Nebraska Center for Writers

Chimney Rock What the Critics Say
About Joy Castro


Hell or High Water
Copyright © 2012
by Joy Castro

Readers who enjoy psychological thrillers will find this a fascinating look into an intriguing city. Nola is a feisty character ... — Library Journal

A terrific mystery, but Hell or High Water is more than just a mystery; it’s a heartfelt examination of a second America — poor but undaunted — that was swept under the rug but refuses to stay there ... I can’t wait to see what Joy Castro does next. — Dennis Lehane

Hell or High Water is so thick and rich with authentic New Orleans details that you’ll be wiping sweat off your brow and smelling the crawfish étouffée. Joy Castro has crafted a complex, conflicted, and hauntingly real heroine with Nola Céspedes. Shackled to her past and to New Orleans, Castro’s Nola reminded me of Pat Conroy’s Tom Wingo and the Outer Banks in Prince of Tides. — Alex Kava

In the tradition of PD James, Ruth Rendell and Lucha Corpi, Joy Castro shows how mystery can be much more than the unraveling of crimes concealed. An irresistible and compelling novel. — Lorraine M López

Exquisite New Orleans background, intriguing newsroom politics and atmosphere, a flawed but plucky heroine, and skillfully paced suspense make this a 'stay up way past your bedtime' read. — Booklist, starred review

Castro's first mystery is fierce and intense, with both harrowing depictions of New Orleans after Katrina and psychological mayhem for its troubled heroine, who crawls under your skin and lingers there long after you've finished reading. — Kirkus Reviews

Readers who enjoy psychological thrillers will find this a fascinating look into an intriguing city. Nola is a feisty character... — Library Journal

Hell or High Water is a tightly written thriller. Nola's first-person perspective and her witty, often cutting dialogue will make the reader believe in the character and really care for her and what happens to her. . . . Like the city for which she was named, Nola is damaged yet unbeaten. . . . an exciting, incisive novel. — El Paso Times

Hell or High Water is a great book, not only for introducing me to New Orleans beyond her usual beignet and Bourbon Street confinements, but also for offering a realistic, moving, and deeply human story about trauma, resilience, and recovery. But that's not all: Hell or High Water is an edge-of-the-seat thriller, a page turner with so many twists and hidden clues and sudden light beaming down that I have already reread the whole thing, eager to find the early indicators of the great surprises launched by Castro at all the key points of the book. — Huffington Post

The laborious act of physical rebuilding and personal recovery is a scintillating theme in Joy Castro's compelling mystery fiction debut. . . . For Castro and Nola, Hell or High Water is just the beginning of what should be a long-running series. — Miami Herald

Island of Bones
Copyright © 2012
by Joy Castro
University of Nebraska Press

... tough and elegant ... 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

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. — from the publisher

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. — Indiebound

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

The power of these personal narratives resides in Castro’s ability to invest every telling detail of every sorrow and every joy with her piercing attention, until each scene reaches a transcendental clarity. . . . Castro has achieved in these essays what Emily Dickinson called "the Truth that must dazzle gradually.”—Judith Ortiz Cofer, author of Silent Dancing: A Partial Remembrance of a Puerto Rican Childhood

A raw, urgent, necessary voice . . . Joy Castro’s personal essays take you to the precipice of our own social misconceptions. . . . What she champions with conviction in these wrenching essays is the power of the mind’s "I": I observe, I question, I remember, I imagine an alternative life. — Ilan Stavans, general editor of The Norton Anthology of Latino Literature

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 Reviews

With each story, Castro gains more depth as her life becomes a rich tapestry of learning, teaching and self-discovery told with prose and deep insight. — sandy Amazeen, Monsters and Critics

The Truth Book
Copyright © 2005
by Joy Castro
Arcade Publishing

The personal account of a young girl who endured abuse and the disturbing effects of religious hypocrisy within one of the most enigmatic sects of Christian fundamentalism. Joy Castro is adopted as a baby and raised by a devout Jehovah's Witness family. As a child, she is constantly told to always tell the truth, no matter the consequences, for she must model herself on Jehovah, and Jehovah does not lie. She dutifully studies the truth book, a supplemental religious text that contains the principles of the faith." When Joy is ten years old, her parents divorce. Earlier, her father had been disfellowshipped, or excommunicated from the congregation, for smoking. When Joy is twelve, her mother marries a respected brother in their church. He has an impeccable public persona, but behind closed doors at home he is a savage brute. Joy and her younger brother Tony are forbidden from seeing their father and are abused mercilessly — to the point they both think they are going to die. Their battered mother does nothing to protect them. Nor does their church, to which Joy voices her appeals. For two years they suffer, until one day Joy reaches out to her father, and together they plan and execute the children's daring escape. — from the publisher

Her story is, more than merely engaging, downright embracing. The unfolding fates of Castro and her brother as they endure abuse at the hands of those entrusted with their care, even though we know they emerged whole and sane, prove utterly gripping. — Booklist

Gorgeous, disturbing, and grippingly alive, Castro's book offers the kind of hope her background never supplied. And it should be noted that part of the profits of the book are going to Childhelp USA, a national organization for the prevention of child abuse. — Boston Globe

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