Critical Overview

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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 390

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The 1993 publication of So Far From God was met with great applause. Castillo had already made her critical and popular reputation with her previously published poetry collections and her novel The Mixquiahuala Letters. The Washington Post Book World and the San Francisco Chronicle claimed it was a novel of great power and worth. While Chicana/o literature, as a whole, has not really penetrated the national reading market, leading intellectuals of the Chicana/o Movement also praised the novel as lyrical, moving, and authentic in tone, voice, and characterization. Scholars such as Theresa Delgadillo, Carmela Delia Lanza, Kamala Platt, and Roland Walter have investigated various aspects of Castillo's novel, mainly focusing on the use of language and family.

Theresa Delgadillo, in her article ‘‘Forms of Chicana Feminist Resistance: Hybrid Spirituality in Ana Castillo's So Far From God,’’ argues that Castillo's use of spirituality and feminism are unique in Chicana literature. She explores how the novel reconciles the ideas of a patriarchal religion (Catholic Christianity) with ideas of equality, feminism, and the ‘‘special'' role of Hispanic women as wives and mothers. Kamala Platt, on the other hand, sees Castillo's great achievement as the ability to define elements of environmentalism as integral to feminism. Platt suggests that in order for women, or men for that matter, to be truly concerned about equality between the genders, then they must also, according to her reading of Castillo, be concerned with balance and equality between nature and humanity.

The other major area of scholarly interest in Castillo's novel deals with how she manipulates ideas of home and family. Both Carmela Delia Lanza and Roland Walter explore how Castillo uses language and family to produce disharmony and discomfort with traditional ideas of domestic life. Working from bell hooks's ideas of domestic space, Lanza argues that Castillo "constructs the home as a 'site of resistance' for the woman of color living in a racist and sexist world’’ thus ‘‘deconstructing physical, political, and spiritual boundaries.’’ Walter argues that Castillo creates characters who are borderline people, not comfortable in either mainstream American or Hispanic culture.

Castillo's reputation for creating readable, witty, thought-provoking fiction advances to a higher degree in So Far From God. She uses the tragedies in the lives of a single family to create a novel that, as Sandra Cisneros says, is ‘‘wacky, wild, y bien funny.’’

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