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Easy Women

Sex and Gender in Modern Mexican Fiction

1998
Author:

Debra A. Castillo

Easy Women

Addresses the topic of prostitution and “easy women” in Mexican literature.

Combining early twentieth-century novels, current best-selling pulp fiction, and testimonial narratives, Castillo explores how Mexican writers have positioned the “easy woman” in their works.

This is an exciting, important, and timely contribution to Latin American literary criticism, gender studies, and studies of Mexican literature and society. Not only is it the first book to address the topic of prostitutes and other ‘loose women’ in Mexican literature, it is one of the best informed, most subtle, sophisticated, and elegant analyses of Mexican fiction that has been written in this country.

Cynthia Steele, University of Washington

The figure of the prostitute or sexually liberated woman not only permeates Mexican folk songs and popular movies but stands at the crossroads of its national literary culture. In Easy Women, Debra A. Castillo focuses on the prostitute, or the woman perceived as such, in order to ask why this character exerts such a hold on the Mexican imagination.

Combining early twentieth-century novels, current best-selling pulp fiction, and testimonial narratives, Castillo explores how Mexican writers have positioned the “easy woman” in their works. In each example the transgressive woman—marked by an active sexuality—serves a crucial narrative function, one that both promotes and challenges myths about women on the continuum of sexual promiscuity. Ending with a discussion based on a series of in-depth interviews with sex workers in Tijuana, Castillo highlights the complexities and ambiguities of these women’s professional and personal lives. As opposed to a traditional view of these women as symbols of evil or metaphors of contagion, Castillo gives voice and agency to the silenced figure of the “easy woman,” unsettling conventional notions and opening up a freer space within which gender and sexuality can be rethought.

Bridging Latin American literary and cultural criticism, gender studies, and studies of Mexican society, Easy Women provides a sophisticated and groundbreaking examination of the place of the sexually liberated woman in contemporary Mexican culture.

Easy Women

Debra A. Castillo is professor of romance studies and comparative literature at Cornell University.

Easy Women

This is an exciting, important, and timely contribution to Latin American literary criticism, gender studies, and studies of Mexican literature and society. Not only is it the first book to address the topic of prostitutes and other ‘loose women’ in Mexican literature, it is one of the best informed, most subtle, sophisticated, and elegant analyses of Mexican fiction that has been written in this country.

Cynthia Steele, University of Washington

Debra Castillo is one of the most original and courageous scholars working in literary and cultural studies today. In this book she takes on the complexities of a textual and sexual economy that has never before been analyzed convincingly. In our time, when international sex tourism lands on the border between Mexico and the United States, it is vital that we have studies such as Castillo’s that integrate sociohistorical realities and literary representations of the ‘prostitute.’

Rosemary Feal, University of Rochester

Castillo offers a well researched, subtly argued book that addresses important issues beyond the traditional ‘study of the prostitute as literary figure.’

MLN

Debra Castillo’s daring book goes a long way toward unmasking the gendered discourse of power in Mexico and gestures toward the possibility of a ‘reconfiguration of knowledge structures and gender identity.’

Signs