Tag Archives: Ana Castillo

Happy Independence Day, United States of America!

On July 4, 1776, the United States of America declared themselves free from Great Britain. Thanks to its diverse population, the United States is one of the world’s great superpowers. And, by 2050, some scholars project it will boast the largest Spanish-speaking population in the world. Here’s a look, by region, at some of America’s great Latino writers.

LuisValdezCalifornia: Luiz Valdez, right, the father of Latino theater and playwright of “Zoot Suit,” began presenting plays during the Delano farmworkers strike. The plight of farmworkers in California have been the subject of books by Helena María Viramontes and Pam Muñoz Ryan. Other Californians include Gustavo Arellano, Margarita Engle, Alex Espinoza, Reyna Grande, Gilbert Hernandez, Lorraine López, Luis J. Rodriguez, Michele Serros, Gary Soto, Héctor Tobar and Victor Villaseñor.

Rudulfo AnayaNew Mexico: Native son Rudolfo Anaya, left, considered the father of Chicano literature, has set his novels, including his beloved Bless Me Ultima and Sonny Baca mysteries, in this state. The state also served as the setting for novels by Ana Castillo, Denise Chávez and Alisa Valdes.

esmeralda_santiago_163x179_1Puerto Rico: The Caribbean island joined the United States in 1898. Esmeralda Santiago, right, wrote about her personal history in When I Was Puerto Rican and the island’s history in the novel Conquistadora. Other authors of Puerto Rican heritage include Lyn DiIorio, Sarah McCoy, Piri Thomas, Justin Torres and Willliam Carlos Williams.

Rolando HinojosaTexas: Life on the border has served as fodder for books by Rolando Hinojosa,  left, of the Rio Grande Valley, and Sergio Troncoso of El Paso. Sandra Cisneros, originally from Chicago, set her books Woman Hollering Creek and Have You Seen Marie? in this state. Other Tejanos include Dagoberto Gilb, Manuel Gonzales, Diana López and Gwendolyn Zepeda.

JunotDiazThe country’s most prestigious literary award, the Pulitzer Prize, has been given to Cuban-American Oscar Hijuelos and Dominican-American Junot Díaz, right, in the fiction category; Cuban-American Nilo Cruz and Quiara Alegría Hudes, who is of Puerto Rican descent, in drama; and numerous journalists. Eduardo Lalo won the 2013 International Rómulo Gallegos Prize for Fiction, becoming the first American to win one of Latin America’s most prestigious literary awards. The Pura Belpré Award, given by the American Library Association, honors books written for young readers.

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She has the cure for what ails you: The curandera in Latino lit

Bless Me Ultima, which The Hispanic Reader reviewed earlier this week, features an enduring figure in the Latino culture – the curandera, or healer. That figure has played a role in some of the great books in Latino literature. In this great post from La Bloga, Ultima author Rudolfo Anaya and children’s author Monica Brown talk about the role of curandera. Here’s a look at some great curanderas:

BlessMeUltimaCoverBless Me Ultima – Young Antonio Marez is growing up in rural New Mexico when his family takes in Ultima, an elderly curandera. She helps heal his dying uncle, but townspeople believe she places curses on people. This book by Rudolfo Anaya has become one of Latino lit’s best known and beloved books, and has stirred controversy for its profanity.

The+Hummingbird's+DaughterThe Hummingbird’s Daughter – In revolutionary Mexico, Teresita Urrea learns healing powers from a villager named Huila. Soon, she attracts the attention of hundreds of villagers, hoping she will cure them. The brilliantly funny book, written by Luis Alberto Urrea, rivals Ultima in the amount of profanity. The sequel, Queen of America, in which Teresita’s celebrity takes her to the United States, is now in paperback.

SoFarFromGodSo Far From God Ana Castillo’s book about a mother and her four daughters in New Mexico features a whole chapter devoted to villager Dona Felicia’s remedies. Dona Felicia goes on to teach the remedies to one of those daughters, Caridad, after she is traumatized after an attack. Caridad ends up becoming a saint to villagers because they believe she has special powers.

Clara_and_the_CuranderaClara and the Curandera – In this bilingual children’s book written by Monica Brown and illustrated by Thelma Muraida, the curandera has a cure for a young girl who is afflicted with a nasty case of the grumps.

Sources: Wikipedia, Challenging Realities: Magic Realism in Contemporary American Women’s Fiction by M. Ruth Noriega Sánchez

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Classic book review: Ana Castillo’s “So Far From God”

I was so close to loving Ana Castillo’s 1993 novel So Far From God.

So Far From God takes place in a small village in New Mexico, where Sofi is taking care of her four daughters after her husband Domingo has left her. There’s Esperanza, the oldest daughter who works as a television reporter in the Middle East; Fe, who suffers a nervous breakdown when her engagement ends; Caridad, who is attacked by a mysterious creature, ends up living in a cave and becomes a saint to villagers because they believe she has special powers; and La Loca, who dies as an toddler, but wakes up during her own funeral and lands on the church’s roof.

And that’s just the first four chapters, folks.

This book reminded me of Julia Alvarez’s How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents, which also focused on four daughters in a non-linear story. But Garcia Girls is a realistic book and, if you couldn’t tell already, So Far From God uses vast amounts of magic realism and myth.

