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Tuesday, March 16, 2021

What I'm Reading: The Goddess of Filth by V. Castro

Today, I am here to proclaim this the year of V. Castro. I am not kidding. Below, I have ny STAR review of her current novella, Goddess of Filth and I just received her upcoming novel, The Queen of the Cicadas for review in Library Journal.

I had read Castro's stories and was impressed, but Goddess of Filth blew me away. I cannot say enough good things about this novella: the writing, the unsettling feeling throughout, the message to young women to explore, not hide, their power, the villain, and the complete reclaiming of the exorcism trope, yanking it off from its Christian pedestal. This is a must purchase.

Below is my draft review with extra appeal content, including my "three words" and readalikes.

Goddess of Filth

by V. Castro

Mar. 2021. 156p. Creature, paper, $16 (9781951971038)
First published March 15, 2021 (Booklist).

Boldly reclaiming the possession trope from Christianity, Castro introduces readers to four friends, proud Chicanas, about to begin their adult lives. Lourdes leads a seance during one of the girls’ final evenings together and Fernanda is possessed by the Goddess of Filth, a powerful Aztec deity who eats sin, steals secrets, and champions female sexuality. This forces them to embrace the Goddess, her knowledge and power, as they take control of their lives despite the limitations race, class, and gender have  placed on them. However, Fernanda’s mother calls in Father Moreno, to oust the demon, but his sin is no match for the Goddess’ ancient powers. Narrated mostly from Lourdes’ point of view, with peeks into Fernanda, the Goddess, and the evil Father Moreno, this is a story that calls on young women to embrace the power of their strength, sexuality, and intelligence, and to not let the world be afraid of it, or them, but it is also an action packed horror novel, filled with terror, violence, and monsters, both real and supernatural, anchored by a pervasive sense of dread that constantly reminds the reader what is really at stake when women are silenced. Displaying exhilarating talent, this compelling and immersive novella will appeal to fans of both Tremblay’s A Head Full of Ghosts and Machado’s Her Body and Other Parties. 

Further Appeal: I took so many notes when reading this 160 page book. I am going to share some of those here because they are all appeal based.

An awesome possession story which reclaims the trope from Christianity and gives it back to indigenous traditions. But at the same time it is also about how the world takes power from young women, especially of color, and how they need to fight to take that power back— at all costs. 

Gives voice to those that history, racism, sexism, and modern society have rendered voiceless. All in a satisfying, fun, and scary horror novella package. 

And it is very sexy but in a way that acknowledges that women are sexual beings and when we are young we are taught to be good girl sand suppress that. It's is so empowering.

And it does all of this while still telling a compelling, exciting, suspenseful, and intensely unsettling horror story. 

Castro’s prose, storytelling style, and characters, will drawn readers in from the very first lines, while Lourdes’ strong and honest narration will hold them glued tot he page for the duration. The excellent narrative voice and compelling plot, are also enhanced by the well built villain. He is sooooo creepy and evil.

A note on the indigenous religious history. Castro makes the discovery of what readers need to know part of the action as the girls need to learn it too. Not only is there just the right amount of detail to ground the story, shedding a light on its importance at the foundation of this continent and its first peoples, but it is also the main driver of the action, the dread, and the horror. The Goddess herself is terrifying in her power, but she is not evil. The horror and the evil come from other's reactions to her power.

This novella was so satisfying in every way. A must read.

Three Words That Describe This Book: reclaiming the possession trope, unsettling, immersive

Readalikes: There are two in the review. I also wanted to include Mayan Blue by the Sisters of Slaughter but I realize not as many libraries own this title. But please, seek it out and buy it for the indigenous culture monsters from a mythology that ruled this continent for centuries before the dominant white western mythology hijacked it.

Also, Cynthia Pelayo’s Children of Chicago. Both stories deal with strong, realistically portrayed, complicated women facing horrors both supernatural and of this world.

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