#GetLit: Kazuo Ishiguro & #FilBookFest

Me and my boots at the Color Factory in San Francisco, CA 

My current mood is perfectly depicted in the photo above. The world is wearing me out, tbvfh. In the past week, almost 60 people were killed as a gunman peppered attendees of a country music festival with bullets. Hundred were injured. In the past weeks, hurricanes ravaged Texas and Puerto Rico, while earthquakes killed many in Mexico.

To make matters worse, the presidency has proven itself to be even worse than anticipated, with Trump mouthing off the most ridiculous things to have ever been uttered by anyone, ever. There’s blatant corruption, no sign of compassion or empathy but rather strong displays of bigotry, misogyny and racism. It seems like we’re regressing further into the abyss, with the rollback of DACA, numerous attempts of overturning Obamacare, the reinstatement of the Muslim Ban, a tax proposal which prioritizes the wealthiest and so many more.

And so I hide. I hide in my books, in the small (yet grand in many ways) comforts of arts and music, in the day-to-day moments of wonder I’ve been able to grasp. I find hope in literature, as a means to ground myself in the lessons of the past, what we’re dealing in the future, and what the future could look like as we shape it. I feel a certain type of restlessness, so I wander, reveling in new places and new faces. At the same time, I also turn inwards, finding solitude more and more nourishing.

It may just be a change of season, the wind blowing in a different direction. A few days ago, I woke up to news of British novelist Kazuo Ishiguro winning the Nobel Prize for Literature.

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The Nobel Prize in Literature 2017 was awarded to Kazuo Ishiguro “who, in novels of great emotional force, has uncovered the abyss beneath our illusory sense of connection with the world”.

I thought of Haruki Murakami right away, the other famed Japanese novelist, whose books I never really liked. I’ve never read any of Ishiguro’s work before so I can’t say I’m familiar with his work, but pieces like this — first reviews of every Ishiguro novel — certainly help. And as if I needed another nod to make my way to Green Apple Books this weekend for copies of Ishiguro’s books, I came across this:

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Oh, Pico.

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In other news, I’ve been slowly cranking out book reviews so if you’re looking for your next best read, here are some links to help you out:

Loving in Ireland, with John Boyne (A Book Review of The Heart’s Invisible Furies)

On Separation, Family and Revolution, with Derek Palacio (A Book Review of The Mortifications)

This Body Is, with Roxane Gay (A Book Review of Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body)

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Five Books You Should Read This Year

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Lastly, the Filipino Book Festival is happening this weekend in San Francisco — let me know if you will be too, let’s link up! In the meantime, happy reading!

#GetLit: On Dreaming & DACA

I stand for the Dreamers. 

Back in 2010, I stood in the humid heat of Washington, D.C. as I got ready to lobby for the first time ever. As a young immigrant myself, I couldn’t imagine what those like myself had to go through, on top of being undocumented.

Life for newly immigrated folks is never easy. It is even harder when you don’t have the ability to go to school or get a job because of your immigration status. That day, I resolved to fight for immigrant youth even harder, specially my undocumented familia.

Back then, it was the DREAM Act: Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors which aimed to provide qualifying undocumented minors conditional residency and after awhile, permanent residency. This bill first proposed in 2001 would have enabled undocumented youth who entered the country before 2007 to be eligible to go to school, qualify for scholarships and grants, and have employment opportunities.

But since we’re living in a fascist, racist, white supremacist, xenophobic, transphobic and toxic place of a state, all of that was wiped out with an announcement from Jeff Sessions on September 5th on Trump’s orders.

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Source: The Nation

So what’s next?

It feels like every day is an entirely different struggle, Trump dropping the next bomb to distract and divide us all in different issue groups.

In the meantime, I’m grateful and beyond empowered to support the #DefendDACA movement across the nation. Here are some resources to know and have while this is happening.

At the end of the day, I will #DefendDACA until the DREAM Act — which includes a path to citizenship — is duly approved by Congress. I’m just hoping that that actually comes to fruition, in spite of a regressive and reactionary-controlled Congress.

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In other news, I published my book review for Tuwing Ikatlong Sabado this week! Check out my highlights from this trove of Filipino spoken word poems:

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If you’re looking for literary resources and books on immigrants and refugees,
here are a few from the blog:

Mohsin Hamid’s Exit West 
Mia Alvar’s In the Country: Short Stories
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Americanah
Viet Thanh Nguyen’s The Sympathizer 
Ocean Vuong’s Night Sky with Exit Wounds

#GetLit: Labor Day & Pan Dulce

Two book reviews in one week — that’s a first! I guess that’s what happens when your writing can’t keep up with your reading. This week, I published my book reviews for Mohsin Hamid’s Exit West and Jesmyn Ward’s Sing, Unburied, Sing: A Novel on the blog. Check them out if you’re deciding what book you’re going to read next!

