Ana Castillo

novelist, poet, essayist, short story writer

Ana Castillo (June 15, 1953) is a Chicana novelist, poet, short story writer, essayist, editor, playwright, translator and independent scholar.

Ana Castillo in 2006

Quotes edit

  • Why is what is natural to women often seen as negative?
    • from "A Blessing" in My Book of the Dead (2021)
  • As disturbing as some of us may find it there seems to be some evidence that the age men are most attracted to is a young teen, 13 to be specific. Women especially are subjected to ageism. Once she is past her twenties, I think a lot of women, let’s say in contemporary Western culture, still fear losing their sexual appeal, i.e., their worth as women…
  • We all participate in patriarchal patterns.
  • In Lak Ech/tu eres mi otro yo–teaches about the ‘other’ and that we are all each other’s reflection.
  • Protect him, yes, with my life; spare him of learning responsibility and to take care of himself, no.
    • Black Dove: Mamá, Mi'jo, and Me (2016)
  • A good lover will do that, see something worthwhile in you that you never knew was there. And when there's something you don't like to see in yourself a good lover won't see it either.
    • Peel My Love Like an Onion (1999)
  • You say your city the way some Americans say this is their country. You never feel right saying that - my country. For some reason looking Mexican means you can't be American.
    • Peel My Love Like an Onion (1999)
  • I have a commitment to many of my major characters who have brown skin. That's a commitment to the story of a different character that you're not used to seeing in literature. In Julio Cortázar's work, for example, I can deal with his Latin American history, I can deal with the language, but his women have white, porcelain skin. They're Argentine, probably from a European background.
    • 1991 interview in Conversations with Contemporary Chicana and Chicano Writers edited by Hector A. Torres (2007)
  • I'm fairly certain that if you study any poet of any given time, any sex, any class background, the question of searching for identity is there. It's inherent. It is a process of self-understanding, of going through life. Take Pablo Neruda, ambassador for his country, writing poetry reflecting the issues of his life. What I'm saying is that the difference between me and Neruda is that I'm not a man from a middle-class elitist background. My government is not sending me as ambassador so I can go and write poetry in some other place. What is different with women of color is that they are the very last permitted a voice. What we are hearing now is this very unique, silenced, previously censored voice.
    • 1990 interview in Conversations with Contemporary Chicana and Chicano Writers edited by Hector A. Torres (2007)

Interview with Vice (May 2016) edit

  • “Black Dove” [“Paloma Negra”] is a mariachi song, and we Mexicans love our mariachis; we'd go celebrate Mother's Day or a birthday or something and ask for a song that brings a great deal of sentimental feeling to us individually or the table. That's how I feel with "Black Dove." In the book I explain that it's a song that my mother actually sang as I left home as a young woman. My mother was very traditional, and in her mind, the way a girl leaves home is through marriage—me going out with my little satchel was not how they imagined it. They imagined the worst, that I was going to end up in a cabaret as one of those that dances for a few fellas.
    • On how she chose the title of her 2016 memoir
  • The issue of mass incarceration, the multi-billion-dollar industry that prisons have become in this country, is important to talk about. The fact is that young people of color are being harassed as much as my generation was 30 years ago despite the civil rights movement and all the other ways that we've brought up race issues in this country.
  • I take every risk in writing that I can, because I don't write just to entertain people or make money.
  • …I always tell people that you have to write what's tearing at your heart, what you need to resolve. I thought it was time to walk my talk. How was I going to write about parts of my life and not write about what really was motivating some of my behavior? I've written long enough to know where the boundaries are.
    • On acknowledging her rape and suicide attempt in her memoir
  • (In one of your essays in the book, from 2012, you write about Beyoncé and Jennifer Lopez and say they are "[d]oing no more than supporting and promoting patriarchal and capitalist goals." Do you still feel this way about them, even as they—Beyoncé especially—are often held up as feminist icons?) AC: I do, but I know that I would have a lot of women of color of younger generations argue with me about that. I come from a generation of radical feminism; we believed in not using your body for financial gain and that sexualization fed into violence against women. I know that dates me. The performances that both Jennifer Lopez and Beyoncé give are highly sexually charged, and they've made a lot of money off of a lot of men by sexualizing themselves as exotic beauties. Both of them have dyed their hair blonde, straightened it, weaved it, which feeds into a fantasy about women and women of color. I come from a very different perspective, and I don't believe that anything in terms of personal gain or materialism is really helping the rest of the world. If you make that much money, instead of buying a humongous mansion, go back to your community and start community projects and talk to your legislators about changing some of the laws [that mean] young men of color who have felonies because [they dealt] drugs as teenagers can no longer integrate into society. Moving away from Beyoncé and J-Lo—I'm sure they do a lot of good deeds—I'm very lucky I have a roof over my head. I can eat healthy food, my children have coats in cold weather, they have an education. I don't think a human being needs much more beyond that.

