Thursday, May 12, 2016

World War II Novel, When the Rainbow Goddess Wept - Book Reviews and Papers

For students and researchers, here are various editions of my World War II novel, When the Rainbow Goddess Wept.

It was first published as Song of Yvonne in the Philippines (New Day, 1991).  Dutton/Penguin did hardcover (1994)  and softcover (Plume, 1995) editions under the title of When the Rainbow Goddess Wept. A Turkish publisher (Bilge Kultur Sanat, 2001) did a Turkish translation. The University of Michigan Press (Ann Arbor, 1999) did a softcover version, which remains in print.

Here are some reviews of When the Rainbow Goddess Wept:

BOOKLIST, Sept 1, 1994
When the Rainbow Goddess Wept
Review by Kathleen Hughes, American Library Association

Yvonne Macairag is a nine-year-old living in the Philippines during World War II. She plays contentedly with her cousin, Esperanza, and spends quiet evenings on the veranda with her grandfather. Her family life is idyllic. All of this is lost when the Japanese invade the Philippines. Yvonne flees to the jungle, where her father joins the resistance movement, the guerilleros. Life is hard in the jungle, and Yvonne is often exposed to the atrocities perpetrated by the Japanese soldiers. As the child encounters scenes of wartime horror, she remembers and recites the epic stories of her ancestors. She uses the ancient fables to bolster her courage and to help herself cope with the horrors of the war. Overwhelmed by the superior Japanese firepower, the guerilleros hope the American soldiers will arrive and assist in expelling the Japanese. The American soldiers eventually do, but not before the guerilleros realize that ultimately Filipinos are responsible for the destiny of the Philippines. Like the epic legends, this story tells the tale of the essential courage and wisdom of the Filipinos. A beautifully written novel in which the words flow smoothly across the pages, weaving a story that is half lyrical myth and half brutal reality. Enchanting throughout, this novel will mesmerize the reader right up until its victorious ending.

PUBLISHERS' WEEKLY, August 16, 1994
When the Rainbow Goddess Wept
Yvonne Macaraig is an exuberant and mischievous nine-year-old when the Japanese invade her Philippine homeland in 1941; and so she begins her grim story of endurance and survival with a spirit of adventure and optimism. Her father, Nando, an American-trained engineer who's invaluable to the guerrilla movement, is often called away as Yvonne, her mother, and a small family entourage flee toward presumed safety ever deeper in the jungle. Yvonne witnesses scenes of incredible carnage and silently notes the slow decline of her mother's health, but her spirits are buouyed by the Philippine folktales narrated to her by the family cook. These myths and legends, violent and colorful, extol the gallantry of ancient warrior kings or show the triumph of love and valor over subjugation. In simple yet moving prose, Brainard's first novel presents similar acts of monumental courage: a doctor's sacrifice in the jungle; quiet defiance against terrorist threats. Gradually, Nando and his companions become aware the U.S. is capable of betraying them - and that Philippine independence is a necessity. The strengthening of the national spirit; the loss of innonence in two generations - these themes are explored by the author, who was born in the Philippines, with persuasive conviction and stark realism.

When the Rainbow Goddess Wept

A fast-paced, sensitively written first novel about the psychological damage war wreaks, seen through the eyes of an intelligent, resilient young girl. During WW II, 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, then 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 our 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 utterly convincing.

LOS ANGELES TIMES, November 15, 1994
When the Rainbow Goddess Wept

by Erin J. Aubry
Special to the Times

Stories of war are perhaps most compelling when told through the eyes of children, whose innocence is always so tragically incongruous to the adult madness that rages around them. "When the Rainbow Goddess Wept," a first novel by Cecilia Manguerra Brainard that chronicles the Japanese invasion of the Philippines during World War II, is no exception.

Told by nine-year-old Filipina Yvonne Macaraig, the narrative is rendered in a touchingly plain style that manages to be both wondrously childlike and chilling in its realism.

Brainard slips almost effortlessly from Yvonne's fairy-tale musings to unsentimental descriptions of people who have lost limbs, eyes and fingernails, of bloated corpses that she and her friends discover bobbing in a river, of children who have been bayoneted to death in their homes.
The proliferating horrors constantly threaten to overtake Yvonne's spirit, but time and again, her quiet, resilient optimism finds full expression in the native epic tales passed on to her by the household cook Laydan, and in her family's unfaltering love.

The books opens in 1941 on the island of Ubec in the Philippines, to idyllic scenes of Yvonne cavorting with her cousin Esperanza and sharing intimate moments with her father, mother, grandfather and aunt. They all live in a sprawling house in a peaceful village.
But as the Japanese encroach and American forces fail to save the day, things quickly change.
Yvonne's family decides to flee Ubec to the countryside, which is controlled by Filipino guerrilas and is nominally safer. Her kind-hearted engineer father, a staunch American supporter, wants to enlist his skills in the resistance.

The next three years test not only Yvonne but everyone else around her who lose heart: her worrisome mother, who gives birth to a stillborn during the exodus from Ubec; Nida, the sexy, blustery bar owner who accompanies Yvonne's family and at one point offers her body to a Japanese soldier in order to save them all; and Doc Menez, whose seemingly limitless capacity to give is nearly twisted into madness after finding his family murdered in their beds.
Graphic though all of this sounds, Brainard's book is also quick to depict the good things just as vividly; even in the midst of war, she says, life is all of a singular, complex piece that demands embracing. So Yvonne still delights at the lushness of plants, the sound of birds and crickets, the marvelous tales of gods and maidens in the ancient "skyworld" that Laydan spins.

Nor does Brainard ever lose a sense of droll humor, keenly observant as she is of the many people around her who are bigger characters than those that people Laydan's epics. In one chapter, long-grieving Doc Menez decides to re-enact the crucifixion on Good Friday to do penance for the death of his family. After shouldering a heavy wooden cross and collapsing at his destination, he stops breathing and his audience sadly declares him dead.

But as several townswomen attend to his prone body, Yvonne relates an extraordinary turn of events: "I looked at Doc's naked body and saw that he was developing an enormous erection. As they (the women) stared at Doc's organ that had miraculously stirred to life, the women continued screaming , but they recovered themselves and quickly threw a sheet over him before the men arrived. Doc heaved a big sigh, then he sat up calmly and said, "I'm so hungry. Could I have some bitter melon and rice?" Doc was alive! Suddenly the air turned light and clean...My soul within me expanded."

"When the Rainbow Goddess Wept" is full of moments like these. Despite the enormous political presence of the war, it is human and family history that Brainad really illuminates.
It is telling that the day the war ends, Yvonne menstruates for the first time and studies her changed body in the mirror. It is then, too, that she understands what Laydan meant when she advised her to "become the epic": it is being written on hearts and minds every day.

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Tags: literature, World War II, WWII, Pacific War, Philippines, Philippine, Filipino, books, reviews, When the Rainbow Goddess Wept, Song of Yvonne, novel, fiction, Cecilia Brainard, Filipiniana

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