“An always skilled storyteller, [Castillo] grounds her writing in…humor, love, suspense and heartache—that draw the reader in.”
—The Chicago Sunday Sun-Times
In novels, short stories, poems, and essays, Ana Castillo explores what Ibis Gomez-Vega has called “those segments of the American population often separated by class, economics, gender, and sexual orientation.” Castillo’s works transcend these boundaries of politics, class, and gender, making her one of the best-known Mexican-American writers working today. Xpat Nation named her as one of the “10 Mexican-American Women You Need to Know About.” Castillo’s prose blends elements of oral history and established literary tradition with innovation and experimentation: Ilan Stavans has called her “the most daring and experimental of Latino novelists.”
Castillo’s 2008 novel The Guardians follows the lives of Mexican immigrants who illegally cross the border into the United States. Combining crushing realism with mystical transcendence, The Guardians centers on a family devastated by deaths and disappearances. Perhaps Castillo’s most lauded achievement to date, The Guardians has been called “a moving book that is both intimate and epic” (Oscar Hijuelos).
“Castillo’s incandescent novel of suffering and love traces life’s movement toward the light even in the bleakest of places.”
The Lambda Award-winning Give It to Me, published in 2014, was praised in Library Journal’s starred review as “entertaining from the beginning… Lives up to Castillo’s reputation of creating strong characters that defy stereotypes.” That year also marked the twentieth anniversary of Castillo’s classic collection of of Xicana essays, Massacre of the Dreamers. In celebration of this landmark, the University of New Mexico Press released a special edition of the groundbreaking book.
Castillo’s latest work, Black Dove: Mamá, Mi’jo, and Me, looks at what it means to be a single, brown, feminist parent in a world of mass incarceration, racial profiling, and police brutality. The book is “a high-wire act to bring together a combination of personality characteristics and specific cultural touchstones” (Kirkus). Through startling humor and love, Castillo weaves intergenerational stories traveling from Mexico City to Chicago. And in doing so, she narrates some of America’s most heated political debates and urgent social injustices through the oft-neglected lens of motherhood and family.
Raised in a working-class neighborhood in Chicago, Castillo credits the powerful storytelling tradition of her Mexican heritage as the foundation and inspiration for her writing. By the time she graduated from college, Castillo had already begun to establish herself as a dynamic poetic voice: she published poems in anthologies and magazines as a college student, and three volumes of poetry followed shortly thereafter. In the mid-1980s, Castillo turned to fiction. So Far From God, her first novel to be widely read, was published in 1993. Subsequent books include the short story collection Loverboys, which Booklist called “defiant, satirically hilarious, sexy, and wise,” and the novel Peel My Love Like an Onion, praised by Publishers Weekly for being “sardonic and seductive…[a] compulsively readable narrative.”
Castillo has been a contributor to many anthologies, including The Third Woman: Minority Woman Writers of the United States, Cuentos Chicanos, and Goddess of the Americas, and her writings have been published in Frontiers, The Los Angeles Times, The Nation, The San Francisco Chronicle, and The Washington Post, among others.
Castillo is passionately involved in nurturing the voices of other authors. She is the Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of La Tolteca, an arts and literary zine dedicated to the advancement of a world without borders and censorship, and is on the advisory board of the new American Writers Museum in Washington, DC. Castillo held the Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz Endowed Chair at DePaul University and the Martin Luther King, Jr. Distinguished Visiting Scholar post at MIT, and was the Poet-in-Residence at Westminster College in Utah and the Lund-Gill Endowed Chair at Dominican University. In 2016 she was awarded the Outstanding Latino/a Cultural Award in Literary Arts or Publications by the American Association of Hispanics in Higher Education. This award is given to Latinos/as who have contributed significantly to our understanding of our Hispanic community and culture through literary arts, scholarship, and publications.
Much sought-after for speaking engagements, Castillo speaks on the craft of storytelling as well as Xicana identity and culture. She lives in New Mexico.
For more information about Ana Castillo, please visit anacastillo.com.