Author Selected as Womxn of Color Initiative Visiting Artist

Woman with glasses in a red shirt smiling at the camera

The Womxn of Color Initiative (WOCI) is bringing Elaine Castillo, author of America is Not the Heart, to campus next week as its Fall 2019 Visiting Artist, and is inviting the public to come hear her talk on Wednesday, October 16, at 6 p.m. at the MSU Broad ArtLab, 565 E. Grand River Ave. in East Lansing.

America Is Not the Heart is Castillo’s debut novel and was named one of the best books of 2018 by NPR, the New York PostThe Boston GlobeSan Francisco Chronicle, Kirkus Reviews, the New York Public Library, Real Simple, Lit Hub, and more. It also has been nominated for the Elle Award, the Center for Fiction Prize, the Aspen Words Prize, the Northern California Independent Booksellers Book Award, and the California Book Award.

The book tells the intergenerational story of a Filipino immigrant family. Hero, the main character, was disowned by her parents after joining the New People’s Army to work as an army doctor. Captured, tortured, and later unable to return to her family in the Philippines, Hero moves to a San Francisco suburb for her chance at a fresh start and to live with her uncle, his wife, and their 8-year-old daughter.

Cover of Castillo's book "America is Not the Heart"
Elaine Castillo’s book “America is Not the Heart.”

“We are so excited to have Elaine Castillo as our visiting artist this fall,” said Yomaira Figueroa, Assistant Professor of English and one of the organizers of the Womxn of Color Initiative. “We have been in conversation with Asian Pacific American Studies for over a year about collaborating on bringing womxn from the Asian diaspora as part of WOCI. This year, our two authors-in-residence (Elaine Castillo for Fall 2019 and lê thị diễm thúy in Spring 2020) are brilliant creative writers and artists who center the critically under-told transnational histories and lived experiences of Pilipinx and Vietnamese diasporic peoples.”

Castillo will be signing books after her October 16 talk and reception. She also will visit courses in the College of Arts & Letters and the Residential College in the Arts and Humanities. In addition, she will lead a Creative Writing Workshop on Tuesday, October 15, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the RCAH LookOut! Gallery, 362 Bogue Street in East Lansing. An RSVP is required to attend by completing this online form: That evening, the Asian Pacific American Studies Program, APASO, and APAGO is hosting a student dinner with Castillo. For more information on the student dinner, contact Kate Firestone at

Born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, where she graduated from the University of California, Berkeley, with a degree in Comparative Literature, Castillo is a three-time recipient of the Roselyn Schneider Eisner Prize for prose. She also has an M.A. in Creative and Life Writing from Goldsmiths, University of London, and her writing can be found in The New York TimesThe Nation, Freeman’s, Electric Literature, Lit Hub, and elsewhere.

Womxn of Color Initiative

The MSU Womxn of Color Initiative is an effort to organize events for womxn of color and their allies on MSU’s campus and in the greater Lansing community. The initiative, run by faculty and graduate students, aims to strengthen the community of womxn and allies working toward social and racial justice and equity by creating spaces for students to be in conversation with each other and engaging with womxn of color faculty, guest speakers, staff, and community members. 

Since Spring 2016, the WOCI speaker series has brought one nationally recognized woman of color academic, creative, and/or political speaker to the MSU campus each semester.

The speaker series, artist-in-residence program, and health and wellness workshops offer cross-disciplinary and open spaces for dialogue that address issues of representation, graduation, and retention at the undergraduate and graduate level while offering community-building opportunities for junior and senior faculty and staff at MSU.

The public talks are open to the Michigan State University and the larger East Lansing/Lansing community and are recorded to create a digital archive and to provide access to an even larger audience.

Sponsored by the College of Arts & Letters, the Womxn of Color Initiative is organized by Professors Estrella Torrez, Tamara Butler, Yomaira Figueroa, Delia Fernandez, Maribel Santiago, and Leslie Gonzales. The graduate coordinators are Briona S. Jones and Olivia Furman and have worked closely with the directors of the Asian Pacific American Studies Program as well as Professors Naoko Wake and Terese Monberg to develop these events.

Castillo’s visit is supported by the Department of English, Center for Gender in Global Contexts, Department of African American and African Studies, Asian Studies Center, Asian Pacific American Student Organization, Asian Pacific American Studies Program, and the Residential College in the Arts and Humanities.