Poet, novelist, short story writer, children’s book author, translator, and playwright Ana Castillo was born in Chicago on June 15, 1953, and was raised in the city of her birth. She earned a BA in art education from Northeastern Illinois University in 1975, an MA in social sciences from the University of Chicago, and a PhD in American studies from the University of Bremen.
Castillo is the author of seven books of poetry. Her first publications were the chapbook Otro Canto (Alternativa Publications, 1977) and The Invitation (1979), a self-published chapbook. These works were followed by several collections: My Book of the Dead: New Poems (University of New Mexico Press, 2021); Watercolor Women, Opaque Men: A Novel in Verse (Northwestern University Press, 2017); I Ask the Impossible: Poems (Anchor Books, 2001); My Father Was a Toltec and Selected Poems, 1973–1988 (Anchor Books, 1995); and Women Are Not Roses (Arte Público Press, 1984).
Castillo’s other publications include her memoir Black Dove: Mamá, Mi’jo, and Me (Feminist Press at the City University of New York, 2016); a collection of two plays titled Psst…I Have Something to Tell You, Mi Amor (Wings Press, 2005), which center on Sister Dianna Ortiz, an American nun who was kidnapped, raped, and tortured by U.S.-sponsored Guatemalan security forces in 1989; the children’s book, My Daughter, My Son, the Eagle, the Dove (Dutton Books, 2000), a work of folklore inspired by ancient Aztec chants; and the short story collections Doña Cleanwell Leaves Home: Stories (HarperVia, 2023) and Loverboys (W. W. Norton & Company, 1996), which was rereleased in 2008. She is also the author of eight novels, including Isabel 2121 (Harpervia, 2024); Peel My Love Like an Onion (Doubleday, 1999); So Far From God (W. W. Norton & Company, 1993); and The Mixquiahuala Letters (Bilingual Press/Editorial Bilingüe, 1986), which received the American Book Award. In 1994, Castillo released Massacre of the Dreamers: Essays on Xicanisma (University of New Mexico Press), a collection that more closely explores the Chicana feminism that has been a theme in Castillo’s other works. The book was rereleased by Plume Books in 1995.
Castillo’s work as an editor and translator includes co-editing, with Cherrie Moraga, Esta puente, mi espalda: voces de mujeres tercermundístas en los Estados Unidos, the 1988 Spanish-language edition of This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color (Persephone Press, 1981). Castillo also edited the anthology Goddess of the Americas (Riverhead Books, 1996; in Spanish, La diosa de las Américas), about the Virgin of Guadalupe.
Castillo’s many other honors include the 2022 Fuller Award for Lifetime Achievement, bestowed by the Chicago Literary Hall of Fame; the Northeastern Illinois University Distinguished Alumnus Award, which is the highest alumni honor the University bestows; the PEN Oakland Reginald Lockett Lifetime Achievement Award; an honorary doctorate from Colby College; as well as a Carl Sandburg Award and fellowships in fiction and poetry from the National Endowment for the Arts.
Castillo has taught at various institutions, including Westminster College in Utah, where she served as poet-in-residence in 2012, and Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where she was Martin Luther King, Jr. Distinguished Visiting Scholar. From 2001–06, she held the first Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz Endowed Chair at DePaul University. In 2014, Castillo held the Lund-Gil Endowed Chair at Dominican University. Castillo is now based in New Mexico.