Interview edit

  • Anyone who says the artists and writers they study don’t influence them, directly or unconsciously, isn’t being honest.
  • We think that language is only an aesthetic choice or a matter of personal expression, but for Mexicans and the people in the U.S. who share that history, suppression of our culture is political. This is the reason I choose the language/s I choose, and when.
  • We can’t assume who speaks what language in these times.
  • I continue with the agenda I had as a girl, writing to fill in the blanks, spaces, silences and outright lies regarding POC, specifically Latino/a/Chicana/os/Chicanx when and how I am able to do so.
  • I made a commitment a half century ago to make my writing my own tool and weapon to fight injustices as I recognized them, and this continues. I am grateful to the gods for it.

Interview in Acentos Review (September 2008) edit

  • A novel begins with a query.
  • It is the nature of all living creatures, including Homo sapiens, I believe, to adapt to a place where they may survive. If that is something we as social beings called home then home it is for my main character in The Guardians, Regina who has plunked down hard earned pennies on a cachito of terreno where she can survive, plants some vegetables to live from, etc.
    • On the concept of home for Latinas
  • I see the ‘breast fest’ going on around the world where we see every female’s cleavage, ‘girls’ gone wild’ commercials, not to mention Spring Breaks in the States, their wet t-shirt contests and so forth. I think, this is what we feminists struggled so hard for?
  • I saw Miguel-Mike who is in his mid-thirties in the novel (born in 1969) struggling with the macho legacies of the men in his family and role models, his white military father and his cantina owning grandfather. At the same time he struggles with how much his ex-wife dotes on their son.…But as far as the novel makes reference to that, Miguel seems to be willing to concede to the mother’s care more than enforce macho authority over the sickly boy. Miguel is a man of the new millennia. He listens to what his significant other opines. As an educated individual, he also turns to literature for answers. He reflects on his failed marriage and tries to learn from it rather than shut down and repeat his mistakes. There is a deep desire to find spiritual and romantic fulfillment. He’s willing to find new ways to do that within the constrictions of society’s patriarchal institutions.
    • On how her character Miguel-Mike circumvents macho stereotypes in Castillo’s novel The Guardians
  • In traditional cultures we turn to our elders to give us the guidance of their long experience. Some young people today, I find, think that because their elders make mistakes in their youth they have no right to give advice. But that is exactly why their advice is so valuable. Our elders guide us to keep us from similar pitfalls.
  • … In terms of Latino communities generally speaking, I don’t think women’s (and gay) sexual identities are more than simply tolerated outside the heterosexual one. But I do believe there is change taking place there, too. These are my observations and most definitely have no empirical basis. I do believe that straight men, regardless of age or background, because times are changing, are becoming more accepting of the variations of binary gender constricts.
    • On how the concept of sexuality is shifting in Latin@ communities
  • In 2008 you don’t necessarily find an overt collective Latin@ consciousness (one for all, all for one) in all the output now seen by Latinos. This is a result of the ground broken by my generation. Now, a Latin@ writer, poet, rapper of Word or hip-hop, ‘chic-lit’ novelist does not necessarily feel it important to write from a collective Latin@ identity...Latin@ literature has moved along with the times. You have Latin@s in the limelight -”American Idol”, “Desperate Housewives”, in the White House, etc.- precisely because of the Latin@ Movement of the 70s. On the other hand, popular culture has become global and there aren’t just Latin@s out there now but other ethnic groups that once would not have been represented in the media and mainstream publishing.
  • Not all successful Latin@ writers feel they owe anything to Latin@s. But among those who do, I would hope they keep in mind the history that got them there and that they work to keep those roads open for the upcoming writers.
  • ...we still are far from a racist and sexist free world. The fact that there will be Latin@s who will vote for McCain proves that despite the numbers, there is no such a thing as a Latino Movement today.

