Tuesday, December 29, 2009

REVIEW OF GROWING UP FILIPINO II, by Karen Pierce Gonzalez, Folkheart Press

Review of Growing Up Filipino II: More Stories for Young Adults, by Karen Pierce Gonzales, Folkheart Press website, Dec. 29, 2009

What I like most about folk stories is that they tell us something important about other people. They create specific examples of universal themes that exist in all cultures; they express the uniqueness of a particular time and a particular people that enlightens us all about our own humanity.

This is what I recently experienced after reading Growing Up Filipino II: More Stories for Young Adults, a collection of contemporary stories for young adults collected and edited by Cecilia Manguerra Brainard. The 257-page book published by PALH (Philippine American Literary House) was first brought to my attention by fellow writer Rebecca Mabanglo-Mayor. A bright writer herself who lives in Washington, she was able to share with me not only the beauty of her own literary work but also the richness of her cultural heritage.

Thanks to her I was allowed into the post 9/11 world of Filipino and Filipino American youth. Through this I was introduced to a culture that admittedly I knew very little about.

I learned through the stories that many Filipino children are raised in a very strong patriarchal system that often over rules the individual child’s needs to ‘fit in’ with the dominant American culture. For example, in ‘Double Dutch’ (Leslieann Hobayan) when young Maria Elizabeth comes home one day with her hair braided by her African American school friend her family responds by telling her the braids are ugly and she is no longer allowed to play with her friend. I could feel the poignancy of Maria Elizabeth’s dilemma as she withdrew from the schoolyard community she enjoyed so much.

Other stories also reveal the hard facts of immigrant life. Alma (‘Here in the States’ by Rashaan Alexis Meneses) struggles to understand how hard her mother must work as a nanny to make ends meet. Shame and sadness mingle when she questions the discrepancy between her mother’s role as a respected professional back home and her new role as a domestic helper. Adolescent resentment and rebellion about having to help care for younger siblings (something the maid back home did) further complicate Alma’s efforts to make sense of this new world. It is in her mother’s quiet strength and acceptance of life’s uncertainties that Alma finds her greatest comfort and connection.

While the book is designed to reflect the issues young adults face, it does much more than that. It reaches out to the rest of us in a way that invites deeper understanding and awareness of how our Filipino and Filipino American brothers and sisters experience life in America. Fraught with the angst of adolescence that exists everywhere and grounded in an abiding sense of strong Filipino family/cultural values, the authors of these stories have something valuable to tell us about our own desires and struggles to belong in whatever world we live in.

We are fortunate to have access to such a formidable anthology. It is certainly a must read for anyone who wants to celebrate our multicultural society.

Growing Up Filipino II: More Stories for Young Adults will be released March, 2010. For more information, visit their website.

Posted by Karen Pierce Gonzalez at 9:19 AM

Monday, December 28, 2009

Book Launch of Growing Up Filipino II, Jan. 16, 2-5 p.m. San Francisco

Edwin Lozada and Veronica Montes have been working together on the following book launch of Growing Up Filipino II, cosponsored by PAWA (Philippine American Writers and Artists) and Arkipelago Books, on Sat. Jan. 16, 2010, 2-5 p.m. at the Bayanihan Community Center, 1010 Mission St., San Francisco. Contact pawa@pawainc.com for more information.

I am sure there will be a Literary Reading by contributors in the Bay Area. I will update this post as I get more information. (Thanks Edwin and Veronica!)

Growing Up Filipino II, by Rebecca Mabanglo-Mayor

Thoughts on the new book Growing Up Filipino II, by Rebecca Mabanglo-Mayor

I love books. The weight. The smell. The deliberate slowness of reading and turning a page and reading some more.

The screen just isn't the same and that's good and bad. Good for scanning and absorbing information quickly. Bad for reflection and immersion.

I get lost in the process of reading books, lost in new worlds and new people.

Escapism doesn't begin to cover the sensation of unfolding a completely different universe with the flick of the wrist as each page turns.

My author copies of Growing Up Filipino II: More Stories for Young Adults arrived a couple of weeks ago.

In the run-up to Christmas, I had just enough time to show it off to a few friends and family, but very little time to really absorb what I held in my hands.

My first in-book publication.

Don't misunderstand - I'm grateful to the print and online magazines that have published my poetry and reviews. Each byline meant that I became less a could-be writer and more a in-fact writer.

But to hold my story in my hands, all printed and bound up with fabulous work by authors I admire as really-real writers, I stepped into a whole new world I knew existed, but didn't think I had the key to open.

With a flick of my wrist, I was there, in the book, a story peering back at me the reader, a reader peering into a writer's world and that writer was me.

And by 'was' I mean a past me, the one who wrote the snippet of the story over 5 years ago, polished it and submitted it 2 years ago, received an acceptance and proofed my galley last year, and proofed it again this year.

