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[whitespace] Xicanisma Author: Ana Castillo writes about the struggles of the Latino community.

Photograph by Antonio Perez

Two for the Books

Authors Alice Walker and Ana Castillo share ideas at the Distinguished Latino Scholars Forum

By J. Douglas Allen-Taylor

WHEN TWO of the most fearless, provocative, intelligent, and controversial women in modern American literature get together on a single stage, what do they talk about? The answer is: anything they want to.

That will be the format when writers Alice Walker and Ana Castillo appear at what is billed as "a night of provocative social commentary," the fourth Annual Distinguished Latino Scholars Forum sponsored by MACLA, San Jose Center for Latino Arts. The two women will speak to the audience, speak to each other, and answer questions and answers on whatever subject comes to mind.

A private, paid reception and book signing with the authors follows the event.

"We invited them because they're not the type of women who will just sit up and read their poems," says MACLA Director Maribel Alvarez.

Walker is the better-known of the two. The 1983 Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist is the author of 23 books, including The Color Purple. A veteran of the Mississippi civil rights movement, she has long been a champion of women's issues, including, most recently, a campaign against the practice of female circumcision that is still widespread in many areas of the African continent.

A native of Georgia when it was still segregated and bitterly anti-black, Walker once said, "No one could wish for a more advantageous heritage than that bequeathed to the black writer in the South: a compassion for the earth, a trust in humanity beyond our knowledge of evil, and abiding love of justice. We inherit a great responsibility . . . for we must give voice to centuries not only of silent bitterness and hate but also of neighborly kindness and sustaining love."

While Alvarez concedes that Walker is not Latina, she says that the African-American author is "an important voice on issues that are of great interest to the Latino community."

The author of seven books, including four novels, Castillo is described as a vocal critic of sexism within the Latino community. She is the creator of the concept of Xicanisma, a term she coined to describe the struggles of Brown women in the United States. A committed partisan in such issues as women's inequality and environmental racism, she once told a New Mexico newspaper, "One of my goals is to get an encyclical from the pope. If I'm not offending someone, I'm not doing my job." The author considers herself a devotee of the Virgin of Guadalupe, an important religious icon in Mexican, Mestizo, and Mexican-Indian societies.

Castillo has edited the works of several other Latina writers, including Cherrie Moraga and Norma Alarcon. She is the co-founder of Third Woman, a literary magazine.

The Walker/Castillo dialogue will be preceded by spoken-word performances by hip-hop newcomers Melissa Lozano of San Jose, Meliza Bañales of Santa Cruz, and Sonia Whittle of Oakland. Veterans of MACLA's "Cuentos y Cantos" monthly poetry slam events, Lozano and Whittle were part of the local teams that participated in the national Poetry Slam Finals in Chicago last summer. Teams from San Jose and Oakland tied for first place in the competition.

Alice Walker and Ana Castillo will speak on April 5 at 6:30pm at Morris Dailey Auditorium, San Jose State University, San Jose. Admission is $12 general public and $5 students. A private reception follows the event at MACLA, 510 S. First St, San Jose. Reception tickets, which include admission, are $75. For more information, call MACLA at 408.998.ARTE or the SJSU Event Center box office at 408.924.6333.

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From the March 30-April 5, 2000 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 2000 Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

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