Ana Castillo, born in Chicago, Illinois, in 1953, earned a BA degree from Northern Illinois University in 1975, an MA degree from the University of Chicago in 1979, and a PhD degree from the University of Bremen in 1991. She writes both poetry and fiction, and her 1986 The Mixquiahuala Letters won the American Book Award. Her early volumes of poetry include Zero Makes Me Hungry (1975), I close my eyes (to see) (1976), Otro canto (1977), and My Father Was a Toltec: Poems (1988), republished in 1995 as My Father was a Toltec and Selected Poems 1973-1988. In addition to The Mixquiahuala Letters, Castillo's novels include Sapogonia: An Anti-Romance in 3/8 Meter (1990) and So Far from God (1993). Massacre of the Dreamers: Essays on Xicanisma (1994) is a nonfiction volume that served as her PhD dissertation. In the introduction to that volume, she describes herself, “I am a brown woman, from the Mexican side of town—torn between the Chicago obrero [working class] roots of my upbringing and my egocentric tendency toward creative expressions. Characteristically, as a poet, I am opinionated and rely on my hunches” (1).
Her creativity and her hunches have led her to a place of respect in literary circles, especially as she advocates for the voices and perspectives of Mexic Amerindian women from whom she descends. In Massacre of the Dreamers, Castillo notes that “the Mexic Amerindian woman had been gagged for hundreds of years, ” subject to a “double sexism, being females and indigenous.” She has chosen the term Mexic Amerindian carefully, preferring it to Chicana, which she sees as “an outdated expression weighed down by the particular radicalism of the seventies” (10), and uses it interchangeably with the term mestiza. Castillo introduces the word Xicanisma to rename the concept of Chicana feminism and envisions re