Tag Archives: Ana Castillo

Sabbatical Productivity: April

I am on sabbatical this semester and have been keeping a list in my journal of the academic activities I engage in. This practice is partly for myself, so that I make sure I am using the time productively, and partly for my institution, which requires me to write a report about the sabbatical once it finishes. Here is a list of what I accomplished in April, generally in chronological order. I did less than in previous months (you can read about what I accomplished in March here) because it’s been difficult to be productive due to the pandemic. I feel like I am slowly getting back on track, though.

1. Updated the Mennonite/s Writing Bibliographies and blog throughout the month.

2. Worked on revisions to my website.

3. Got an update that an essay collection on Ana Castillo’s work that I have a piece in passed peer review and will be published next year.

4. Finished sending acceptance emails for the Mennonite/s Writing IX conference scheduled to take place in October.

5. Submitted three senryu to a journal.

6. Finished and submitted a poem about the pandemic to a journal.

7. Finished a draft of an essay about Mennonite literature for an essay collection on present-day Anabaptist vitality. I had been working on it for a while before the pandemic and it was totally kicking my butt, so it felt like a huge triumph to be able to get back into my writing routine enough to be able to finish it this month. Most days I was only able to write a paragraph or two, but sometimes that is enough.

8. Finished a book that a journal has asked me to review and worked on notes for the review.

9. Wrote a blurb for a forthcoming book on Amish sexuality.

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Books Acquired Recently: MLA Edition

I got back yesterday from the 2019 Modern Language Association (MLA) convention in Chicago. It was a fantastic time! The weather was unseasonably warm and sunny (it was 50 degrees on Saturday) and I was able to attend lots of excellent panels. I also felt that my presentation on Ana Castillo’s Give It to Me went well.

Of course the book fair is always one of the highlights of MLA. Here is a list of what I acquired. All of the books were either discounted or free (Cantero, Kern, and Yaszek).

Berlant, Lauren, and Kathleen Stewart. The Hundreds. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2019.

This book is notable because it is the first book I have acquired with a 2019 copyright date and because I read it immediately after buying it and it is one of the best books about writing I have ever read. I cannot recommend it highly enough!

Cantero, Edgar. Meddling Kids. 2017. New York: Blumhouse Books, 2018.

GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies 25, no. 1 (2019).

I don’t normally list academic journals in these posts but I am making an exception here because GLQ‘s twenty-fifth anniversary issue just came out. Its contribution to the field of queer studies has been massive. This issue includes short essays by a number of the journal’s most illustrious contributors through the years.

Henríquez, Cristina. The Book of Unknown Americans. 2014. New York: Vintage Books, 2015.

Kern, Adam L., ed. and trans. The Penguin Book of Haiku. London: Penguin Books, 2018.

Latham, Rob, ed. Science Fiction Criticism: An Anthology of Essential Writings. London: Bloomsbury, 2017.

Lothian, Alexis. Old Futures: Speculative Fiction and Queer Possibility. New York: New York University Press, 2018.

McRuer, Robert. Crip Times: Disability, Globalization, and Resistance. New York: New York University Press, 2018.

Schalk, Sami. Bodyminds Reimagined: (Dis)ability, Race, and Gender in Black Women’s Speculative Fiction. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2018.

I saw Schalk present, which is what convinced me to buy her book. She graciously signed it for me.

Yaszek, Lisa, ed. The Future is Female! 25 Classic Science Fiction Stories by Women, from Pulp Pioneers to Ursula K. LeGuin. New York: Library of America, 2018.

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Books Acquired Recently

Castillo, Ana. Sapogonia: An Anti-Romance in 3/8 Meter. New York: Anchor Books, 1994.

I’ve read most of Castillo’s earlier work, but somehow this novel slipped my notice, perhaps because it is now out of print. I decided to read it as part of my research for the paper I am writing on her novel Give It to Me.

This and Groff’s book were bought from amazon.com’s network of independent booksellers.

Groff, Lauren. The Monsters of Templeton. New York: Hyperion, 2008.

I recently heard about the Mennonite writer Lauren Groff, and bought this book in order to investigate her work.

Miller, Todd. Storming the Wall: Climate Change, Migration, and Homeland Security. San Francisco: City Lights Books, 2017.

Earlier this summer I went to to Arizona and Sonora on a learning tour about the border, and we met with Miller to talk about his writing on the relationships between border issues and climate change. This conversation made me decide to buy his book. I read it over the weekend and it is quite sobering. He says that our civilization is dying, and I think he’s right. The problem is that no one in government seems to realize it.

This and Wiebe’s book were bought from amazon.com.

Wiebe, Katie Funk. You Never Gave Me a Name: One Mennonite Woman’s Story. Telford, PA: DreamSeeker Books, 2009.

