cover image Island of Bones: Essays

Island of Bones: Essays

Joy Castro. Univ. of Nebraska/Bison, $16.95 trade paper (144p) ISBN 978-0-8032-7142-5

Castro (The Truth Book: A Memoir), University of Nebraska–Lincoln English and ethnic studies professor and novelist, offers a tough and elegant collection of 20 brief essays. With the exception of some pieces on the craft of writing, personal essays make up the majority of the book, recursively touching on Castro’s complex experiences as a mother, a Latina, a daughter who lost her father to suicide, a survivor of physical and sexual abuse, a wife in a long and happy marriage, and a working-class child successfully entering the academy. With each essay, Castro’s prose adds layers to her story. Transitioning smoothly between subjects, Castro shapes her essays with a pleasing variety in style and tone: “Clips of My Father’s House” is a collage of snippets, while “On Becoming Educated” is more argumentative, almost a polemic, and “Vesper Adest” resembles a prose poem. With undeniably strong prose, Castro is equally uncompromising in her anger, intelligence, empathy, and confusion, each essay turning and enriching the one before without repetition or break in rhythm. (Sept.)