LIT YOU NEED TO READ: FILIPINO AMERICAN OWNVOICES BOOKS

Book Stacks
Image: Eli Francis

Although most of us conjure thoughts of pumpkin spice lattes and Halloween Costumes when October rolls around, it is high time to add celebrating the culture and history of the Filipino Diaspora to the list. In 1991, the Filipino American National Historical Society proposed the inaugural Filipino American History Month to begin October 1992.

Why October, you may ask? Well, October commemorates the arrival of the first Filipinos to California in 1587. October is also the birth month of Filipino American labor leader Larry Itliong who is known as one of the fathers of the West Coast labor movement. So … book lover, why not consider giving one of these Filipino American ownvoices books a peruse while you are sipping on another PSL.

America is in the Heart by Carlos Bulosan

America is in the Heart Book Cover

This semi-autobiographical novel begins with  the protagonist’s childhood in rural Philippines dealing with US Imperialism following the Spanish-American War and continues with life in 1930s United States as a Filipino migrant worker enduring racial violence and abuse in California and the Pacific Northwest while struggling with the ideals of the American Dream.

America is Not the Heart by Elaine Castillo

In this story of three generations of women within one immigrant family, Castillo illuminates the violent political history of the Philippines and the insular immigrant communities that grew from leaving behind the home they have always known in pursuit of the American Dream. When Hero de Vera arrives to the home of her Uncle Pol in the Bay Area, she has been disowned by her parents. Pol’s young wife Paz knows enough about the secretive De Vera family to keep her head down and to not ask questions, but their American-born daughter Roni can’t resist asking Hero about her damaged hands.

Babaylan: An Anthology of Filipina and Filipina-American Writers by Nick Carbó (Editor) and Eileen Tabios (Editor)

In the first international anthology of Filipina writers in the United States, Babaylan reflects the complex history of the Filipina diasporic experience that stretches not only the globe but also generations. Sixty writers provide a comprehensive view of the rich tradition of Philippine literature and culture that can be traced back to the time when priestess-poets called babaylan held sway over community rituals.

Fixer Chao by Han Ong

Fixer Chao Book Cover

The Feng Shui scam of the century is born when Filipino street hustler William Narciso Paulinha meets disreputable and social-climbing Shem C. who is still bitter about his lack of success. Under the guidance of Shem C., Paulinha assumes the persona of Master Chao, a revered Feng Shui practitioner from Hong Kong. Together they peddle their distorted philosophy to New York City’s elite in Ong’s debut that questions race, privilege, identity, and what it means to be Asian in American at the turn of the 21st century.

The Gangster of Love by Jessica Hagedorn

Rocky Rivera arrives in the United States from the Philippines on the day Jimi Hendrix dies in this coming-of-age story melding the tensions of immigration with the haunting of homeland life left behind. In pursuit of the American Dream, Rocky moves from the counterculture of 1960s San Francisco to the extravagant music scene of 1980s Manhattan with her guitar-playing boyfriend Elvis Cheng.

The Girl from the Well by Rin Chupeco

In this YA horror novel pitched as Dexter meets The Grudge, Okiku is a lonely soul hunting murders who kill children like the man who threw her body down a well 300 years ago until she meets Tark. While neighbors fear the moody teen with the intricate tattoos, Okiku knows the boy is not a monster. He just needs to be freed from the evil that clings to him, but if the demon dies, its host dies too.

Ignite the Stars by Maura Milan 

Ignite the Stars Book Cover

Ia Cōcha is the notorious outlaw and criminal mastermind feared throughout the universe. No one knows is a seventeen-year-old girl who has spent her life terrorizing the Olympus Commonwealth after they destroyed her home. When she is captured and her true identity is exposed, the Commonwealth sees Ia’s age and talent as an opportunity. The Commonwealth can prove that no one is beyond their control by forcing her to serve them.

Insurrecto by Gina Apostol

History and personalities collide when a Filipino translator and an American filmmaker clash while collaborating on a film script about a massacre during the Philippine-American War. Chiara is working on a film about an incident in Balangiga, Samar when Filipino revolutionaries attacked American troops who quickly retaliate by attacking the surrounding countryside. After reading Chiara’s script, Magsalin writes her own version of the story.

The Land of Forgotten Girls by Erin Entrada Kelly

Soledad has always been able to escape into the stories she creates, and she needs that escape more than ever since losing her mother and sister five years ago and moving from the Philippines to Louisiana. When her father abandons Sol and her youngest sister Ming, Ming begins to believe the mythical, world-traveling Auntie Jove from Sol’s stories will soon rescue them from their evil stepmother Vea.

The Latinos of Asia: How Filipino Americans Break the Rules of Race by Anthony Christian Ocampo

The Latinos of Asia Book Cover

While Filipino Americans helped establish the Asian American movement and are classified by the United States Census as Asian, they share many cultural characteristics, like names, religion, and language, with Latinos due to the legacy of Spanish colonialism in the Philippines. In The Latinos of Asia, Ocampo shows how the racial identities of Filipinos depend largely on social context and its impact on the changing racial landscape of American society.

Lolas’ House: Filipino Women Living with War by M. Evelina Galang

During World War II, thousands of Filipinas were kidnapped by the Japanese Imperial Army and placed into “rape camps.” Lolas’ House brings the testimonies from 16 of the surviving Filipino “comfort women” with the hopes that no women will ever suffer from rape and torture during wartime.

When the Elephants Dance by Tess Uriza Holthe

Inspired by her father’s firsthand accounts of the waning days of World War II when the United States and Japan battled for possession of the Philippines, When the Elephants Dance brings the story of the hope and courage needed to survive during wartime in a blend of the supernatural with the rich Filipino culture. As the Karangalan family hides with their neighbors in a cramped cellar, they share stories that reflect the resilience and courage of the Filipino people.

Your Turn

So…which Filipino American ownvoices books are you adding to your TBR ASAP? Let us know in the comments! |RL

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