Wiebe is an important Mennonite writer in the older sense of the term (i.e., someone who wrote in service to the church, often for church periodicals, rather than someone who writes literature as art, a definition that is not meant to disparage the former kind of writing but simply to note that it is very different from what the term “Mennonite writer” means now), and I’ve known her name since I was a child because my mother had several of her books, but I’ve never actually read any of her work. I decided to purchase her autobiography to get a better sense of her life and her writing.

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Books Acquired Recently

Castillo, Ana. Black Dove: Mamá, Mi’jo, and Me. New York: Feminist Press, 2016.

I am currently writing about Castillo and bought this memoir-in-essays as part of my research. I read it in one sitting yesterday and it is fantastic. Everyone should read it.

Kauffman, Rebecca. Another Place You’ve Never Been. Berkeley, CA: Soft Skull Press, 2016.

—. The Gunners. Berkeley, CA: Counterpoint, 2018.

I just heard about Kauffman from a former professor of mine. She was raised Mennonite in Ohio and thus fits in with my primary research area, Mennonite literature. I look forward to reading her books.

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Books Acquired Recently

Castillo, Ana. Massacre of the Dreamers: Essays on Xicanisma. Updated edition. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2014.

I am working on an essay about Castillo, one of the most significant Latinx authors in the U.S. during the past several decades, and bought this and Trujillo’s book as part of my research for it. I purchased it from amazon.com.

Kasdorf, Julia Spicher, and Steven Rubin. Shale Play: Poems and Photographs from the Fracking Fields. University Park: Pennsylvania University Press, 2018.

Kasdorf is one of the most important Mennonite poets and has been a major influence on my thinking, so I bought this book from the publisher as soon as it was released and read it immediately. It is an excellent, heartbreaking book. Be grateful if, like I do, you live in a state that has banned fracking because it is a horrible, destructive practice.

Trujillo, Carla. Chicana Lesbians: The Girls Our Mothers Warned Us About. Berkeley, CA: Third Woman Press, 1991.

I’ve begun reading this anthology and am enjoying it thus far. I appreciate that it includes a number of genres. I’ve heard of some of the writers, but as with most older anthologies I encounter, I am more compelled by wondering about what happened to all of the other contributors who have fallen by the wayside, who had to be well enough known by someone to get included in the anthology but then moved onto other things. I purchased it from abebooks.com.

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Books Acquired Recently

Castillo, Ana. Give It To Me. New York: Feminist, 2014.

I read the first draft of this book when Castillo and I were colleagues at Westminster College for a semester and loved it. It is sexy, humorous, and scandalous. I bought it as soon as I found out it had been released.

This, Plett’s, and Samatar’s books were acquired from amazon.com’s network of independent sellers.

Hanh, Thich Nhat. You Are Here: Discovering the Magic of the Present Moment. Boston: Shambhala, 2010.

I have been struggling to stay in the present recently and was feeling the need for some guidance about how to do so. I came across this book in the “Eastern Religions” section of my local Barnes & Noble and decided to buy it in part because it sounded like what I was looking for and in part because I have had a number of friends recommend Hanh’s writing to me. I have read the first few chapters, which have been fantastic.

Larkin, Philip. Collected Poems. Ed. Anthony Thwaite. New York: Farrar, 2004.

I’ve been meaning to read Larkin for quite some time, and have not read any poetry for a while, so earlier this week when I was in the campus bookstore checking to see whether the books for my courses had come in and I saw that one of my colleagues has assigned this book for one of his courses I bought it.

Pashley, Jennifer. The Conjurer. Syracuse: Standing Stone, 2013.

I received this as a belated holiday gift. I really enjoyed Pashley’s other collection of stories, States, so I am eager to read this one.

Plett, Casey. A Safe Girl To Love. New York: Topside, 2014.

I was super-excited to buy this book, as I have read and enjoyed several of Plett’s short stories. I read through it in one sitting last night. It is excellent writing, though emotionally draining (which are not necessarily mutually exclusive characteristics).

Samatar, Sofia. A Stranger in Olondria: Being the Complete Memoirs of the Mystic, Jevick of Tyom. Easthampton: Small Beer, 2013.

I recently heard about this book via my alma mater Goshen College’s alumni magazine. Samatar is also a Goshen grad. Very little Mennonite literature (Goshen is a Mennonite school and Samatar was raised Mennonite) is written in the fantasy genre, so this is an important addition to the field.

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The New Site Photograph

I just updated the main photograph for the site (what Facebook would call the “cover photo”). It is a picture of one of my favorite shelves in the poetry section of my library. The photograph includes some of my favorite poets and one of my favorite books of poetry, William Blake’s Songs of Innocence and of Experience, which is a beautifully reproduced combined volume of Blake’s engravings for Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience published by Oxford University Press.

Blake is followed on the shelf by Di Brandt, my second favorite poet after Frank O’Hara. I have all of her books (her first collection, questions i asked my mother, is still my favorite), as well as a selection of her poems edited by Tanis MacDonald. Gwendolyn Brooks is next. Her Selected Poems only goes through 1963, so I have several of her later collections as well, which I enjoy not only for their content but also aesthetically, as I am a collector of old Broadside Press volumes.