I Ask The Impossible (2000) edit

Fragments from the poetry collection

  • The road in either direction
    is neither longer nor shorter,
    nor more narrow nor wider
    than the fear that closes your heart.
  • And life is in my hands,
    suckling at my breast,
    thrives on the rhythm of my beating heart,
    warmth of my throbbing belly.
  • Let us shout louder than her memory,
    louder than the unheard cries
    of 200,000 disappeared,
    buried alive in pits,
    thrown alive from planes,
    butchered and bayoneted
    defenseless and blindfolded
    in the name of democracy.
    It is real, the nightmare,
    and without end.
    How can we sleep?
    How can we sleep?
  • And I write these few
    into the earth
    before I forget that sadness
    isn't everything.
  • do you remember the Conquest
    of the New World? Some scholars call it the Conquest
    of women, because that is when women became a thing to own.
  • paintings
    and books conceal more than they ever tell.
  • How does it feel to be cruel to a woman?
  • No one is very certain about anything after a while.
  • As if we should not be scandalized
    by surprise bombing over any city at night,
    bombs scandalizing the sanctity of night.
  • You chose, as I choose
    to despair, or not
    on a given night or day.
    That despair turned inside out
    you called love.
  • Today you try what suits you and when it don't-
    move on, move on, move on.
  • We pray that our government's leaders
    look into their souls,
    that they think with the heart of a mother
    in making the decisions that affect
    the world's populations.
  • We pray for joy and love to fill our hearts,
    our days and our nights

Massacre Of The Dreamers: Essays On Xicanisma (1994) edit

Introduction edit

  • I am a brown woman, from the Mexican side of town-torn between the Chicago obrero roots of my upbringing and my egocentric tendency toward creative expressions.
  • Chicano/as-Mexicans are the only people besides the Native Americans who have a treaty with the United States. As with many of the treaties between Native Americans and the U.S. government, ours, The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo has been largely violated. This appropriation of territory came as a result of what is known on this side of the border as the Mexican-American war (1846-1848). In Mexico it is known as the North American Invasion. Again, we see that history depends on the view of the chronicler. Despite our constant presence on these lands since before the establishment of this nation, the book-market industry in the United States continues to render us invisible.
  • Early white feminists, such as Kate Millett and Germaine Greer, made arguments that resounded throughout the western world, regarding their rage against white, male-dominated society and claimed their right to be angry. "Woman" had for too long been forced into quiet complacency. In the sixties, what was the purpose of the campus bra-burning, after all, if not to demonstrate their militant refusal to be continually sexualized by male culture. And yet, when feminists of color show their indignation and express intolerance of racism, some white feminists and intellectuals accuse us of being "too angry". Should we ask first what is "anger-appropriate" so as not to offend anyone by expressing our indignation and pain?
  • The slave is much more aware of the master than the master ever knows the thoughts of the slave. The slave's very survival depends on knowing the master. It stands to reason that because people of color in the U.S. are forced to succumb to white dominant society's rules, are educated in Western culture, and read the literature that gives white dominant society's viewpoint we understand quite a bit about the world we live in, in addition to our own unrecognized one. Our survival depends on it.
  • white society insists that only European history and Greco-Roman civilization have intellectual importance and relevance to our society. The legacies of Amerindians from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego are considered primitive. The ignorance of white dominant society about our ways, struggles in society, history, and culture is not an innocent and passive ignorance, it is a systematic and determined ignorance. The omission in most literature of the history and presence of millions of residents who inhabited these lands long before European occupation forces us to read between the lines. If reading between the lines is what white feminists have had to do with the "classics," it most certainly is what we do, as educated U.S. Mexic Amerindians with all that is handed to us through literature and

the mass media. We exist in the void, en ausencia, and surface rarely, usually in stereotype.

