicana literature and the search for identity in Chicana/o culture. He calls Castillo a theorist and a “mestiza”, which is a “product of crossbreeding, designed for preservation under a variety of conditions”.[5]

Comparison to Other Latina/o Authors edit

Ana Castillo and Sandra Cisneros: In Ana Castillo's “Saturdays” poem and Sandra Cisneros' “My Wicked Wicked Ways", we see a father from a daughter's perspective, through a photo in the former and interaction in the latter. From the descriptions the daughters in the poems give, we can assume the fathers in both poems are committing adultery. While both mothers deal with the affairs in different ways, both are ultimately resigned to their place and to the fact that their husbands are cheating. Another comparison between the two narrators in the poems, could be their possible resentment of their mothers because of the resignation to their status and acceptance of traditional roles. Castillo's poem, “Saturdays”, even goes so far as to make subservience a Mexican trait in the second stanza, “'How do I look?”/'Bien,' went on ironing./That's why he married her, a Mexican/ woman, like his mother, not like/ they were in Chicago, not like/ the ones he was going out to meet.”.[6]

Analysis of Specific Texts edit

"If Not for the Blessing of a Son": Published in Castillo's collection of short stories named, Loverboys, "If Not for the Blessing of a Son"[7] tells the story of a migrant family who seems to have it all. The husband has a good job and the wife has the respect, and envy, of the other women in the neighborhood. Their son, who has the name of both his grandfathers, is helpful around the house, studious and good looking. For his mother, he could be counted on to "run errands, wash and hand-wax her car every saturday, cancel appointments on the phone, write letters for her, load and unload the dishwasher twice a day, walk the dog three times a day, and give her the great pleasure of a twice-weekly pedicure which he had become expert at since she taught him when he was six years old"(35) and for his father, "he washed and waxed his father's car, kept his father's home office neat, papers filed, and books in order on the shelves" (36). However, when the son revealed to his parents that he wished to be a police officer, and the reasoning behind it ("I want a license to kill..."), they were less than pleased. The very last two paragraphs of the short story drip of a possibly sexual undertone. To the son, the house will always be a house of secrets.

"Maria Who Paints and Who Bored Jose Two Children": Also published in Castillo's collection, Loverboys, "Maria Who Paints and Who Bored Jose Two Children"[8] tells the story of a woman and her ex-husband. What everyone else in the town sees when they divorce is "she left her kids' hard-working father. She chose art. As far as anyone knew she wasn't even a real artist. Maria all over town with a dyke"(128). Even her ex-husband sees her as a selfish woman, "Maria who only thinks of her career. Maria who after she made it big never thought to pay back her in-laws a dime for all those years of free studio space" (129). The story shows the double standards in traditions when it comes to seeking your own identity outside of the household.

Both stories portray a sense of inability to break free from the traditional household. Even though Maria did accomplish this in the latter story, she then had to deal with the negative effects it had on her status in the community. Both stories also show that there are secrets and details that the community is not aware of, as both families are not really happy and were just putting up a front.

Literary Criticism edit

Kelli Lyon Johnson writes about the borderlands the characters in various novels written by Castillo inhabit. According to Johnson, "male characters use violence to control women's sexuality, imposing and enforcing women's place- both the physical space women inhabit and the psychological and social space by which women are defined. Women's place is therefore socially constructed through violence." In order to back their claim, Johnson uses Sapogonia,So Far from God, and The Mixqhuiahuala Letters for evidence throughout the journal entry.[9] Johnson also mentions that "rape as a means of punishment and control unites all three of these novels" and "in the patriarchy, domestic violence shares with rape the distinction of targeting primarily women, the means of subordinating and castigating them for crossing male-defined borders." [10]

Links to Ana Castillo's Works edit

Ana Castillo's "Saturdays" on

Syllabi edit

  • WMNST 512: Women: Myth, ritual, and the sacred. San Diego State University. Spring 2013

  • English 4230/8236 Latino Literature. University of Nebrasksa at Omaha. Fall 2009

  • ENGL 250T: Southwestern American Literature. California State University Fresno. Spring 2002

  • English 3940: Multicultural American Literature. California State University Channel Islands. Spring 2001.

  • English 479: American Novel II. Central Washington University. Fall 2004.

Bibliography of Secondary Sources edit

  • Maier, Carol. "The Poetry Of Ana Castillo: A Dialogue Between Artist And Critic". Letras Femininas, Vol. 6, No. 1 (SPRING 1980), pp. 51–62. Published by: Asociacion Internacional de Literatura y Cultura Femenina Hispanica
  • Martínez, Danizete. "Teaching Chicana/o Literature in Community College with Ana Castillo's So Far from God". Rocky Mountain Review, Vol. 65, No. 2 (FALL 2011), pp. 216–225. Published by: Rocky Mountain Modern Language Association
  • Milligan, Bryce. "An Interview with Ana Castillo". South Central Review, Vol. 16, No. 1 (Spring, 1999), pp. 19–29 Published by: The Johns Hopkins University Press on behalf of The South Central Modern Language Association
  • Saeta, Elsa. "Ana Castillo's "Sapogonia": Narrative Point of View as a Study in Perception". Confluencia, Vol. 10, No. 1 (Fall 1994), pp. 67–72. Published by: University of Northern Colorado
  • Weissberger, Barbara F. "Ana Castillo's "The Mixquiahuala Letters": A Queer "Don Quijote"". Letras Femeninas, Vol. 33, No. 2 (invierno 2007), pp. 9–23. Published by: Asociacion Internacional de Literatura y Cultura Femenina Hispanica

Miscellaneous Links edit

References edit

  1. Arana, Marie. "Ana Castillo." The Washington Post. The Washington Post, 19 Aug. 2007. Web. 25 June 2014.
  2. Arana, Marie. "Ana Castillo." The Washington Post. The Washington Post, 19 Aug. 2007. Web. 25 June 2014.
  3. "Ana Castillo: Biographical Note." Modern American Poetry. N.p., n.d. Web. 25 June 2014.
  4. Suffer, Jane. "On Ana Castillo's Poetry." Modern American Poetry. N.p., n.d. Web. 25 June 2014.
  5. Carson, Benjamin D. "The Chicana Subject in Ana Castillo's Fiction and the Discursive Zone of Chicana/o Theory". Bilingual Review / La Revista Bilingüe, Vol. 28, No. 2 (MAY-AUGUST 2004-2007), pp. 109-126 Published by: Bilingual Press / Editorial Bilingüe
  6. Castillo, Ana. "Saturdays." My Father Was a Toltec: Poems. Novato, CA: West End, 1988. N. pag. Print.
  7. Castillo, Ana. "If Not for the Blessing of a Son." Loverboys: Stories. New York: W.W. Norton, 1996. N. pag. Print.
  8. Castillo, Ana. "Maria Who Paints and Who Bored Jose Two Children." Loverboys: Stories. New York: W.W. Norton, 1996. N. pag. Print.
  9. Johnson, Kelli Jyon. Violence in the Borderlands: Crossing to the Home Space in the Novels of Ana Castillo. Frontiers: A Journal of Women Studies, Vol. 25, No. 1 (2004), pp. 39-58
  10. Johnson, Kelli Jyon. Violence in the Borderlands: Crossing to the Home Space in the Novels of Ana Castillo. Frontiers: A Journal of Women Studies, Vol. 25, No. 1 (2004), pp. 39-58