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About Joy Castro
Born in Miami, raised in England and West Virginia, and educated in Texas, Joy Castro is the award-winning author of the memoir 'The Truth Book,' two literary thrillers set in post-Katrina New Orleans: 'Hell or High Water' and 'Nearer Home,' the essay collection 'Island of Bones,' and the short fiction collection 'How Winter Began.' Her work has appeared in venues including Ploughshares, Senses of Cinema, Brevity, Fourth Genre, North American Review, Salon, Afro-Hispanic Review, Gulf Coast, and the New York Times Magazine. Winner of the Nebraska Book Award and an International Latino Book Award, Finalist for the PEN Center USA Literary Award, an alternate for the Berlin Prize, editor of the anthology 'Family Trouble,' and a former Writer in Residence at Vanderbilt University, she’s the Willa Cather Professor of English and Ethnic Studies at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, where she teaches creative writing, literature, and Latinx studies.
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Books By Joy Castro
A woman is forced to face her past in a heartbreaking and triumphant novel of old wounds and family secrets by award-winning author Joy Castro.
Isabel Morales is a successful Chicago sculptor hiding a brutal family history—one not even her husband knows. After decades of turning her back on her past, she’s forced to return to Appalachia when she receives news of her estranged mother’s death.
But going back means revisiting the traumatic childhood she escaped—and the family that cast her out when she needed them most. Back on the land she has inherited, she’s flooded with memories of the forest where she once roamed free, of her beloved lost brother, and of the old house in the West Virginia hills where she grew up. Her mother has left her another legacy, too, which reveals secrets that Isabel is only beginning to understand.
As forces bear down and threaten to take what she has left, it’s time for Isabel to step into her power, reclaim her roots, and finally confront the painful memories that have kept her from the life she truly wants.
Iréne gives the wealthy businessmen what they want, diving headfirst into the filthy river, thinking only of providing for her baby daughter, Marisa, as the men salivate over her soaked body emerging onto the bank. A young boy tries to befriend the reticent younger sister of the town’s cruelest bully, only to discover the family betrayal behind her quiet countenance. Josefa, a young bride, is executed for murdering the man who raped her. Joy Castro’s How Winter Began traces these and other characters as they seek compassion from each other and themselves.
Thematically linked by the lives of women, especially Latinas, and their experiences of poverty and violence in a white-dominated, wealth-obsessed culture, How Winter Began is a delicately wrought collection of stories. The question at the heart of this riveting book is how or whether to trust one another after the rupture of betrayal.
Whenever a memoirist gives a reading, someone in the audience is sure to ask: How did your family react? Revisiting our pasts and exploring our experiences, we often reveal more of our nearest and dearest than they might prefer. This volume navigates the emotional and literary minefields that any writer of family stories or secrets must travel when depicting private lives for public consumption.
Essays by twenty-five memoirists, including Faith Adiele, Alison Bechdel, Jill Christman, Judith Ortiz Cofer, Rigoberto González, Robin Hemley, Dinty W. Moore, Bich Minh Nguyen, and Mimi Schwartz, explore the fraught territory of family history told from one perspective, which, from another angle in the family drama, might appear quite different indeed. In her introduction to this book, Joy Castro, herself a memoirist, explores the ethical dilemmas of writing about family and offers practical strategies for this tricky but necessary subject.
A sustained and eminently readable lesson in the craft of memoir, Family Trouble serves as a practical guide for writers to find their own version of the truth while still respecting family boundaries.
What is “identity” when you’re a girl adopted as an infant by a Cuban American family of Jehovah’s Witnesses? The answer isn’t easy. You won’t find it in books. And you certainly won’t find it in the neighborhood. This is just the beginning of Joy Castro’s unmoored life of searching and striving that she’s 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 one’s voice in the interstices of identity.