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Watercolor Women Opaque Men: A Novel in Verseby Ana Castillo
Synopses & Reviews
Watercolor Women / Opaque Men is a wild and raucous narrative of a single, working mother, the daughter of Chicano migrant workers, and her struggles for upward mobility. With a remarkable combination of tenderness, wicked humor, and biting satire, the main character, Ella-or "She"-moves toward establishing her sexual identity (she has affairs with both men and women) and finding her rightful place in the world while simultaneously raising her son to be independent and self-sufficient.
Reminiscent of the picaresque novel, Watercolor Women / Opaque Men contains episodes that range from the Mexican Revolution to modern-day Chicago and reflects a deep pride in Chicano culture and the hardships immigrants had to endure: "In my familia we don't / pretend. / We're not / Mixed blood. There are no buried / Spanish titles beneath /anyone's tombstone." Nor does Castillo tolerate the pretensions of others. Pomposity, arrogance, and narrow-mindedness are the targets of her satiric pen.
In a strong rhythmic and colloquial voice, Castillo explores these issues of love, sexual orientation, and cultural identity, taking to heart the words of Mama Grande: "You will always be your most reliable resource."
"An epic in verse, the story of Castillo's chicana Everywoman — referred to alternately as 'She' and 'Ella' — begins life in the rough-and-tumble world of California's migrant farm community. Ella's childhood is spent in los files, or the fields, and she is told early on by Mama Grande that 'all men are the same.' Rebellious aunt Renata brings her niece to Chicago, where she works a string of blue-collar jobs and attempts to better herself through college classes. After an attempted rape by a biology teacher and harsh words from an art history professor, she trades in college for marriage and baby, but eventually loses interest in her 'dutiful husband' and turns to a female cop she meets in a bar. Things sour quickly, but involvement with the 'Water Goddess/ Patroness of the Sea/ Governess of the Subconscious' empowers Ella. As the perspective shifts to the first person, Ella, describing herself as 'Part Medusa/ Part Mother Goose/ and part Xochiquetzal,' draws on all of her personal and cultural resources to raise her son to be different from all the 'opaque' men she sees around them. The story and the verse itself offer few surprises, but Castillo (So Far from God) delivers a solid narrative of personal development. (Sept.)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
About the Author
One of the most important Chicana authors, Ana Castillo is the author of 17 literary works. She was born in Chicago of working class parents and earned a PhD at the University of Chicago. Both as a journalist and literary author, she is a major force in the struggle for economic justice, women's rights, and civil liberties.
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