Island of Bones


Island of Bones


Joy Castro

American Lives Series

144 pages


September 2012


$16.95 Add to Cart
eBook (PDF)
Ebook purchases delivered via Leaf e-Reader

September 2012


$16.95 Add to Cart

About the Book

What is “identity” when you’re a girl adopted as an infant by a Cuban American family of Jehovah’s Witnesses? The answer isn’t easy. You won’t find it in books. And you certainly won’t find it in the neighborhood. This is just the beginning of Joy Castro’s unmoored life of searching and striving that she’s turned to account with literary alchemy in Island of Bones

In personal essays that plumb the depths of not-belonging, Castro takes the all-too-raw materials of her adolescence and young adulthood and views them through the prism of time. The result is an exquisitely rendered, richly detailed perspective on a uniquely troubled young life that reflects on the larger questions each of us faces in a world where diversity and singularity are forever at odds. In the experiences of her past—hunger and abuse, flight as a fourteen-year-old runaway, single motherhood, the revelations of her “true” ethnic identity, the suicide of her father—Castro finds the “jagged, smashed place of edges and fragments” that she pieces together to create an island all her own. Hers is a complicated but very real depiction of what it is to “jump class,” to not belong but to find one’s voice in the interstices of identity.

Author Bio

What is “identity” when you’re adopted as an infant by a Cuban American family of Jehovah’s Witnesses? In personal essays that plumb the depths of not-belonging, Castro considers the raw materials of her adolescence and young adulthood through the prism of time to create literary alchemy in this exquisite memoir.


"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."—Publishers Weekly Starred Review

"Throughout her life, Castro has had to redefine her identity, both to herself and to others. These powerful transformations form the backbone of this slim volume of visceral pieces."—Kirkus

"The essays in Island of Bones piece together an inspiring journey that challenges assumptions, statistics and long-held beliefs that shape the "public narrative" of a U.S. Latina. Indeed, through lives like Castro's, the public narrative expands to include stories of strength, perseverance and, apropos of the author's name, joy."—Rigoberto González, El Paso Times

"Written with poetic precision, this small book lives large in memory."—Heather Seggel, ForeWord Reviews

"Each essay in Joy Castro's Island of Bones stands alone yet lends context to the next. By the last page, you're tempted to start reading again, the better to appreciate Castro’s careful array of "small fragile bones" of memory, insight and cultural history gathered in the course of a complex life."—Peg Sheldrick, Lincoln Journal Star

"[Castro's] book invites us to think not just about who we are, but also about how our deepest aspirations can be more powerful than the boundaries and definitions we impose upon ourselves and others."—Pamela Miller, Star Tribune

Table of Contents

Island of Bones 
What My Mother Told Me When I Found Her 
Clips of My Father’s House 
Turn of Faith 
Getting Lost
In Theory 
Farm Use 
Hip Joints 
No Más Monkey 
The Athens of the Midwest 
You Can Avoid the Mistakes I Made 
An Angle of Vision 
Getting “Grip”
On Becoming Educated
Vesper Adest 
“¿Quién es ese Jimmy Choo?”:  A Latina Mother Comes of Age

Source Acknowledgments


Winner of the International Latino Book Award for the Most Inspirational Nonfiction Book in English 

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