#GetLit: Kaepernick’s Book Deal

It’s still Filipino-American History Month! For my Filipino fam & non-Filipino folks out there, here’s a Pinay-authored guide for you to cozy up with featuring work from acclaimed authors, guaranteed to take you on a wild ride of self-discovery, history and memory. Read it now.

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Colin Kaepernick lands a million-dollar book deal

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I’m not a football fan but ex-49er Colin Kaepernick got me watching. Ever since he took the knee to protest racial injustice in America, I’ve kept close watch on the wave of NFL protests and by default, Trump’s unsurprisingly stupid reaction. Far from disrespecting the flag or military veterans (see: ways Americans disrespect the flag daily), what’s happening here is an unprecedented political statement from an industry I’ve considered apolitical ages ago. I remember watching the SF Giants parade back in 2014 and thought: what is it about sports that unite and bring out so many people across racial, socioeconomic and gender lines?

So here’s Kaerpernick, defying what I’ve thought and assumed all along. If NFL fans won’t have him, the literati will embrace him with open arms. He’s reportedly signed a million-dollar book deal with Page Six, an imprint of Random House. I’m definitely all eyes and ears on this one.

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Even after more than a decade of living in the Bay, I still cling to the age-old tradition of honoring All Souls’ Day instead of Halloween — which is why I’m so excited for MUMU, a multisensory art show in San Francisco honoring the occasion! Come thru if you’re in the Bay.

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New book review alert! My review of Rachel Khong’s Goodbye, Vitamin came out this week so check it out here — it’s a wonderful read on familial relationships, and a reminder of the frailty of our own bodies.

Happy reading, until the next time!

#GetLit, A Hella Pinay Edition

This post was originally written for Hella Pinay, a “space for positive representation of the diversity and complexity of Pilipina womxn, and facilitate dialogue between Pinays in the Philippines and throughout the diaspora.” I’m happy to announce that I’ll be writing a monthly column on all things literary for the site!

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To be a Filipino living in the U.S. these days means enduring affronts from both the Philippine and the U.S. governments, (seemingly) forever caught in a geopolitical crossfire that requires a skillful navigation. How can we best express our wholeness and honor our ancestors while at the same time acknowledge the painful contradictions we live in in this country?

First, we read.

Just as Jose Rizal’s books Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo were banned after successfully fomenting a Filipino national consciousness in the midst of Spanish colonization, we can turn to literature. We read to guide us to a deeper introspection of who we are / where we come from and to propel us to find critical connections within ourselves and our communities, all from the pages in our hands.

And what better time is it to dive into necessary lit than right now? October happens to be Filipino-American History/Heritage Month, first celebrated back in 1988. From the first Filipinos who set foot in Morro Bay, California in October 1587 to a current population of over 3 million in the country, our people are a force to be reckoned with.

It is also Indigenous Peoples Month in the Philippines, and I’m remembering the ongoing struggle and resistance of the Lumad people in the southern part of the country (Mindanao), as well as their incredible resilience in the face of displacement, violence and political repression.

Here are five essential reads that reflect our times, written by Pinays whose work encompasses many ways we’ve struggled and survived as a people, whose stories amplify our collective strength and resilience:

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In the Country: Stories (2016) is a collection of nine short stories by Filipina author Mia Alvar. They are stories of family, loss, love and migration. Alvar writes of overseas Filipino workers in Bahrain, of grief-stricken separated siblings, of an estranged child witnessing his father’s death. More than the characters and the stories themselves, Alvar writes about political and economic shifts in the country.

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BAYI: Stories of Lumad Women (2016) tells the stories of ten fierce Lumad women in Mindanao and their struggle to fight for their lives, land and liberation. Meet 92-year old Bai Bibiyaon Likayan Bigkay, a female Lumad tribal chieftain in a culture that has been traditionally patriarchal. Bai has been leading the fight against mining mega-corporations and their paramilitary counterparts.

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Marcos Martial Law: Never Again (2017) is the work of journalist Raissa Robles, who has been covering the Marcoses for decades. Borne out of the need to retell the story of martial law largely in part because of martial law’s omission in Filipino textbooks, Robles’s tome is a testament to the atrocities of a regime ruled by repression, disappearances and intense violence. With a a generation growing up oblivious to the terrors of ML, this is an essential book.

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Invocation to Daughters (2017) is due to be out in November this year, and already it’s been getting a lot of buzz. This is the fifth collection of poetry by Filipina poet Barbara Jane Reyes, written “in the tradition of Audre Lorde and Theresa Hak Kyung Cha, Invocation to Daughters is a book of prayers, psalms, and odes for Filipina girls and women trying to survive and make sense of their own situations.”

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Lola’s House: Filipino Women Living with War (2017) took 17 years to make, as M. Evelina Galang interviewed sixteen Filipino “comfort women” who were abducted, raped and tortured by the Imperial Japanese Army. Galang spent a lot of time with the Lila Pilipina women, an organization of surviving comfort women as they protested, recounted their stories and lived as survivors. Continue reading

#GetLit: And the Man Booker Goes to…

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The winner at the 2017 Ceremony of the Man Booker Prize. (Source)

…George Saunders for Lincoln in the Bardo!

Ok, I gotta admit I did not see this coming although many folks were vying for him. I read Lincoln in the Bardo in my #FinestFiction challenge and found it hard to follow. While the format was confusing to me, and I didn’t know half the time who was who, what emanated clearly from the pages was the grief Lincoln felt for his dead son. Congratulations though to Saunders, the second American in a row to win the prize. Last year belonged to Paul Beatty and you can read my review of The Sellout here.

Here are other books from the Man Booker Prize I reviewed on the blog:

4 3 2 1: A Novel by Paul Auster
Elmet 
by Fiona Mozley
Autumn by Ali Smith
Exit West by Mohsin Hamid
The Ministry of Utmost Happiness by Arundhati Roy
Swing Time by Zadie Smith
The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie

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In this week’s edition of a new project: Books and Looks! 

I’ve always been enthralled with fashion, for as much as I love reading. So I thought why not combine the two? And instead of just doing “lookbooks” — why not do “booklooks” instead?

My photo above is a combination of things I’m currently into: metallic boots, plaid blazers (plaid everything tbvfh), and my book subscription to Book of the Month. What I wasn’t unfortunately into was Diksha Basu’s book The Windfall which I gave a measly rating of two stars. As much as I wanted to like/love it, I found myself wondering how I even managed to finish it. True, it was entertaining, but other than that fact, it was a disappointment. While the characters were at times hilariously unbelievable, there was something I can’t quite put my finger on. But more on those thoughts later…

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Photo from The New York Times Book Review weekly newsletter

In other book news… October 2017 is the 100th year since the Russian Revolution, and I’m currently making my way through China Mieville’s October: The Story of the Russian Revolution painstakingly and very, very slowly. I also just got Masha Gessen’s book so I’m looking forward to that. Haymarket Books also compiled a bunch of reading, check it out if you are so inclined.

Have a great reading-weekend!

#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!