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Arts & Culture

Sexo y la Ciudad: Author’s lustful Latina is straight out of telenovela

Photo: Courtesy photo, License: N/A

Courtesy photo


Give It To Me

by Ana Castillo
The Feminist Press | $16.95 | 256 pp

Ana Castillo’s daring new novel, Give It To Me, is a lustful look at love in the 21st century. Our passionate heroine, Palma Piedras, is a 40-something divorcée looking to live a life straight out of a telenovela. The character’s in-and-out of the bedroom antics reveal an anything-goes attitude but fail to create a reliable narrator. In a phone interview, Castillo remarked that the character of Palma “…is that of a free spirit. … I think love in the 21st century is about being all over the map.” Following suit, Palma is back and forth between her childhood home of the Midwest to the bright lights of Hollywood.

Palma’s swinging Mulch lifestyle (‘Mulch’ is the word Castillo uses to describe the privileged middle class) reflects the labored transition from the girl who grew up with nothing to a woman who has it all but is still growing up. Her taste for high fashion and flair for glamour gives the book a Sex and the City feel, but with less city and more sex—lots more. Although the character’s insatiable carnal appetite provides some scintillating set pieces, ultimately Palma’s character development sputters. It’s frustrating to watch Palma zigzag from man to man, looking for fulfillment, sexual and otherwise, when what you wish she’d learn is how to accept being alone after a life-changing event.

Give It To Me is a scandalous tale akin to the likes of those found in Anaïs Nin’s Little Birds, but the main character lacks empathy (and sensuality). At one point a friend has to tell Palma, “Stop thinking you have to fuck everyone you spend time with. You’re worse than Mick Jagger.” There’s plenty of cause with little effect and more telling than showing. Palma’s superficiality really misses the mark compared to Castillo’s previous work, like the quartet of Chicana women that comprise her 1993 novel So Far from God.

What Give It To Me lacks in story, it makes up in capturing the frazzled mind of Palma Piedras: caught in the middle between class and consequence. Her drive to be immersed in her culture yet to embrace the Mulch dream speaks to the in-between state the contemporary Latina lives and thrives in—Edward James Olmos said it best in the movie Selena, “Being Mexican-American is tough. Anglos jump all over you if you don’t speak English perfectly. Mexicans jump all over you if you don’t speak Spanish perfectly. We must be twice as perfect as anybody else.” While Palma Piedras is the very opposite of perfect, in the end she holds her head high, puts on her mink coat and struts down the streets of Chicago.

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