“Our Essential Bonds”: An Interview with Joy Castro

by Keene Short

Filed under: Blog |

UNL faculty member Joy Castro recently debuted her fifth book, How Winter Began, a collection of short stories. She is also the author of the novel Nearer Home and Island of Bones, a collection of essays, and is the editor for the anthrology Family Trouble. I asked her a few questions about her newest collection, her ideal audience, and her next writing project.

Tell us a bit about the collection How Winter Began as a whole.

How Winter Began is a collection of 28 short stories, some of which are quite short–only a couple of pages–and others of which are more traditional in length and structure.  The book's main focus of inquiry is how late capitalism interrupts, disrupts, and reconfigures our most profound and personal relationships: with our lovers, our parents, our children, nature.  Sexism and racism, which are embedded within our economic system, play strong roles in the stories:  most of the protagonists are Latinas who struggle financially, though the stories feature other poor people, too, and some middle-class characters.  A lot of the characters are strivers.

The book looks, from different angles, at how the pressures of consumer capitalism rupture and destroy our essential bonds, at how those are then rewritten (for profit) and given back to us, at whether or not resistance is possible, at how we betray each other in intimate ways in the midst of that maelstrom, and at whether it's possible to forgive each other.  I like to think we can.

Did you write these with an ideal or specific audience in mind, or for a general audience?

I guess I do have an ideal reader in mind–an aspirational ideal:  someone who's brilliant and wildly well-read and demanding and intolerant of cliché, someone whose impeccable taste I'm trying to sate, whose exquisite sensibility I'm trying to seduce and delight.  

Why make things easy, right?  I like to punch above my weight.

Were many of these stories published in literary journals? Are there any unpublished stories in this collection?

Yes, twelve of the stories were published in various anthologies and in journals such as North American Review, Afro-Hispanic Review, and Puerto del Sol.  The other sixteen haven't been published before.  Some are quite new.

Do you find the publication process gets easier, or remains the same, as you go through it more with each new book?

It's different each time.  The challenges are different.  I work in various genres and with different publishers–and different kinds of publishers:  trade houses and small presses.  Moreover, publishing itself evolves quickly now.   So there's always something surprising to learn about the process.

In terms of writing, what’s next for you?

I've been working on a new novel for a couple of years now, and I really like it.  It's weird and risky, and I'm not sure if it will ultimately succeed or fail.  That's exciting:  working hard and long on something that may well just implode.  I love writing essays and short stories, too, so I'll probably be doing some of those as I go along.

For more information about Joy Castro, click here to visit her website. You can also click here to purchase How Winter Began.