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I’m thinking about so many folks out there affected by Hurricane Harvey, and I’ve been debating how I can best help. One thing’s for sure though — do not donate to Red Cross! After this report from NPR and ProPublica came out, I’m not sure I trust the organization to actually do its job. Instead, check out this list compiled by the Crunk Feminist Collective which features organizations focused on people of color and other marginalized communities.

I know most folks are heading out this weekend since it’s a long way, in commemoration of Labor Day. Don’t forget though that this holiday was only invented after governments around the world decided to take the historical significance of the labor movement away from May 1st, away from any Communist ideology. Instead, we get a random date on the calendar which has been synonymous with picnics and retail sales.

Fret not though, Libromance got something for you: read up on posts around the struggle of workers around the world and get educated.

Speaking of workers, here’s a story that brought me to tears this week: as Hurricane Harvey pummeled Texas, I came across an article about four Mexican workers at the El Bolillo Bakery trapped by the heavy rain.

What Alvarado didn’t know was that the four bakers trapped inside the bakery would grow restless.

“They were desperate to get to their families and they couldn’t,” Alvarado said.

So they turned to what they knew best: baking.

For two days, the trapped bakers churned out hundreds of pieces of bread, filling the shelves again with bolillos (a Mexican sandwich bread), kolaches and their signature pan dulce.

You can donate to the workers and their families here directly — a great way to honor workers like Jorge at the bakery this Labor Day.

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Here’s a quick update on my #FinestFiction reading challenge: I am on book no. 8, Kamila Shamsie’s Home Fire! So far, my top picks are (still) Colson Whitehead’s Underground Railroad, Mohsin Hamid’s Exit West and Arundhati Roy’s The Ministry of Utmost Happiness. I’m also thinking of Ali Smith’s Autumn, which I have yet to review. I’ve got about a month until the winner is announced (October 17)!

Me and my #FinestFiction stack. 

Happy Fall reading! 

#GetLit: Trump & White Supremacy

“If you can only be tall because somebody’s on their knees,
then you have a serious problem.”
–Toni Morrison

This past week has been nothing short of a disaster, a crisis on repeat. After three died and several more were injured at a white supremacist, white nationalist, Neo-Nazi rally in Charlottesville, I looked to this video by renowned author Toni Morrison who took white supremacy to task.

To make matters worse, Trump has flip-flopped on his pseudo-condemnation of white supremacists, thereby enabling what he unleashed to begin with. If there is any lesson in all of this, I have to give it to a Libromance favorite, Rabih Alameddine:

I’m still trying to understand what provokes white supremacy, and why white people feel the need to assert their whiteness even more, as if hasn’t been the norm since time immemorial. A lot of our institutions today — whether in the government, in education, in the economy, at the workplace — have been historically rooted in preserving white supremacy, and so much back-breaking work has been done by activists, community organizers, even lawmakers over the past few decades to undo this norm. Racism is alive and kicking, although not so much the “in your face” type. But it’s looking like that’s where we’re headed to, all thanks to Trump.

Some questions I’ve been asking are: is it economic? is it political? is it insecurity? What kind of questions do these people ask themselves when they go out and go on torchlit marches, and what answers do they give themselves when someone dies?

I do know that we are all suffering from a system that prioritizes the 1%, because it is made by them after all, and they will do whatever it takes to keep the status quo. In the meantime, I’ve found the Southern Law Poverty Center’s community response guide to be helpful, as it provides context, education and different resources in the face of hate and racism.

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Over the week, I finished George Saunders’s Lincoln in the Bardo and Jesmyn Ward’s Sing, Unburied, Sing which interestingly featured ghosts — specifically the spirits of dead people — in the storyline. I was confused Saunders’s story, but I stayed with Ward’s throughout the whole time. I like to think that there is always some underlying connection with the books I read and the time I’m reading them. Book reviews will be out in the next couple of weeks, so keep an eye out.

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My book review of The Fix by Jonathan Tepperman came out this week, check it out when you got a minute — it’s a good read if you want a little bit of hope, if you want to marvel at the audacity and capacity of leaders of different nations to pull their people through.

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I leave you with this: an episode of On Being’s latest podcast, an interview of Krista Tippett with civil rights icon Ruby Sales.

“Where does it hurt?” That’s a question the civil rights legend, Ruby Sales, learned to ask during the days of that movement — a question she found to have a power to drive to the heart of the matter. It’s a question we scarcely know how to ask in public life now. Ruby Sales says we must be as clear about what we love as about what we hate, if we want to make change.

#GetLit: Book Giveaway

It’s a big week for Libromance!

I launched my first ever book giveaway on the blog — two copies of the book pictured above. August 9 is World Indigenous People’s Day and also National Book Lovers Day, so I thought why not pay homage to both? Head out to this page to check it out and enter — drawing period closes this Sunday, August 13.

