So Far From God (Ana Castillo)

This is the third or fourth time I’ve read So Far From God, and it was no less enjoyable this time around than it has been in the past. Castillo’s style is so fun to read, written in the style of a telenovela and chronicling the lives of Sofi and her four unique daughters (Esperanza, Caridad, Fe, and La Loca). There’s something about this book that just keeps you coming back for more, which is probably why I’ve decided to put it in my dissertation.

Recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about the ways authors incorporate culture into their fiction, and Castillo’s novel uses folklore, food, and politics to get that done in this particular text. The folklore is constant throughout — everything from La Llorona (who hangs out with Loca, btw) to the Acoma origin myth and even la malogra (a nebulous cottonball monster that attacks lone travelers in the night…it’s really much scarier than I’ve made it sound, though). So is the food, to such an extent that I was left with rather intense cravings for good, authentic Mexican food when I finished reading (something that’s not an option when you’re living in a place without a lot of decent Mexican restaurants, although I’m still on the lookout if you have any suggestions).

And the politics…oh the politics. I think they were one of Castillo’s main missions during the writing of this novel. The sisters deal with racism, sexism, and classism — to name a few of the more “basic” ones; they also deal with the Gulf War, the American news media, HIV/AIDS, grassroots activism, feminism, and so much more. Castillo takes on so many huge issues that this book is a testament to the way aesthetics and politics can be mutually beneficial in art. The politics she brings into the novel make it more compelling, and the aesthetics of her storytelling spark interest in the issues she raises.

If you haven’t give this one a read yet, it’s worth it when you want something that feels like a light read, but has a lot of substance to it.

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