The League of Women Voters calls her "a woman who could be president." She has won an Emmy and also the Eleanor Roosevelt Humanitarian Award.
But this week Rose Castillo Guilbault is a writer — the celebrated author of "Farmworker's Daughter: Growing Up Mexican in America," a coming-
Considered one of the most influential Hispanic women in the world today, Guilbault will lecture at Salt Lake Community College at 12:30 p.m., then, at 7 p.m. she'll sign copies of her memoir in the King's English bookshop.
Guilbault, vice president of corporate affairs for AAA of Northern California, spoke with the Deseret Morning News about life as a rural, Hispanic young woman at a time when some considered those three attributes three strikes. She was asked who she saw as the "ideal reader" for her book.
"Two groups of people," she said. "Hispanic people who've had similar experiences and young people — especially young women — who don't know that others have gone through the same experiences they have."
The book traces Guilbault's early memories of Sonora, Mexico, and her immigration to the United States. From page to page, all sorts of characters and types put in appearances, sketched out with Dickensian warmth and in remarkable detail.
"That time in my head is very clear and vivid," she explained. "On the farm, not much went on, except life. So I was able to focus on all the things around me. And everything around me soaked in. I remember those early years better than I remember what happened 10 years ago."
This snippet about crossing the Sonora Desert shows her style:
"We left the Desert at dawn. Pink rays of light streaked the steel gray horizon. The air felt cool and still. By mid-morning, heat would drop from the sun, a molten ball in the sky. But at 6 a.m. . . . the air smelled sweet and warm, like the breath of a waking baby."
At the time, however, the situation didn't seem quite so poetic. In fact, it seemed dire. There were years of hard-luck and hard-scrabble life. But family, friends and a fierce belief in herself kept Guilbault moving forward. "In homes like mine, everything revolves around the mother. The mother keeps the family together. She is the holder of the values.
"My mother, for instance, was a storyteller. She was a very social person, and I'd follow her around from house to house, eavesdropping on the adult conversations. She liked people. She could draw them out. And to her, everything was a story."
The storytelling gift has now been passed down to the daughter. And she's making the most of it.
"Farmworker's Daughter" is Exhibit A.
If you go . . .
What: Lecture by Rose Castillo Guilbault
Where: Salt Lake Community College, Technology Building, 4600 S. Redwood Road
When: Friday, 12:30-2 p.m.
How much: Free
Also. . .
What: Book signing
Where: King's English Bookshop, 1511 S. 1500 East
When: Friday, 7 p.m.
How much: Free