Writing at the intersection of motherhood, feminism and my Latinidad

01 September 2007

Peel My Love Like an Onion - #12 done!

From the defunct Babes and Books blog where a bunch of friends challenged each other to read twenty books in one summer:

Ana Castillo is one of the funniest writers I have ever read. The ironic thing is that she writes some of the most heart-wrenching stories ever. This is my second Castillo novel this summer. I didn’t plan it out that way, it just happened.

The novel tells the tale of a polio-stricken woman who dances Flamenco, falls in love with two men, and then has to deal with life when polio makes it almost impossible for her to dance anymore. Oh and it’s set in Chicago. Carmen also has to deal with being the only daughter in her pretty typical working-class Mexican family.

Castillo’s ability to describe the truth in life is spot on:

  • You put on your cross-trainers assembled in a foreign land by women and children at slave-wages so you try not think of what you paid for them, and begin to talk the streets of your city at sunset.
  • We couldn’t so much as stand on the lawn for a minute, just pass through quickly on the way to throwing the garbage out in the cans in the alley. You’re nice Mexicans, our land lady would say with a phony smile of old and missing teeth. She distinguished us from the not nice ones I suppose by always praising us for making ourselves as invisible as possible.
Castillo’s feminism is even better. At one point Carmen is teaching suburban women how to dance and she makes this observation:
Look at me…I cupped her chin and her eyes went left, right, and then down. Look at me, I said again. When she did I let go of her chin…You keep that pose when you are on the street…when your husband comes home. You keep your head up. Dignity is the sexiest thing a woman can learn.
While I’ve never read a drugstore romance novel, somehow I imagine that this romance novel kicks their asses. I never thought that I’d enjoy a romance novel the way this one plays out.


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