Monday, May 26, 2008

Inhabiting other worlds

Ana Castillo is coming to our campus in the fall, and I'll be teaching her new novel The Guardians.

So that means I need to read it in advance, which I'm doing right now. (I guess I need to read it in advance; I used to have a professor who liked to assign one book she'd never read so that she could "discover" it along with the students.)

I'm loving it. The voices are lively, powerful. The novel is told from four points of view: Regina (a teacher's aide in her 50's who is taking care of her nephew while trying to find her missing brother); Gabo (the nephew, who wants to become a priest but is hanging out with a gang-banger); Miguel (a teacher and acivitist and Lothario at the school where Regina works); and Milton (Miguel's crusty old grandfather).

The novel takes place in El Paso and grapples with things that happen at the U.S./Mexico border.

I love that the characters have opinions and social issues, politics, life. Of course are those who say Castillo's being didactic or political. But the multitude of voices and the art of her writing make it a rich read.

Besides, when John Updike's white male characters speak they are being "universal." But when Ana Castillo's Chicanas and Chicanos speak, they are being "didactic." Sorry, I don't buy the straight white male point of view as automatically universal. I relish inhabiting Rabbit's world; and I relish inhabiting Regina's.

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