Thursday, September 24, 2015

Philippine literature: Review Fiction by Filipinos in America, Edited by Cecilia Brainard


Edited by Cecilia Manguerra Brainard

New Day Publishers, 1993, softcover, 240 pp.
ISBN 970-10-0528-X

A collection of fiction by 23 Filipinos in America, including Linda Ty-Casper, N.V.M. Gonzalez, Juan Dionisio, Bienvenido Santos, Cecilia Manguerra Brainard, Manuel Viray, Carlos Bulosan, Ligaya Victorio Fruto, Jean Vengua Gier, Alberto Florentino, Michelle Cruz Skinner, Jessica Hagedorn, Paulino Lim, Jr., Samuel Tagatac, Virginia Cerenio, Julia Palarca, Oscar Penaranda, Erlinda Villamor Kravetz, Nadine Sarreal, Marianne Villanueva, Manuel Olimpo, Nenutzka Villamar, and Luis Cabalquinto


World Literature Today

Fiction by Filipinos in America. (book reviews) Al Camus Palomar.

Full Text: COPYRIGHT 1994 University of Oklahoma

The stories in Fiction by Filipinos in America, as editor Cecilia Manguerra Brainard puts it, "deal with oppression, flight, dislocation, unrequited love, longing for an idealized home; these are stories of humans dominated by values that run deep, of fierce loyalty for family and friends, and always that Filipino tenacity to deal with life's hardships and remain undefeated. Together these stories paint a gigantic picture of the Filipino, whether in the Philippines or in America, and it is a wonderful picture, this of a person who struggles, fails at times, but keeps on, a most resilient human being." Resilience is a quality long associated with Filipinos. As a poet once said," A Filipino is pliant like a bamboo." Neither typhoons nor monsoons could break the Filipino spirit; like the bamboo, it sways and bends with nature's relentless onslaughts, but it refuses to yield or die.

Manguerra Brainard's selection is a delight. Some of the stories are masterly, especially those written by such old reliables as Carlos Bulosan, Linda Ty-Casper, N. V. M. Gonzales, Bienvenido N. Santos, and Alberto S. Florentino. None is less than highly competent, and all are worth reading. Manguerra Brainard has done an excellent job of mixing critical judgment with personal taste. What her choices prove is that most Filipinos who write competently in English have either lived in America for a long time or were actually born, raised, and educated here. These are writers to whom English is almost a first language. It would surprise no one if these writers' command of Pilipino is inferior to their command of English.

Bulosan is at his most poignant in "The Romance of Magno Rubio," a tale of love and romance that subtly condemns those who take advantage of the good-hearted, the poor, and the ignorant. "A Warm Hand" by N. V. M. Gonzales superbly displays the innocence of the Filipino; it is not the story itself that impresses, however, but the writer's mastery of the short story, his stunning perfection of form. And who else but Bienvenido N. Santos can portray an expatriate's yearning for his idealized native land? In "Scent of Apples" Santos brilliantly delineates the touching tale of a Filipino farmer in America nostalgic for home and his own people; it is undoubtedly one of the most moving short stories in contemporary literature. Like Somerset Maugham, Santos seems to have an extraordinary sense of the hidden loneliness in others.

The excerpts from novels--Manguerra Brainard's own "Doc's Crucifixion" (from Song of Yvonne) and "The President's Wife Has a Dream" by Jessica Hagedorn (from Dog-eaters)--make one want to read the authors' books. Hagedorn's brave defiance of conventional rules of writing is both refreshing and startling. The not-so-well-known other writers in the collection are all promising, and given the time, they could surprise us with their talent. They all tell a quintessentially Filipino story and a story for our day and age.

The last entry, the shortest item in the lot (forty-one lines), is a surrealist dream, "Phalaenopsis," the tale of an expatriate Filipino who ties himself to an oak tree, slowly loses his human form, and becomes a full-grown orchid. The story is a fitting finale to a most thorough and compelling account of the Filipino culture and soul, for the Filipino is an enigma, a true child of the earth with an artist's sensibility. Manguerra Brainard's collection is a book that pulls the reader along inexorably. Each of the stories in this volume makes it impossible for the reader to stop reading,

Al Camus Palomar University of Oklahoma

Read also
Kirkus Review of Brainard's When the Rainbow Goddess Wept
Allen Gaborro's Review of Brainard's Vigan and Other Stories
Review of Brainard's Contemporary Fiction by Filipinos in America
Review of Brainard's Growing Up Filipinu II
Tags: Philippine, Philippines, Filipino, literature, books, writers, authors, anthologies, novels, novelist, Cecilia Brainard, Cecilia Manguerra Brainar

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