Thursday, August 2, 2018

Book Review of Cecilia Brainard's Fiction by Filipinos in America by Isagani Cruz

Edited by Cecilia Manguerra Brainard
New Day, 1994, 240 pages
PHILIPPINE STAR, Feb. 17, 1994
Mini-Critiques, by Isagani R. Cruz

FICTION BY FILIPINOS IN AMERICA, edited by Cecilia Manguerra Brainard, New Day Publishers, 1993, 240 pages.

Definitely one of the most outstanding anthologies published last year, this collection of stories by 23 Filipino writers who work or used to work in the United States is a must-read for all students of Philippine literature.

Until fairly recently, those of us who profess to know our own literature have been extremely insular in our approach - we hardly ever paid attention to the Filipino writers living abroad, except perhaps for Carlos Bulosan, Linda Ty Casper, Bienvenido Santos, and Jose Garcia Villa.

This book should open everybody's eyes to the wealth of unappreciated literary talent abroad, possessed by prophets who are not accepted in their land. Included are familiar pieces from Bulosan, Casper, Santos, and Villa, as well as from N.V.M. Gonzalez (since he came back only recently from an extended stay in Harward, California, he can be considered a Filipino-American writer), Alberto Florentino (since he now lives there, he is also a writer-in-exile), Manuel Viray (from New Day's Shawl from Kashmir), and Marianne Villanueva (her Gingsengwas released lately by Ateneo).

Also previously available in the Philippines are excerpts from Jessica Hagedorn's and Cecilia Manguerra Brainard's novels. Regular Manila visitor Paulino Lim's contribution comes from a work-in-progress and promises that the novel will be exciting when it finally comes out. Luis Cabalquinto publishes regularly in the Philippines, althought his fantasy piece is unfamiliar.

The writers who have generally been publishing for a while in the United States but who are still relatively unknowsn in our country turn out to be delightful. Erlinda Villamore Kravetz, for example, in a first story, talks about Philippine-style love and adultery in New York City. Michelle Cruz Skinner, a major young writer, contributes a lovely piece set during martial law. Ligaya Victorio Fruto uses creative non-fiction to achieve fiction's effects.

Similarly worth reading are texts by Juan C. Dionision, Jean Vengua Gier, Samuel Tagatac, Virginia R. Cerenio, Julia L. Palarca, Oscar Penaranda, Nadine R. Sarreal, Manuel R. Olimpo, and Nenutzka C. Villamar. Missing, howegver, are works by writers such as Ninotchka Rosca, Luis Francia, Fatima Lim Wilson and Dolores de Manuel. (Recommended for Filipinos who have relatives in the United States, and who hasn't?"

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