Biography (Cyclopedia of World Authors, Fourth Revised Edition)
One of the most prominent and versatile Chicana writers in the United States, Ana Castillo (kahs-TEE-yoh) is the author of poetry, novels, critical essays, translations, and edited texts. The Chicago-born Castillo first became known as a poet. Her writing reflects her involvement in Chicano and Latino political and cultural movements, as well as her strong commitment to feminist and environmental concerns. Among the many grants and awards she has received are the Carl Sandburg Literary Award in Fiction in 1993 for So Far from God, a Before Columbus Foundation American Book Award in 1987 for The Mixquiahuala Letters, and National Endowment for the Arts Poetry Fellowships in 1990 and 1995. She has taught and lectured at several American and European universities.
Castillo began publishing poetry while she was still a student at Northeastern Illinois University, from which she graduated with a degree in liberal arts in 1975. She first published in journals such as Revista Chicano-Riqueño, and her first collection, Otro Canto, appeared in 1977. This was followed by The Invitation in 1979, the same year that she received an M.A. in Latin and Caribbean studies from the University of Chicago.
Castillo’s early poems reveal her involvement in the El Movimiento (the Chicano/Latino civil rights movement), as well as her developing feminism and her poetic use of eroticism. The theme of social protest in...
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Biography (Poetry for Students)
Born to Raymond and Raquel Rocha Castillo on June 15, 1953, Ana Castillo grew up speaking Spanish in a working-class Italian neighborhood in Chicago, where she first encountered the prejudice that led her to become active in the Chicano and feminist movements. She feels, however, that the urban environment was beneficial in that it exposed her to a range of cultures, beliefs, and customs. Her parents were great storytellers, but they took the practical road of sending their daughter to a secretarial high school. However, Castillo’s lack of interest and poor typing skills led her to pursue higher education at Chicago City College and then Northern Illinois University. At first she studied art but was so discouraged by teachers who failed to understand her cultural and feminine perspective that she turned to writing for personal expression and finished with a bachelor’s degree in liberal arts in 1975. Supporting herself by serving as a college lecturer and a writer-in-residence for the Illinois Arts Council, Castillo then worked toward her master’s degree in Latin American and Caribbean studies at the University of Chicago and graduated in 1979. The years that followed were filled with a variety of short-term college teaching positions. In 1991, Castillo was granted a doctorate in American studies from the University of Bremen in Germany.
Castillo has said she never thought of writing as a way to make a living. Her topics have been such that she also did not expect to be noticed by the mainstream. Nevertheless, by the mid-1990s Castillo had won several prestigious awards and was able to become a full-time writer. Although Castillo started out as a poet, she has also written novels and short stories with themes that mirror her poetry: social consciousness, feminism, and life as a Chicana. Among her awards are two National Endowment for the Arts fellowships (1990 and 1995), and the Carl Sandburg Literary Award in 1993 for her novel So Far from God (1993). Other acclaimed works are The Mixquiahuala Letters (1986); Peel My Love like an Onion (1999); My Father Was a Toltec and Selected Poems 1973–1988 (1995; originally published as My Father Was a Toltec: Poems in 1988); Massacre of the Dreamers: Essays on Xicanisma (1994), a collection of essays; and Loverboys (1996), a collection of stories. In addition, Castillo’s work appears in numerous anthologies, and she has published various articles. In April 2000, Castillo and other notable Chicagoans were depicted on a historical mural on the sky deck of the Sears Tower.
In 2001, Castillo published her fifth volume of poetry, I Ask the Impossible, which contains work written over the previous eleven years. Intended to express topics relevant to women, particularly poor or minority women, the poems are about death, social protest, love, and family relationships. Among the poems is “While I Was Gone a War Began,” as well as several poems that focus on the childhood of Castillo’s son, Marcel Ramon Herrera. The public can read about her activities at her Website: http://www.anacastillo.com.
Ana Castillo, a leading voice in the Chicana/o movement, was born in 1953. Although her novels, nonfiction, and poetry are all set in the American Southwest, Castillo was raised and educated in her native Chicago, where she earned a B.A. degree in Studio Art and Secondary Education (1975) and an M.A. in Latin American and Caribbean Studies from the University of Chicago (1979). In the late 1970s, Castillo moved to southern California, where she taught English as a second language and developed her style and distinctive voice. Always an activist, she uses her fiction, poetry, and nonfiction as tools to illuminate the plight of Hispanics, especially women, in contemporary American culture. She cofounded the journal Third Woman and also serves as a contributing editor to Humanizarte Magazine.
Her international fame, following the publication of The Mixquiahuala Letters (fiction; 1986), and poetry such as Otro Canto (1977), The Invitation (1979), Women Are Not Roses (1984), and My Father Was a Toltec (1988) led to a teaching opportunity at France's Sorbonne University and a Ph.D. in American Studies from the University of Bremen, Germany, in 1991. Since then, Castillo has continued to lecture, read from her works, and publish fiction and poetry about the lives of Hispanic women.
Like most public intellectuals, among whom she numbers herself, Castillo has donated her papers, workbooks, and personal...
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