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New feature on the blog: an author index! Now you can see which book reviews are on Libromance by author. An obvious fave: Alain de Botton. See for yourself — click “Book Reviews” in the menu!

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I cannot be more elated with the number of advanced reader copies I’ve had within the past weeks, and I recently just got Jesmyn Ward’s Sing, Unburied, Sing! Watch out for more ARC reviews in the coming months featuring the following I’ve already read (and I’m getting ready to review): Jonathan Tepperman’s The Fix and Veronica Henry’s How to Find Love in a Bookshop.

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I loved this piece from the NYT on “mindful reading,” something to think about and remember:

As you turn the pages, notice the quality of light, the color and even the smell of the ink on the page, the way that the spine of your book feels against the palms of your hands. You may find yourself more easily bored or sleepy. Take note: This is you slowing down – the point of this exercise to begin with.

How to be Mindful While Reading (The New York Times)

 

#GetLit: Galaxies & Universe

After Saeed, one of the characters of Mohsin Hamid’s Exit West (Amazon | Indiebound) made a reference to a French photographer who manipulated his photos in such a way that only the night sky lights up entire cities, I knew I had to look.

A quick Google search and finally, I came upon Thierry Cohen. His series called Darkened Cities imposed two different elements: a vibrant night sky and the outline of famous cities. The results are astonishing. Peep a few of the series below, and read an article from WIRED here.

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San Francisco

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New York City

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With my #FinestFiction reading challenge as well as new book subscriptions, I can’t ignore my reality at the moment: I’m running out of room to put my books in. I’ve tried different ways — converting certain spaces to make room for bookshelves, filling corners with books, stashing some in the garage but as of late, I’ve been just piling them in stacks in my bedroom. If you’ve got any ideas, let me know! For now, I can only ogle at these interiors — so warm and generous and intentional towards book lovers.

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More of these here.

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I receive a weekly newsletter from Austin Kleon, author of a number of creativity books and I always look forward to what he shares. Today’s newsletter included these images and a worthy tip: never pay for wifi.

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Keep these things in mind on your next flight!

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“D’you know why God made Hijras?” she asked Aftab one afternoon while she flipped through a dog-eared 1967 issue of Vogue, lingering over the blonde ladies with bare legs who so enthralled her.
“No, why?”
“It was an experiment. He decided to create something, a living creature that is incapable of happiness. So he made us.”

The Ministry of Utmost Happiness by Arundhati Roy

#GetLit: So Many Books, So Little Time

The 2017 Man Booker prize longlist came out this week! I was thrilled to see the work of three authors I’ve reviewed here on the blog:

The Ministry of Happiness by Arundhati Roy
The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
Swing Time by Zadie Smith

If you haven’t read any of these titles, check out my book reviews to get an idea. I loved Whitehead’s book the most, one of the finest novels I’ve read in a really long time. I finished reading Roy’s book a couple of weeks ago and even though I only gave it four stars, it is truly a must-read. I didn’t enjoy Smith’s novel unfortunately, although it was very promising. I still love me some Zadie smith anyways, so best of luck to her, Whitehead, Roy and all of the others on the list.

While I’m mostly rooting for these three, my excitement was short-lived. It was dampened by the fact that there are still so many books out there that I haven’t read and will never be able to read in my lifetime. Ok, I know I’m being dramatic.

I was thinking of reading every single book on the list but then I remembered I have a tall pile of books to be read, and also some books coming in the mail. What’s a bookworm to do? According to this article, the books I will read in my lifetime — provided I live up to 86 — will be about 2,800. That’s not even a fraction of the millions of books out there!

Anyways, I’m finishing up F. Sionil Jose’s book Gagamba and I’ll be moving on to Magda Szabo’s The Door after that. I also posted my book review of Michael Pollan’s The Botany of Desire this week, check it out when you can.

And as if I’m not sad enough about how many books there are that I’ll never get to read, I came across this literary fiction summer sampler. It features excerpts from new books this season, and I’m anticipating receiving one of the books below in the mail. In the meantime, this will suffice.

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Got any reading blues / tips / habits you’d like to share? Leave me a comment below!

#GetLit: Arundhati Roy & Artwork by Political Prisoners

I published my book review for Arundhati Roy’s The Ministry of Utmost Happiness earlier this week and if you haven’t checked it out, head on over here. It’s one of those books that you fully appreciate days after reading it, with the big picture getting clearer as days go by. It is a love letter too, an ode to hijras, mothers, freedom fighters, to Kashmir. The world will thank you for reading Roy’s newest book, so you best get on it.

I have been working on it for roughly 10 years. That was when I started putting down things which are in this book right now.

