“Ana Castillo is an American treasure. Fearless, compassionate, and flat-out brilliant – she is the writer we need as we navigate the challenges of our ever-changing world.”
—Tayari Jones, bestselling author of An American Marriage
In a prolific career spanning five decades, Ana Castillo’s novels, essays, short fiction, and poetry are a firm point of reference in national discussions around intersectionality, exploring what Ibis Gomez-Vega has called “those segments of the American population often separated by class, economics, gender, and sexual orientation.” One of the best-known Mexican-American writers working today and a pioneer in the field of Chicana literature, Castillo’s prose blends elements of oral history and established literary tradition with innovation and experimentation.
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 and is considered a classic. 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’s celebrated novel The Guardians—often considered her mainstream breakthrough—combines crushing realism with mystical transcendence. It follows the lives of Mexican immigrants who cross the border into the United States, centering on a family devastated by deaths and disappearances. Popular with community read committees, The Guardians is “a moving book that is both intimate and epic” (Oscar Hijuelos), as crushingly relevant today as it was when first published in 2008.
“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 novel Give It to Me 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.
Black Dove: Mamá, Mi’jo, and Me returns to the essay form, looking 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). With startling humor and love, Castillo weaves intergenerational stories that take us from Mexico City to Chicago. In doing so, she narrates some of America’s most heated debates and urgent injustices through the oft-neglected lens of motherhood and family. Black Dove won an International Latino Book Award and a Lambda Award for best bisexual nonfiction.
In Castillo’s next book, My Book of the Dead forthcoming in fall 2021, she returns to her poetry roots. My Book of the Dead is a collection of forty of her poems and artwork that addresses the meaning of life, current events and what happens after death.
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 writing has been published in The New York Times, More, The Los Angeles Times, The Nation, The San Francisco Chronicle, Frontiers, and The Washington Post, among others.
A passionate advocate for other writers, Castillo served for five years as 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, as well as on the advisory board of the new American Writers Museum in Chicago which opened its doors in 2017. Castillo has served as the Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz Endowed Chair at DePaul University, the Martin Luther King, Jr. Distinguished Visiting Scholar at MIT, the Lund-Gill Endowed Chair at Dominican University, and the Poet-in-Residence at Westminster College in Utah.
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, awarded to Latinos/as who have contributed significantly to our understanding of our Hispanic community and culture through literary arts, scholarship, and publications. Other awards include a Carl Sandburg Award, a Mountains and Plains Booksellers Award, and fiction and poetry fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts. Castillo holds an MA from the University of Chicago and a PhD from the University of Bremen, Germany.
Much sought-after for speaking engagements and writing workshops, Castillo speaks on the craft of storytelling as well as Xicana identity and culture. She lives in New Mexico.