In New Memoir, Ana Castillo Explores What it Means To Be a Brown Feminist Single Mom

On Día de la Madre or what some call Mexican Mother’s Day, the writer Ana Castillo read a passage from her essay ‘My Mother’s Mexico,’ before a crowd assembled at Pen + Brush center in Manhattan. Castillo, the Chicana feminist writer who has published over 20 books of poetry, essays, and novels, is on a national tour promoting her memoir Black Dove: mamá, mi’jo and me.

Black Dove, a reference to the famous Mexican ranchera ‘Paloma Negra,’ is a collection of personal essays on the theme of motherhood. In it, Castillo tells stories of her strained relationship with her distant mother; the alternative mother figure she found in her flirty Tía Flora; her own experience as a single mother raising a brown boy in Chicago; and what it was like to eventually become an abuela.

For many Chicanas, Latinas, and brown women taking ethnic-studies classes for the first time, Ana Castillo’s relatable writing opened the door to ideas about feminism. Castillo is credited with coining the term ‘Xicanisma,’ to refer to Chicana feminism (in her dissertation and book Massacre of the Dreamers), and she was part of the first crew of Chicana feminists who began integrating ideas about race, class, ethnicity, and language into their writings and theories on feminism in the 70s – alongside peers like Norma Alarcón, Lucha Corpi, Sandra Cisneros, Gloria Anzaldúa, and Cherrie Moraga. At the reading, Castillo emphasized that at that time when she began writing, no brown or Latina women were being published. Now, she says, she can rest in peace knowing her granddaughter can go to a bookstore or library and see the likes of Sandra Cisneros and Texas poet laureate Carmen Tafolla on the bookshelves.

With her commanding presence, signature raven black hair, and apple-red lipstick, I can’t help but mention that Castillo is nothing short of intellectual and aesthetic #GOALS. During her conversation with Aurora Anaya-Cerda, owner of La Casa Azul Bookstore, she focused mostly on the contents of her memoir – essays she has written over a period of 20 years. However, a large part of the book and the discussion also revolved around the incarceration of her college-educated, cellist son, as well as the cycles of social inequality and racism that suck brown and black youth into the criminal justice system. “Today in 2016, when you are brown in this country, you’re still brown in this country. It doesn’t matter where I raised my son. If I raised him in the suburbs or in New York or in Gainesville, Florida. This is the experience he would have had– being perceived as a brown man.” Black Dove is a poetic reflection of the complicated and overlapping identities of being a daughter, a Chicana, a single mother, an artist, and a paloma negra.


Ana Castillo will continue her book tour throughout the month and summer. Here is a list of some of Black Dove’s tour dates:

May 11: Word Up Bookstore; New York, NY
May 12: South of France; Bronx, NY
May 20: Seminary Co-Op Bookstore; Chicago, IL
May 22: Unabridged Bookstore; Chicago, IL
May 24: The Guadalupe Theatre; San Antonio, TX
May 26: El Sol y la Luna; Austin, TX
May 28: Good Samaritan Auditorium; Las Cruces, NM
June 3: Cafe Mayapan; El Paso, TX
June 11: Printers’ Row Book Fest; Chicago, IL
July 17: Bookworks; Albuquerque, NM