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Interview: Ana Castillo

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A Conversation with Ana Castillo

Ana Castillo is a celebrated poet, novelist, short story writer, and essayist.  She is considered to be one of the leading voices to emerge from the Chicana experience.  Castillo is an incredibly prolific author and poet whose work has been critically acclaimed and widely anthologized in the United States and abroad. She has long been an activist and feminist as well as a strong voice for social change.

Castillo’s books include the novel, The Mixquiahuala Letters (Bilingual Review Press, 1986; Doubleday, 1992), Sapogonia (Bilingual Review Press, 1990), So Far From God (Norton, 1993),  Massacre of the Dreamers: Reflections on Mexican-Indian Women in the United States 500 Years After the Conquest (University of New Mexico, 1992) and I Ask the Impossible (Anchor Books, 2001).

Castillo has coordinated an anthology on la Virgen de Guadalupe entitled La Diosa de las Americas/Goddess of the Americas (Riverside/Putnam, 1996), Peel My Love Like an Onion (Doubleday) in 1999 and a children’s book My Daughter, My Son, The Eagle, The Dove. In 2005 she published a dramatic work Psst…I have something to tell you, mi amor (Wings Press) and recently published her latest book The Guardians (Random House).

Born and raised in Chicago, Castillo currently lives in New Mexico, although she is currently teaching at MIT in Boston. The Ana Castillo website contains a complete bio and list of publications and awards.

For me personally, Ana Castillo is my hero, a role model and one of my favorite authors and poets. I've always admired her activism and her writing.  Ms. Castillo very kindly took time out from her busy schedule at MIT to speak with me about her poetry, her books and her activism.  I found her to be gracious, warm and brilliant.  We had a lovely conversation and I gained both  knowledge and inspiration from it.

GR:    I loved your children's coming of age book My Daughter, My Son, The Eagle, The Dove – do you ever think you will write another book for children?

AC:    Well, it's not always a matter of wanting to write something; sometimes it's a matter of getting it published. That book didn't do very well and is going out of print soon.  I did write a book for babies from the *huehuetlatolli  but couldn't find a publisher that was interested in taking it on.

GR:  It's a shame that the coming of age book is going out of print.  It's such a beautiful book.

AC:    I know, I know.  And like I said I had the baby book, the huehuetlatolli, for the newborns and we passed that around.  I wanted to do that about a year or so with this one.  So you know you kind of lose your energy on it and then you move on to what else you have to get done like you know, a novel and so all those things are on the back burner right now.

GR:   I loved The Guardians.

AC:   Thank you.

GR:   I loved Regina.  She was a lot more timid and vulnerable than like say, Carmen La Coja of Peel My Love Like an Onion but she was wonderful.  She was such a great character and I liked her so much.  She was very easy to relate to.

AC:   Thank you.

GR:   What was your inspiration for The Guardians?

AC:   Well I have been making my home in Southern New Mexico for the last four years splitting my time there and teaching and it’s out in the desert.  The Franklin Mountains are in view.  There’s a picture of me standing there outside of my house and you can see the Franklins behind me and actually that was the initial take off point for me in the story imagining someone on the other side of those of those mountains waiting to cross over.  It was a cold morning and it was very misty – you couldn’t even see them but you knew they were there.  That’s how it started for me.   The first question is how would it be like for someone who’s waiting this morning to cross over and the other question was who’s waiting.  And so I went over to my laptop and started writing the story. 

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