An ARKIPELAGO of You and Me: Finding Filipino Books in San Francisco

The South of Market district in San Francisco is home to a plethora of things — tech giants like Twitter, swanky residential hotels, studios and art spaces, the newly renovated Museum of Modern Art plus a hum drum of restaurants, clubs and bars — ideal for tourists and would-be residents to call home.

While this influx of traffic is generally seen as a boon to the district, it casts a long, dark shadow to what makes SoMa a historic and amazing place to be in: its mainstays, mostly brown and black folks.

What might be a a relatively unknown fact to most is that the SoMa is also home to a sizable Filipino population — the largest concentration in San Francisco — residents of the area since the 1900s. In April 2016, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors passed a resolution establishing SoMa Pilipinas marking 2nd St. to 11th St. down from Market St. to Brannan St. the Filipino cultural heritage district in the City.

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Source: Arkipelago Bookstore

And right on Mission St., between 5th and 6th, is a very special corner I’ve always loved to call home: the Arkipelago Books, a Filipino bookstore carrying titles by and of Filipinos. I first came across Arkipelago at a yearly Filipino festival called Pistahan. I met Marie in her stall back then, as I perused and tried to contain my excitement over classics I recognized plus a lot of new titles neatly stacked.

That was about six or seven years ago, and I’ve gone back to Arkipelago frequently to procure more books. A few weeks ago, I came across a friend’s post on Facebook with a fundraising link for the bookstore as it expands its services, upgrade its equipment and other services, as well as venture out into publishing.

On a sunny Friday in the City, I ventured out to the bookstore and got a chance to meet Lily Prijoles, the new owner along with her other Pinay partners Golda Sargento, Ley Ebrada and Charity Ramilo. What followed was an exploration and conversations on pre-colonial Philippines, Melinda Bobis, bookselling and Arkipelago’s future ventures.

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Libromance

I first found out about Arkipelago like Pistahan, and I met Marie a couple of times. What’s unique about Arkipelago bookstore?

Lily (Arkipelago)

 

A lot of Fil-Ams, are trying to get into their pre-colonial side, the pre-colonial Philippines, because they want to discover more about it. We try to accommodate them with books but a lot of the books are very dense and academic, or if we do get books there’s not enough people writing about them. They want to know about Ifugao, Igorot and other indigenous tribes. They’re finding out something about themselves and it helps that Whang-Od is doing all these interviews, doing tattoos. But also a lot of people are looking up Eskrima and Arnis and those have hints of pre-colonial roots of the Philippines.

I finally found a book — Tahanan, which is a publisher, came out with it. They came out with Halo-Halo Histories which is a children’s book about the history of the Philippines. It has pictures and easy explanations and I get a lot of parents buying it not just for their kids, but also because they want to find out for themselves. Their warehouse in the U.S. is all gone! It’s written by these four anthropologists and they did a lot of intensive research about our history. We were colonized but how were we before that?

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Source: Arkipelago Books (Facebook)

Libromance

That’s really interesting to know, because I’ve also found books to be self-revelatory tools.

Lily (Arkipelago)

Yes, and it’s mostly Filipino women who look for these books. And if you think about it, rre-colonial Philippines is empowering to a lot of women. There was more gender equality even before the Bible came.

The creation story in the Philippines is Malakas at Maganda, who were created at the same time as opposed to Adam and Eve, wherein Eve was born out of Adam’s rib. Then you start thinking about the roles of women, and a lot of pre-colonial requests are from Pinays, and finding empowering positions of women in history.

I tell them: Don’t be a coy, just tell me what you want. I’m a sister — I got you!  Continue reading

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Postcards from the Philippines

It’s been exactly one month since I got to the U.S. from the Philippines.

The first few days back almost negated the entire three weeks I was there with my family, in really confusing and frustrating ways. Jetlag and homesickness were daily themes, as my sisters and I tried to console and comfort each other. We looked at photos, relived memories. Each new detail we discovered about our trip brought us immense pain and also joy. We would laugh, and then cry. We made pacts, we changed our plans.