I'd been told that the birthing of a story takes a long time, and I thought that only meant the creation of it. I understand now that there's also the production of it, the long steps from one universe to the next. Who knew that the the distance from the front of the wardrobe to the back was so long, Lucy?

So, there's writing, then there's book-making, and now comes the book promoting.

The hardcover version is now available at Amazon and the soft and hardcopy versions can be ordered from your local brick and mortar store. Just tell them that they can get them from Ingram or Baker & Taylor.

If you know any of the contributors (Dean Francis Alfar, Katrina Ramos Atienza, Maria Victoria Beltran, M.G. Bertulfo, Cecilia Manguerra Brainard, Amalia B. Bueno, Max Gutierrez, Leslieann Hobayan, Jaime An Lim, Paulino Lim Jr., Rebecca Mabanglo-Mayor, Dolores de Manuel, Rashaan Alexis Meneses, Veronica Montes, Charlson Ong, Marily Ysip Orosa, Kannika Claudine D. Peña, Oscar Peñaranda, Edgar Poma, Tony Robles, Brian Ascalon Roley, Jonathan Jimena Siason, Aileen Suzara, Geronimo G. Tagatac, Marianne Villanueva) ask your bookstore owner if they'll set up a reading to promo the book, then let your friends, family, and total strangers you meet at the coffee shop or grocery store know.

Step into the stories imagined in a post-9/11 world, written from the perspective of the young adult but accessible to anyone who has struggled with issues of family, love, sexuality, home, and social change in the current modern age.

Tuloy! Come share our world.
Rebecca Mabanglo-Mayor's blog is http://wordbinder.blogspot.com/

Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas Carolling at the Brainards

Thursday, December 17, 2009


Kirkus Reviews will close at the end of the year. From LA Times, "Kirkus was founded in 1933 and was published biweekly. It relied on a small staff and an army of freelancers who reviewed about 5,000 books a year three months before their publication dates. Authors looked to Kirkus reviews to test how their books would be received; libraries and independent bookstores turned to them to decide what to buy."

I didn't realize until now how well-respected the book reviews by Kirkus have been, since Kirkus did not hesitate giving bad reviews, "When I was a book publicist, the worst part of my job was having to read a Kirkus review over the phone to an author. 2 cigs before, 2 after,” recalled Laura Zigman, an author and former book publicist for Alfred A. Knopf, in a Twitter post.

To express my sadness at the closing of Kirkus, I post here a review of When the Rainbow Goddess Wept, published in Kirkus Reviews, July 1, 1994.

When the Rainbow Goddess Wept by Cecilia Manguerra Brainard (first published by Dutton, current publisher is University of Michigan Press)

"A fast-paced,sensitively written first novel about the psychological damage war wreaks, seen through the eyes of an intelligent resilient young girl.

During WWII, as Japanese forces invade her native city of Ubec in the Philippines, nine-year-old Yvonne Macaraig escapes with her father and mother into the mountains, where they stay in villages whose inhabitants are fighting the Japanese. Yvonne's father, an engineer, joins a guerrilla regiment. In wartime, Yvonne learns, people change. Her mother bears a stillborn baby in the jungle while Japanese soldiers lurk nearby, prevents an enemy soldier from stealing their chickens, and asks Yvonne's father to kill the prisoner of war he takes. Her father refuses, but confesses after he shoots the man for trying to escape that he enjoyed killing him, as revenge for the dead baby. When Yvonne's father disappears on a mission, the girl develops the "practicality" war requires. "I wondered what we would do if Papa were really dead. Would the guerrilleros cast us aside...?" She refuses to give up hope and "learns how to will (her) father to live...centering (her) energy on keeping Papa alive." The author, herself born in the Philippines, skillfully interweaves realistic events with myths of women fighters and goddesses, as well as fantastic dreams. She relates dramatic events in an understated way, such as the family's ride up into the mountains on horseback, with a spare horse carrying dynamite, and she enhances her understanding of Yvonne's pre-war world through the use of ironic details: In the Ubec cinema "the roof leaked...From the loge, one could see the movie reflected upside down on the wet floor."

Brainard's appealing characters are larger-than-life people who change before our eyes, yet remain convincing." -

Thank's again Kirkus for this review and I'm sorry you won't be around! Kirkus must have judged the novel correctly because When the Rainbow Goddess is still in print 15 years later.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Merry Christmas from the Brainards

Sunday, December 6, 2009

The Christmas Tree is Up!

The Christmas Tree is Up!
Some favorite Christmas tree decorations: the black sheep, the ballet dancer, the antique German-made glass bird, and the bird in the nest.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Pictures Machu Picchu and Pablo Neruda's House

I'm sharing pictures taken in Macchu Picchu and in Pablo Neruda's House in Santiago, Chile (Las Chascona). They're a few years old, but I remembered them.