An Interview with Arundhati Roy (The Slate Book Review)

She knows everything from the frighteningly euphemistic military terminology of the region (informers are “cats” and so on) to the natural landscape of “herons, cormorants, plovers, lapwings,” and the “walnut groves, the saffron fields, the apple, almond and cherry orchards.” She looks into homes, into bomb sites, into graveyards, into torture centers, into the “glassy, inscrutable” lakes. And she reveals for us the shattered psychology of Kashmiris who have been fighting the Indian Army and also occasionally collaborating with it.

Arundhati Roy’s Return to the Form That Made Her Famous (NYT Book Review)

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Much of what Roy wrote in the book about the Kashmiris’ struggle for independence and self-determination reminded me of the lumad people. The lumad are the indigenous communities in the southern part of the Philippines, which has been under martial law for about two months now.

If you’re in the Bay Area next week or know of friends in the area, join me at the opening of an exhibit of artwork by Filipino political prisoners to raise funds for victims of martial law in the country.

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The woman in the flyer above is none other than lumad leader, the fierce Bai Bibiyaon Bigkayan Likay. For more on women lumad leaders, check out this post I wrote about them.

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When the external world is teeming with bullsh*t and horrendous stuff (read: MAGAnomics, Trumpism), I usually find solace by going within.

This week marked the return of one of Deepak Chopra and Oprah’s 21-day meditation experience, and I’ve been all over it. The theme for the next 21 days is Desire & Destiny and after only a week of doing it I’m noticing the way I respond to things, and how I’m more receptive to the world around me.

Today’s mantra was Om Bhavam Namah (I am absolute existence. I am a field of all positbility) — it’s not too late to sign up!

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And since we’re talking about internal worlds, here’s one from the archives: The Art of Stillness by Pico Iyer.

I think that everything important in my life has not come through my mind, but through my spirit or my being or my heart. Everything I trust, whether it’s the people I love or the values I cherish or the places that have moved me, have come at some much deeper level than the mind. And I sometimes think the mind makes lots of complications over what is a much more beautiful and transparent encounter with the world.

#GetLit: Rules & Shout-outs

I’m almost done reading Arundhati Roy’s The Ministry of Utmost Happiness and I’m a little overwhelmed with everything that’s been happening in the book. The only part that I really like is about the only character that I really love: Anjum. More on this next week, when the book review comes out.

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Four rules from John Maeda by way of Swiss Miss:

1. Don’t speak ill of others.

2. Avoid passive aggressive behavior.

3. Listen broadly, but don’t waffle on decisions.

4. When in error — admit, apologize, move forward.

More here on Creative Leadership.

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Shout-outs

My heart is filled with gratitude for this wonderful shout-out from Arkipelago Books — my feature was featured on their community newsletter. Love!

Also, I posted my book review of Desaparesidos on Facebook and the author, none other than Lualhati Bautista liked (!) and commented (!!) on my post.

You know, just when you think no one’s reading your shit, you come across these things and you remember why you do it in the first place.

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I leave you with this experiment from Rob Brezsny:

Weed out the wishy-washy wishes and lukewarm longings that keep you distracted from your burning desires.

#GetLit: Internal Excavations & Frida Kahlo

Yesterday — July 6 — was Frida Kahlo’s 110th birth anniversary and I ended the day by leafing through the watercolored-pages of The Diary of Frida Kahlo: An Intimate Self-Portrait (Amazon| Indiebound). There were tomes in Spanish, sketches, self-portraits, the word “Diego” written on many, many pages and more of her writing.

I’m familiar with most of Frida’s paintings and seeing the sketches in her diary transported me back to Casa Azul, which I went to the minute we landed in Mexico City. So raw, so beautiful. Thank you for your life, love and courage, Frida.

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Today’s email from Jack Kornfield over at the Spirit Rock Meditation Center was so necessary.

“May I love myself just as I am.
May I sense my worthiness and well-being.
May I trust this world.
May I hold myself in compassion.
May I meet the suffering and ignorance of others with compassion.”

If you are a person who has regular, repeated destructive thoughts, thoughts of self-judgment, criticism, shame, or unworthiness, work with this training for a week or, even better, for a month.

First, become more carefully aware of the content and rhythm of the voices inside. What are their regular, unhealthy remarks and devastating comments? What do they sound like? What do they feel like? Begin to study how much pain they cause you. Feel how they take you over and how they hurt. When do they come out most strongly, day or night? What situations provoke them? Social occasions, family time, partners, competitive situations, work or leisure? Do they criticize your body, your mind, your actions, your whole being?

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I’m loving this piece from NPR: Summer Reading for your Woke Kids. 

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Start ’em young, start ’em early.

“Give kids credit,” says Stan Yogi, one of the authors on our list. “They have an innate sense of what’s right and what’s wrong. Being able to draw on that innate sense of justice through relatable stories is so important.”