One of my favorite Chicana novelists and poets is Ana Castillo. I adore how she incorporates details she’s observed from daily life into her stories. In the book of hers I read recently, Peel My Love Like an Onion (1999), the example of cleaning out an older relative’s refrigerator; the open cans, the frying pans of food, sparked recognition for me. The purge is overdue and heavily discouraged by the grey-haired familiar, and so best undertaken beneath the cover of darkness. Afterwards, despite the failing memory of the appliance owner, the purger is never forgiven.
Dr. Castillo tells us the story of Carmen, who is a Chicana from Chicago, like the author. Although one leg is paralyzed by polio, Carmen adroitly chases her dream and becomes a famous flamenco dancer in the Windy City. She wears long gitana skirts, absorbs the rhythms and performs with duende (fiery flamenco spirit). Soon she is pursued by not one, but two men with Romany background.
Carmen teaches dance for a time. At one class she says, “Now everybody say it once for me, please, I said, as ornery as anyone was ever going to be there. FLA-MEN-CO. If you want to see flamingos, go to Florida!”
The writer uses a confessional style. She reveals the secret love lives past and present of six or more characters of several orientations. Castillo chronicles the life of a modern single woman who does not bend to traditional social pressures, who makes her own unique way in the world. ¡Olé! Peel My Love Like an Onion is an original tale and a new imagining of womanhood.
Gracias for reading Fake Flamenco! –Rebecca