Rafaela Castro was born in Bakersfield, California but grew up in Arvin, a small agricultural town near Weedpatch Camp, the labor camp in John Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath. When she was ten years old her family moved to the San Francisco Bay Area where she has lived most of her life. After spending two years in Brazil with the Peace Corps, in the mid-1960s, she returned home to start her education. Attending the University of California, Berkeley, she received degrees in English Literature, Library Science, and Folklore.
Rafaela's academic library career spans over thirty years, at community college and university libraries, and in teaching courses on Ethnic Bibliography and Chicano Studies at UC Berkeley’s School of Library and Information Studies and Ethnic Studies Department. In between these various positions she also worked at DQ University and Adelante, Inc., a non-profit organization in Berkeley. She recently retired from Shields Library at the University of California, Davis.
After completing the writing of a master’s thesis she discovered the joy of writing and wrote articles for Chicano Studies and academic library professional journals. She's also written entries for Folklore and Biographical encyclopedias. During the 1990s Rafaela wrote opinion columns on Mexican American culture for the San Francisco Chronicle, and she contributed "Perspectives", public affairs commentary series, on KQED-FM.
She is one of four authors of What Do I Read Next?: Multicultural Literature, Gale, 1997, contributing the Latino Literature section.
While at the University of California, Davis she wrote Dictionary of Chicano Folklore, ABC-Clio,Inc., 2000, which was released in paperback as Chicano Folklore: A guide to the folktales, traditions, rituals and religious practices of Mexican Americans, Oxford University Press, 2001.
Her most recent publication, Provocaciones, Letters from the Prettiest Girl in Arvin, Chusma House Publications, 2006, is a collection of sensitive narratives that reveal the ethical values of a young girl raised in the 1950s and 1960s in a Mexican Catholic working class home.
Her current work-in-progress is a novel about a woman's search, in the San Joaquin Valley of California, for her dead mother's lover