Women of the Beat

October 17, 2011 § 2 Comments

Fresh off the virtual press, it’s my article on women of the Beat Generation. Check it out here at Her Circle Ezine.

It was fascinating to research women who had the courage to become writers, artists and poets in the 1950s, the height of female domesticity. I’m still so immersed in the time and women writers’ work– I’m currently reading Diane di Prima’s memoir — Recollections of My Life as a Woman. I also just had a conversation with poet ruth weiss today on the telephone. It was wonderful, fascinating and surreal. I’ll be publishing a piece about ruth as the second article in my series on Beat women shortly.

For now, I’m reveling in the 1950s… and what it took for women to shun the idea of female ‘perfection’ widely broadcast for the first time on television…

Imagínate 1: Ana Castillo

August 31, 2011 § Leave a comment

Welcome to Imagínate.
Here we will encourage the re-imagining of the Latina in American popular culture. 

Sparked by a highlighting in Latina Magazine of the many, many times Latinas have played maids and housekeepers in Hollywood, I started this section to raise the profile of women who are doing things that current popular culture rarely imagines they are doing.

We as Latinas are so incredibly diverse, we have so many faces and origins, so many stories to tell. I think it is time that mass culture reflects this.

To help fuel a new image, I will post short bios–with lots of links–about prominent (or emerging) writers and artists who are currently breaking the mold. Let us imagine a world where, when someone says “Latina” people think Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor and Ana Castillo, not just Jennifer Lopez, with or without her maid’s uniform. I’d love your help in spreading the word– share this post- tweet it, Facebook it, all of the above.

Today, in Imagínate 1, we highlight American Book award-winning writer Ana Castillo.

Ana Castillo is by no means an unknown name to those the literary world. She has managed to cross into the “mainstream” publishing novels, poetry and nonfiction works that seek to challenge our notions of not just Latinos and Latin culture, but our ideas about gender roles, sexuality, spirituality, family and culture.

Castillo began as a young activist in the 1970s, using poetry as a form of social protest. She says of that time: “Being of Mexican background, being Indian-looking, being a female, coming from a working-class background, and then becoming politicized in high school, that was my direction . . . I was a Chicana protest poet, a complete renegade–and I continue to write that way”

How then, did Castillo cross into the mainstream, becoming a widely-read author glowingly reviewed by media like the Los Angeles Times and acclaimed writers such as Barbara Kingsolver, Oscar Hijuelos and Luis Alberto Urrea? She is simply a beautifully moving writer, and the world noticed. She began winning such prestigious awards as 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).

Castillo’s most recent novel is The Guardians. Says Booklist: “Castillo writes fiction and poetry of earthy sensuality, wry social commentary, and lyrical spiritualism that confront the cruel injustices accorded women and Mexicans in America, legal and otherwise….In this tightly coiled and powerful tale….At once shatteringly realistic and dramatically mystical, Castillo’s incandescent novel of suffering and love traces life’s movement toward the light even in the bleakest of places.”

Ana Castillo is one to watch, and one the Latina community can proudly hold out as a woman breaking boundaries, bringing important issues to the attention of many in an unforgettable, un-ignorable way.

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