The British writer Deborah Levy recently wrote that flamenco is “a dance of seduction and pain.” Ana Castillo’s 1999 novel Peel My Love Like An Onion is a glance into the seduction and pain experienced in the life of the flamenco dancer and singer Carmen la Coja (Carmen the Cripple in Spanish). Carmen, a polio victim as a child, overcomes her disability, to become an internationally proclaimed flamenco star.
The book focuses on how Carmen copes with the two great loves of her life, the older gypsy musician Agustin, and his gypsy godson, the young flamenco dancer Manolo. The author’s narrative weaves in the emotions that are so often reflected in flamenco dance—love, passion, deceit and remorse.
Ms. Castillo, who also is a distinguished poet, was born and raised in Chicago, and most of Peel My Love Like An Onion is set in Chicago. Her poetic imagery abounds in the book such as “my milkless breasts and my love that I had offered and given of so freely discarded like compost to be buried.” She also forgoes the use of quotation marks when characters speak in the narrative, which is somewhat confusing for the reader at first, but doesn’t seem distracting as the story moves on.
So join us at the Cliff Dwellers on Saturday, August 27 as I facilitate a book club discussion on Peel My Love Like An Onion. The discussion is free and open to the public, and starts at 11:00 a.m. Stay for lunch and enjoy the great food and the beautiful 22nd floor view at the Cliff Dwellers, located at 200 S. Michigan, across the street from the Art Institute. The next book club selection will be A Dream of Kings by Harry Mark Petrakis, to be discussed on September 24.