Sterling A. Brown’s Collected Poems, which I read for my Ph.D. exams and thus feel sentimental towards, follows. Ana Castillo’s My Father Was a Toltec and Selected Poems contains some enjoyable work, although I prefer her fiction.

Other highlights on the shelf are C.P. Cavafy’s Complete Poems, which I enjoy because of their unabashed homoeroticism, and Sandra Cisneros’s Loose Woman, which is one of the best single collections of poems that I’ve ever read. I read a lot of Lucille Clifton when I first began investigating poetry, and think of her fondly even though I haven’t returned to her work for some time.

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Books Acquired Recently

Cortázar, Julio. Hopscotch. 1963. Trans. Gregory Rabassa. New York: Pantheon, 1966.

I will be teaching Ana Castillo’s The Mixquiahuala Letters next semester, and its blurb claims that it is inspired by Cortázar’s novel. So I thought I would read it as research for teaching Castillo. Hopscotch is nearly 600 pages long in the edition I bought, and The Mixquiahuala Letters is less than 200, thus I assume that the inspiration is thematic rather than formal, which makes me sad since my favorite thing about Castillo’s book is the way it requires the reader to play a role in forming the text by choosing from three different reading paths.

Scott, Darieck. Extravagant Abjection: Blackness, Power, and Sexuality in the African American Literary Imagination. New York: New York UP, 2010.

I bought this book because it touches on two of my favorite research interests: it has a chapter on Samuel R. Delany and also examines BDSM in African American literature as a whole. I can’t wait to read it!

Both books purchased on amazon.com.

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Books Acquired Recently: Desk Copy Edition

Baldwin, James. Another Country. 1962. New York: Vintage, 1993.

I will be teaching Baldwin’s and Castillo’s novels in my Introduction to Literature course next semester. Another Country has been one of my favorite books since I first read it three years ago, and I have finally decided to teach it despite its length. At 436 pages in this edition, it’s rather long for an undergraduate general education course, but I think it is compelling enough that students will be able to handle it.

Castillo, Ana. The Mixquiahuala Letters. 1986. New York: Anchor, 1992.

I read this book at the end of the summer and loved it! I always like to teach at least one novel that forces students to question issues of form as this one does: it asks readers to choose the order in which they read the chapters depending on what type of personality they have. Students will therefore have read different novels because none of the sequences include every single chapter. The class discussions should be interesting!

Rushdie, Salman. The Satanic Verses. 1989. New York: Random, 2008.

I am using Rushdie’s and Shelley’s novels in an Introduction to Literary Theory and Criticism class next semester. They are both incredibly rich texts, and thus serve well as primary sources for reading and writing criticism.

Shelley, Mary. Frankenstein: A Norton Critical Edition. 2nd ed. 1818. Ed. J. Paul Hunter. New York: Norton, 2012.

I love Frankenstein, and the Norton edition is perfect for teaching because it includes a wide range of critical responses. I have used the Norton first edition several times; the new edition just came out. I am happy to see that it includes some of my favorite pieces of criticism from the previous edition as well as some newer perspectives.

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Book Acquired Recently: Juan Pablo Villalobos’s Down the Rabbit Hole

Villalobos, Juan Pablo. Down the Rabbit Hole. 2010. Trans. Rosalind Harvey. New York: Farrar, 2012.

Last night I attended a reading by the Mexican novelist Juan Pablo Villalobos (who was educated in Spain and now lives in Brazil), his first ever in the United States. He read from Down the Rabbit Hole, a 70-page novella about a Mexican boy, Tochtli, who is the son of the head of a drug cartel. I read it last night after buying a copy and getting it signed. Villalobos was one of the best readers I’ve ever seen as far as engaging the audience. He insisted on a Q-and-A session after he finished reading that was not originally part of the program, and was very gracious after the reading, happily autographing books and posing for pictures. I bought the book more because I liked him as a person than because I was interested in the book itself; I wanted to have a memento of the occasion.

It’s a good story on the surface, with just enough humor to help readers get through its crushing sadness. Tochtli is desperately lonely because it’s unsafe for him to leave his father’s compound, so he finds solace in collecting hats and reading the dictionary. Of course I loved these quirks as someone who loves words and has always enjoyed collecting. But the value of the novella is in its political message, summed up in Tochtli’s assertion that “Mexico is a disastrous country” (14). The drug war is making life in Mexico less and less tenable, but most people in the U.S.–including many politicians–are ignorant of this fact, and of the role that U.S. laws surrounding drug consumption play in perpetuating the situation. The violence already affects U.S. border cities such as El Paso, Texas (see Alicia Gaspar de Alba’s Desert Blood and Ana Castillo’s The Guardians for well-researched fictional depictions of this violence), and it will only continue to get worse.

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