Synopses & Reviews
What is “identity” when youre a girl adopted as an infant by a Cuban American family of Jehovahs Witnesses? The answer isnt easy. You wont find it in books. And you certainly wont find it in the neighborhood. This is just the beginning of Joy Castros unmoored life of searching and striving that shes turned to account with literary alchemy in Island of Bones
In personal essays that plumb the depths of not-belonging, Castro takes the all-too-raw materials of her adolescence and young adulthood and views them through the prism of time. The result is an exquisitely rendered, richly detailed perspective on a uniquely troubled young life that reflects on the larger questions each of us faces in a world where diversity and singularity are forever at odds. In the experiences of her past—hunger and abuse, flight as a fourteen-year-old runaway, single motherhood, the revelations of her “true” ethnic identity, the suicide of her father—Castro finds the “jagged, smashed place of edges and fragments” that she pieces together to create an island all her own. Hers is a complicated but very real depiction of what it is to “jump class,” to not belong but to find ones voice in the interstices of identity.
"Castro (The Truth Book: A Memoir), University of Nebraska Lincoln English and ethnic studies professor and novelist, offers a tough and elegant collection of 20 brief essays. With the exception of some pieces on the craft of writing, personal essays make up the majority of the book, recursively touching on Castro's complex experiences as a mother, a Latina, a daughter who lost her father to suicide, a survivor of physical and sexual abuse, a wife in a long and happy marriage, and a working-class child successfully entering the academy. With each essay, Castro's prose adds layers to her story. Transitioning smoothly between subjects, Castro shapes her essays with a pleasing variety in style and tone: 'Clips of My Father's House' is a collage of snippets, while 'On Becoming Educated' is more argumentative, almost a polemic, and 'Vesper Adest' resembles a prose poem. With undeniably strong prose, Castro is equally uncompromising in her anger, intelligence, empathy, and confusion, each essay turning and enriching the one before without repetition or break in rhythm. (Sept.)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
“The power of these personal narratives resides in Castros ability to invest every telling detail of every sorrow and every joy with her piercing attention, until each scene reaches a transcendental clarity. . . . Castro has achieved in these essays what Emily Dickinson called ‘the Truth that must dazzle gradually.”—Judith Ortiz Cofer, author of Silent Dancing: A Partial Remembrance of a Puerto Rican Childhood
Rigoberto Gonz�lez - El Paso Times
“A raw, urgent, necessary voice . . . Joy Castros personal essays take you to the precipice of our own social misconceptions. . . . What she champions with conviction in these wrenching essays is the power of the minds ‘I: I observe, I question, I remember, I imagine an alternative life.”—Ilan Stavans, general editor of The Norton Anthology of Latino Literature
Judith Ortiz Cofer
"With undeniably strong prose, Castro is equally uncompromising in her anger, intelligence, empathy, and confusion, each essay turning and enriching the one before without repetition or break in rhythm."—Publishers Weekly Starred Review
"Throughout her life, Castro has had to redefine her identity, both to herself and to others. These powerful transformations form the backbone of this slim volume of visceral pieces."—Kirkus
"With each story, Castro gains more depth as her life becomes a rich tapestry of learning, teaching and self-discovery told with prose and deep insight."—Sandy Amazeen, Monsters and Critics Sandy Amazeen
"The essays in Island of Bones piece together an inspiring journey that challenges assumptions, statistics and long-held beliefs that shape the "public narrative" of a U.S. Latina. Indeed, through lives like Castro's, the public narrative expands to include stories of strength, perseverance and, apropos of the author's name, joy."—Rigoberto González, El Paso Times
"Written with poetic precision, this small book lives large in memory."—Heather Seggel, ForeWord Reviews
"[Castro's] book invites us to think not just about who we are, but also about how our deepest aspirations can be more powerful than the boundaries and definitions we impose upon ourselves and others."—Pamela Miller, Star Tribune
"Each essay in Joy Castro's Island of Bones stands alone yet lends context to the next. By the last page, you're tempted to start reading again, the better to appreciate Castros careful array of "small fragile bones" of memory, insight and cultural history gathered in the course of a complex life."—Peg Sheldrick, Lincoln Journal Star
About the Author
Joy Castro is an associate professor at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in the Department of English and the Institute for Ethnic Studies. Castros first book, The Truth Book: A Memoir
(available as a Nebraska Paperback), was named a Book Sense Notable Book by the American Booksellers Association, and her novel, Hell or High Water
, was named a National Latino Book Club selection.