  • The Mexic Amerindian woman has inherited the sexism instituted by dominant Mexican and U.S. society compounded by the sexism within certain oppressed indigenous cultures. In neither the creative literature nor the ethnographic documentation, did I hear her speak for herself. Only in 1992, the quincentenary of European conquest, was the world delivered the voice of one Mesoamerican woman, the Mayan Rigoberta Menchu who received the Nobel Peace Prize for her ongoing activism on behalf of her people's human rights.
  • It has been said of me and of my writing that I am in search of identity, as indeed we all are, which is a fact of living in a world of fragmented selves. White men (and white women) have always attempted this through their writing; and because they are members of dominant society, their search was considered representative of all, therefore, universal. On the other hand, the search by those of us who come from marginalized cultures in the United States is categorized as a sociological dilemma or a schizophrenic self-perception.
  • It is our task as Xicanistas, to not only reclaim our indigenismo-but also to reinsert the forsaken feminine into our consciousness.
  • The very act of self-definition is a rejection of colonization.
  • machismo is an exaggerated demonstration of male virility that is inherent in most cultures, but is exemplified most in the United States by their own Anglo leaders, who in the past decade maintained an olympic trillion-dollar defense budget.
  • After extricating our imaginations from the tight reigns of patriarchal imperialism, our next step is to bring others into the fold. Quite the contrary to our so-called assimilation as "Hispanics," I firmly believe, along with many women of conscientización in the Americas, that U.S. society must eventually acculturate our mestiza vision. Our collective memories and present analyses along these lines hold the antidote to that profound sense of alienation many experience in white dominant society.

one: "A Countryless Woman, the Early Feminista" edit

  • according to las feministas, feminism was "a very dynamic aspect of the Chicana's heritage and not at all foreign to her nature."" Contrary to ethnographic data that portrays Chicanas as submissive followers who are solely designated to preserve the culture, the feminists did not see herself or other women of her culture as such. While the feminist dialogue remained among the activists in el Movimiento, one sees in Encuentro Femenil that there indeed existed a solid initiative toward Chicana feminist thought, that is, recognition of sexism as a primary early on as the late 1960s. Clarifying the differences between the needs of the Anglo feminist and the feministas was part of the early feminista's tasks.
  • The feminista also wanted a bicultural and bilingual child care that would validate their children's culture and perhaps ward off an inferiority complex before they had a chance to start public school; traditionally, monolingual and anglocentric schools had alienated children, causing them great psychological damage.
  • The early feminista understood the erroneous conceptions of the white woman's movement that equated sexism to racism because she was experiencing its compounding effects in her daily life.

The Mixquiahuala Letters (1986) edit

  • When i say ours was a love affair, it is an expression of nostalgia and melancholy for the depth of our empathy. (p39)
  • We said nothing for several minutes. Our minds weighed like ripened fruit on the branch. When one is confronted by the mirror, the spirit trembles. (p49)
  • Destiny is not a metaphysical confrontation with one's self, rather, society has knit its pattern so tight that a confrontation with it is inevitable. (p59)
  • ...[we] had abruptly appeared in Mexico as two snags in its patterns. Society could do no more than snip us out. How revolting we were, susceptible to ridiculw, abuse, disrespect. We would have hoped for respect as human beings, but the only respect granted a woman is that which a gentleman bestows upon the lady. Clearly, we were no ladies. What was our greatest transgression? We travelled alone. (The assumption here is that neither served as a legitimate companion for the other.) (p59)

Quotes about Ana Castillo edit

  • Two of my role models are Ana Castillo and Denise Chavez, who draw on their backgrounds for the work they do. They are fearless. I look at them and know I have no excuse. For years I wondered who had given Castillo permission to write? I wanted to ask her in person. By the time I met her, I realized she gave herself permission.
  • It is perhaps hardest for women to overcome the internalized message drummed into us that we are nothing without a man. "i wish i could have convinced you how beautiful you are," wrote Ana Castillo to her friend Alicia in her epistolary novel, The Mixquiahuala Letters. But, she despaired, "they were only the words of another woman," and "meanwhile [you felt] you bore no resemblance to the ideal of any man you encountered anywhere." These stories tell us how far we will have to travel before women are at the center of our own lives, before our thinking is changed enough to allow us to live with integrity, meaning with wholeness, with no sense of guilt, disloyalty, shame for living and being ourselves.
    • Bettina Aptheker Tapestries of Life: Women's Work, Women's Consciousness, and the Meaning of Daily Experience (1989)
  • Chicanas share a topography of multiple identities, and definitions of Chicana feminism remain contested. Instead of feminism per se, Ana Castillo calls for a mestiza consciousness or Xicanisma, an uncompromising commitment to social justice rooted in a woman-centered, indigenous past. Again with her global vision, Anzaldúa's construction of "the new mestiza" encompasses all women of color. In the preface to Making Face, Making Soul, she holds out a message of hope. "We are continuing in the direction of honoring others' ways, of sharing knowledge and personal power through writing (art) and activism, of injecting into our cultures new ways, feminist ways, mestiza ways."
    • Vicki L. Ruiz, From Out of the Shadows: Mexican Women in Twentieth-Century America

External links edit

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