This past Friday evening, award-winning writer and activist Ana Castillo gave a reading from a selection of her latest work at Ruth Taylor Recital Hall to members of the public. The reading was organized as part of this year’s celebration of Latinx Heritage Month at Trinity University and was followed by a Q&A and book signing with the author.
The event was co-sponsored by professor Norma Elia Cantú. The Department of Modern Languages & Literatures, the program of Women & Gender Studies, Gemini Ink and Trinity’s Mexico, the Americas and Spain program (MAS) drew in students, faculty and long-time admirers of Castillo’s writing.
Castillo began her reading with an essay entitled “Bowing Out” from her 2016 memoir “Black Dove: Mamá, Mi’jo, and Me”. Castillo’s strong presence and approachable, personal writing style captivated the audience as she read from this excerpt surrounding her relationship to her son and experience as a single mother.
“It’s a wonderful memoir where she pretty much lays it bare — her upbringing when she was a child, she lays out challenges that she faced as a student involved in activist work and then as a bisexual … writer and woman, a Chicana, a brown woman in the United States,” Cantú said.
Together with this section from “Black Dove,” Castillo read from selections of her poetry and her 2005 novel “Watercolor Women/Opaque Men: A Novel in Verse” as well.
After the reading, Castillo responded to questions from the audience on topics ranging from the inspiration for her poetry to her work as an activist. In response to a question on political action, she encouraged young people to take an active response to the issues they care about, “I do believe that we all have something we can devote ourselves to that requires change or transformation,” Castillo said.
Castillo also spoke about her own approach to her literary work and activism. “My point is on my own terms, going out and speaking out,” Castillo said.
“She’s always been an activist,” Cantú said. “What I love about her work is that it is multi-genre: she is a playwright, she’s a poet, she’s a novelist. She has a brilliant collection of essays in a book called ‘Massacre of the Dreamers,’ which is very philosophical and historical.”
The organizers were excited to bring Castillo to Trinity’s campus as a principal event for this year’s Latinx Heritage Month series.
“We bring awareness to the Latinx population on campus and then we also invite the community to the campus to celebrate Latinx heritage month. Last year we had filmmakers [visit] and all kinds of wonderful events, and this time we focused on one major event, which is the reading by Ana Castillo,” Cantú said.
Alongside Cantú, the event was organized by Elseke Membreño-Zenteno, program associate for the Center for International Engagement and the MAS program. Membreño-Zenteno highlighted the importance of inviting a speaker like Ana Castillo to college campuses and the capacity of such events to inspire students.
“I think, ‘Wow, I wish I had had all this stuff [in college]!’ I don’t know, maybe I would have been a different kind of person,” Membreño-Zenteno said.
For more information on the Latinx Heritage Month series and MAS program at Trinity, you can contact Membreño-Zenteno at firstname.lastname@example.org.