Sunday, February 18, 2018

Let me know if you have a copy of America Is Not the Heart

I'd like to get a copy of Elaine Castillo's America Is Not the Heart, her first novel.

When Hero De Vera arrives in America–haunted by the political upheaval in the Philippines and disowned by her parents–she’s already on her third. Her uncle gives her a fresh start in the Bay Area, and he doesn’t ask about her past. His younger wife knows enough about the might and secrecy of the De Vera family to keep her head down. But their daughter–the first American-born daughter in the family–can’t resist asking Hero about her damaged hands.

An increasingly relevant story told with startling lucidity, humor, and an uncanny ear for the intimacies and shorthand of family ritual, America Is Not the Heart is a sprawling, soulful debut about three generations of women in one family struggling to balance the promise of the American dream and the unshakeable grip of history.

Eleanor Pritchett, writing for The Paris Review, smiled after reading it.

This is Castillo’s first novel, and it is masterful. It has drama and tragedy in spades, but it also has so much love of every kind spilling out of its pages that I closed it each night with a huge, warm smile. I might go home and read it again.

I think it was the writer Miguel Syjuco who said that we're not a reading nation—we don't have a reading culture. Novels and books don't figure into our every day, and they're not strong enough to be the subjects of conversation—a baffling phenomenon, considering this country has Jose Rizal's novels at the heart of her history. A chicken-and-egg problem, whose solution escapes us: writers are not writing enough because nobody's reading them; they're not being read because books by Filipinos are hard to come by.

This is why I'm on the lookout for things written by Filipinos. Castillo was born and raised in America, but her story seems like something that's closer to home, too.



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