Sofi is the backbone of the family, running the family’s carnicería and even becoming the leader of her small village. Castillo keeps a light, conversational tone throughout the book even when the women suffer through some terrible tragedies.

As Sofi says, “God gave me four daughters, and you would have thought that by now I would be a content grandmother, sitting back and letting my daughters care for me, bringing me nothing but their babies on Sundays to rock on my lap! But no, not my hijitas! I had to produce the kinds of species that flies!”

I enjoyed the stories and I liked Castillo’s sense of humor. But Castillo packs so much into her sentences that I had to reread them and hunt for the verb. I was also annoyed by her frequent use of double negatives. I would accept this – reluctantly – if the book had a strong first person narrator or if it was used in the dialogue, but I didn’t think they were necessary. In fact, wanted to stab the book with a red pen so the double negatives would bleed to death.

So, I just liked So Far From God when I could have loved it.

More about Ana Castillo:

Ana Castillo is a Mexican-American author who has written numerous books and poems, including 1992’s The Mixquiahuala Letters and 1999’s Peel My Love Like an Onion. Her next book, The Last Goddess Standing, is expected to come out later this year.

Source: I checked this book out of the library.

This book is third in the series of classic books by Latina authors. Next month: Loving Pedro Infante by Denise Chávez.

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In the news: Arizona, awards, Mexico, Marquez, Saenz

Arizona:

• Wednesday will mark a National Day of Solidarity in which educators across the country are encouraged to teach the controversial Tucson, Ariz., school district curriculum – including Latino-themed books such as Occupied America. The district put away the books so it could still receive funding from the state, which has banned ethnic studies. Tucson teacher Curtis Acosta discussed the situation here.

• The Huffington Post wrote about Aztec Muse magazine’s Librotraficante caravan, which will distribute the banned books in Tucson in March.

The Progressive magazine features several articles about the situation, with reactions from banned authors Ana Castillo, Junot Diaz and Dagoberto Gilb.

Awards:

• Books by Meg Medina and Bettina Restrepo were named to the 2011 Amelia Bloomer list for their feminist themes. Medina was honored for Tia Isa Wants a Car and Restrepo was awarded for Illegal.

• Congratulations to California-based writer Jennifer Torres, who won the Lee and Low New Voices Award for her book, Live at the Cielito Lindo. She received a publishing contract from the publisher.

• The 2011 Best Fiction for Young Adults list, chosen by the Young Adult Library Services Association, includes I Will Save You by Matt de la Peña, Under the Mesquite by Guadalupe Garcia McCall and What Can(t) Wait by Ashley Hope Pérez.

Mexico:

• Nobel Prize winner Mario Vargas Llosa and 170 other writers signed a letter published in the Mexican newspaper El Universal calling for the end of violence to journalists in that country, according to the BBC.

Author profiles:

• Nobel winner Gabriel Garcia Marquez, left, talked to the Daily Sun about his return to journalism.

Benjamin Alire Sáenz discussed his writing and painting to the El Paso Times. The article noted that Sáenz, as well as Marquez and Pat Mora, made the list of the top 50 most inspiring writers in the world by Poets & Writers magazine in 2010. Salvador Plascencia was also included.

• Slam poet Jessica Helen Lopez received a nice profile from the San Antonio Express-News before a recent performance there.

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Resolutions for the New Year

Hey, happy new year! Today is the day set aside to recover from last night, watch football and make resolutions. I’ve got a few of my own for my blog. 2011 was a great year for Latino literature but, with just a few exceptions, most of the books I reviewed were by male authors. So I’m declaring 2012 year of the Latina writer. Each month, I’ll review a classic book from a woman author. Here’s my schedule:

• January – Isabel Allende, The House of the Spirits

February – Julia Alvarez, How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents

• March – Ana Castillo, So Far From God

• April – Denise Chavez, Loving Pedro Infante

May – Laura Esquivel, Like Water for Chocolate

• June – Cristina García, Dreaming in Cuban

• July – Lorraine López, The Realm of Hungry Spirits

• August – Pam Muñoz Ryan, Esperanza Rising

• September – Esmeralda Santiago, When I Was Puerto Rican

• October – Michele Serros, Chicana Falsa

• November – Alisa Valdes, The Dirty Girls Social Club

• December – Helena Maria Viramontes, Under the Feet of Jesus

As you’ve probably noticed, I didn’t include some prominent writers. I’ve read most of Sandra Cisneros’s books, and I hope she will have a new book out soon that I can review. I also decided not to include academic Gloria Anzaldúa or poet Gabriela Minstral because I wanted to focus on novels or memoirs. I do plan to profile them on their birthdays, as I did for Cisneros.

Besides reading these books, I also hope to attend more plays for my “At the Theater” feature (which I kicked off last month with 26 Miles) and cover lectures by authors (I have tickets to a Luis Alberto Urrea talk in January). Of course, with all resolutions, things don’t always they turn out as planned, so all items are subject to change. I’ve also decided to scale back on my postings from three times a week to twice a week to make things a little easier on myself (and get to work on my own novel). I’m also in the midst of moving the headquarters of The Hispanic Reader, so I’m giving myself a break for a couple of weeks. See you in 2012!

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