Rafael Castillo. Aurora. ISBN 978-1888205-30-5. $19.95.

Rafael Castillo's characters are a Chicano variation of Edward Hopper's "Nighthawks," sleepless souls lost in their own thoughts," Jacinto Jesus Cardona, author of Pan Dulce: Poems

These eleven tightly-packed short stories, often allegorical yet visceral, range from the phantasmagorical "Aurora", whose misdeed has condemned her to a cyclical river of Eternal Return, to the agnostic Tomas and faithful Pedro in the theological "Penitent of Guadalupe Street", where truth is an enigma wrapped in a metaphor. In another story, a bellicose dwarf is murdered and the story is told from shifting points of view. In "Dwarfs and Penitents," an angry jilted husband searches the cobblestone streets of Prague in search of vengeance, while in "The Sands of Dhahran," a middle-age soldier battles his demons during Operation Desert Storm. In these luminous stories, Castillo give us penitents, dwarfs, lost youth, WWII vets, pachucos, doppelgangers, and memorable others populating the American literary landscape.

Rafael Castillo teaches writing and literature at Palo Alto College in San Antonio, Texas.

He is the author of Distant Journeys, and his writing has appeared in The Arizona Quarterly, College English, Imagine, English Journal, Frank, New Mexico Humanities Review, Puentes, Southwestern American Literature, Saguaro, and ViAztlán. His fiction has also been widely syndicated and anthologized in Under the Pomegranate Tree (Washington Square Press), Lone Star Literature (W.W.Norton), Hispanic Link, (Washington, DC) and New Growth (Corona Press).

"Castillo has a poet's feel for language and a gritty sense of urban reality. Aurora and other stories is a welcome addition to the growing body of Mexican American literature," Don Graham is the J. Frank Dobie Regents Professor of American Literature and English at UT-Austin, and a writer-at-large for Texas Monthly.

"Complicated, interesting, and enthralling, Castillo has one of the most authentic voices coming out of Aztlan. Our inheritance is in his words," Sheila Sánchez-Hatch, author of Strong Box Heart

"A personal memory of profound intimacy and delicately layered . . . Castillo's book is enticing and energizing," Carmen Tafolla, Sonnets To Human Beings.