Critical Overview

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Ana Castillo enjoys a favorable reputation among critics writing for a number of prestigious publications. In an article for MELUS, Elsa Saeta depicts Castillo as “One of the most articulate, powerful voices in contemporary Chicana literature . . . whose work has long questioned, subverted, and challenged the status quo.” Janet Jones Hampton writes in an article for Americas, “Her poems, like her prose, recount the struggles and survival skills of marginalized peoples and sing of their dreams and hopes.” Marjorie Agosin in MultiCultural Review praises Castillo as “lyrical and passionate” and “one of the country’s most provocative and original writers.”

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In a critique specific to I Ask the Impossible, Donna Seaman in Booklist says Castillo’s poems are “alight with stubborn love, crackling wit, and towering anger.” A Publishers Weekly critic says of I Ask the Impossible that the point of Castillo’s poetry is the “immediacy and the message” and that readers can bask in her “experiences and longings or get angry and motivated by her cries for justice.” A review of I Ask the Impossible appearing in Library Journal, written by Lawrence Olszewski, calls Castillo “one of the most outstanding Chicanas writing today”; however, Olszewski feels the social-protest poems in this collection, which would include “While I Was Gone a War Began,” are “the weakest and most routine of the lot.”

Critic Norma Alarcon, in a chapter on Castillo for a collection of criticism called Breaking Boundaries: Latina Writing and Critical Readings, remarks on Castillo’s expert use of irony as a trademark element in her poetry. Irony is also mentioned in a Publishers Weekly interview Samuel Baker conducted with Castillo. Baker describes Castillo as “one of the most prominent Latina writers in the U.S.,” adding that “she couches passion for life and work in gentle ironies.” There is little doubt that Castillo is considered an important and influential American writer of feminist, Chicana, and protest literature.

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Essays and Criticism