Do Your #ReadingChallenge2019 Right with These Novels by Influential Filipinas
Whether you’re the type who wants to read books for the rest of the year or you’re someone who might be looking for something worthwhile to start the year by, look no further. Upsize your life with these novels that are written not just by influential women, but by influential Filipina women making headlines in the literary scene. Behold these recent gems that deserve a spot on your bookshelf – but make sure you’ve read them first.
From Gina Apostol, who hails from Tacloban, winner of the 2013 Pen/Open Book Award and several other citations (did you know that she became the cover author for Publishers’ Weekly Best Books Issue? Incredible), we give you a picture of the Philippines as it is now – “Duterte’s Philippines”, as Penguin Random House puts it, as two women – a filmmaker from the United States and a Filipino translator – go on an adventure that digs deep into our historical roots, particularly our dark past in line with the Philippine-American war and the incident in Balangiga, Samar, in 1901.
Apostol showcases technical and writing prowess through a unique narrative structure and a distinct literary voice that is truthful, daring, and questioning, one that would echo through many fiction lover’s hearts for sure, and it would resonate with any heart beating proudly in terms of our heritage and culture, especially with the varied perspectives and representation it offers. For one, it captures Manila so accurately it’s as if you’re there, standing beside the pavement, smelling the effects of the smog and feeling your face tingle with heat, its nuances, beauty, and dangers interlocked in Apostol’s fiction.
It’s a novel that also shows us the many hats and facets of women, whether they’re mothers, filmmakers, translators, and even revolutionaries. Moreover, it tells us, time and time again, about the relationship of the colonizer and the colonized: Who are they, and what have we done about it? Interesting are the women of this tale, too – find out why now.
Fun Fact: If you’ve been to Ben Cab Museum in Baguio, you probably have seen the painting on the novel cover. ;)
Here’s a line from the novel: “Baggage means no matter how far you go, no matter how many times you immigrate, there are in countries you you’ll never leave.” Powerful writing? Yes. Does it ring a bell? A thousand times yes, especially for many Filipinos. Ah, the diaspora.
And it’s more than just the diaspora. It’s about generations and generations of almost the same set of struggles, just that these struggles are shaped in the form of another story, another person struggling with identity, another relationship that could set off in a million other directions. From the mind of the brilliant Elaine Castillo, Filipina-American born and raised in San Francisco (and we stan a brave millennial with this brave debut), we witness things that we almost already know: the quest for that Green Card, contending with the effects of the Marital Law regime then and now, the lengths Filipino families would dare travers just because they are of the same bloodline. More than that, it is daring in that it openly talks about gender, class, trauma – how timely and relevant.
Interesting also is how Castillo has incorporated various local languages in the novel, particularly Filipino and Ilocano. It’s as if part of our identity is truly embedded in a novel that is not purely English, but is multilingual: perhaps an accurate representation of who we truly are.
Hey, it’s still January—it’s not too late. Get on it, pick up a book, and be the empowered woman who feeds her brain just as much as she feeds her soul and takes care of herself. Having more knowledge can be self-care, too. We love a woman who reads.