For us, there was only one thing that became prevalent: we needed to be back home as soon as we can, in Pampanga.

I started to think about all the photos I took — most on my phone, some on my Instax. I’m missing a lot of the photos too, and I pray to all the gods that they’re just hiding in bags or notebooks somewhere, not lost.

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Since this trip was our first back as a family after migrating to the U.S. in 2004, it was life-changing. We went to different places, famous landmarks, touristy areas and old spots we used to go to when my sisters and I were younger.

And as I always tend to do every time I feel vulnerable, I started thinking of folks who have stirred me with their words.

In Balucuc, close to my hometown Apalit, we had lunch in the middle of rice fields on a Sunday. I thought of Tomas Tranströmer’s book of poems Preludes.

 Two truths approach each other. One comes from the inside, the other from outside, and where they meet we have a chance to catch sight of ourselves.

— Tomas Tranströmer

I come from a family of farmers, on my father’s side. I remember some days when I’d come home from school with the front of our house turning into a makeshift rice-drying areas, with men raking in newly harvested rice, gently back and forth. I thought of my grandfather.

Our house too looked different. I thought of Teju Cole quoting Marcel Proust, in Known and Strange Things.

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Proust in a letter, “We think we no longer love the dead because we don’t remember them, but if by chance we come across an old glove we burst into tears.” Objects, sometimes more powerfully than faces, remind us of what was and no longer is.

-Teju Cole

Teju resonated with me so much, in so many different times. How funny that you can convey a feeling in several ways, whether that’s in Tagalog or German.

The German word for homesickness is “heimweh.” Legend has it that Swiss mercenaries from the fifteenth century onward, dispersed throughout Europe to fight foreign wars, were hardy soldiers susceptible to few weaknesses. But they missed home with a deranging intensity, longing for the high elecution of their cantons, their clear lakes, their protective peaks. This feeling they called, in their Swiss German, heimweh.

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J’ai besoin de beaucoup de tendress. (I need a great deal of tenderness)

I wrote in a journal, just as I remember Susan Sontag doing in As Consciousness is Harnessed to Flesh. I was with her when she said that “the ultimate fantasy is the recovery of the irrecoverable past.” Seeing my friends brought all the feelings, as well as a deep well of gratitude for these connections.

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In Baguio, my sisters and I thought of summer vacations when we would indulge in strawberries (the only time we could), go on a boat at the lake, look at our parents at a different light amidst the fog.

Secretly we are all looking for ways to continue our childhoods — the hurt, the pain, the love, the fear, the shame.

— Susan Sontag

img_4684In Boracay, I took photos for posterity more than anything else. Once again, lines from a favorite:

Photography is inescapably a memorial art. It selects, out of the flow of time, a moment to be preserved, with the moments before and after falling away like sheer cliffs.

–Teju Cole

And of course, if there’s one person I should quote when it comes to the art of traveling, it’s Alain de Botton.

A dominant impulse on encountering beauty is the desire to hold on to it: to possess it and give it weight in our lives. There is an urge to say, ‘I was here, I saw this and it mattered to me.’

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I’m still floating, at times dreamily, thinking of home. I guess I’ll never really be able to anchor myself where my feet are planted, because once you know where you’re supposed to be, you don’t stop until you get there.

A Lifelong Affair with Poetry

 

My family home in Apalit, Pampanga (Philippines)

It must’ve been the year 2000, a few months before my elementary graduation. I was sitting on my “study table,” a wooden contraption with shelves, drawers, a pull-out chair and a fold-out desk trying to figure out what poem to write for my school’s literary journal.

In my eleven year-old mind, I’ve written so much about trees and the “beauty of nature” that I was running out of topics to write. Writing poems about nature back then, was my one true forte. I grew up in a house surrounded by greenery: acacia, banana, tamarind, coconut, jackfruit, mango and bamboo trees dotted our fields, while a variety of santan and gumamela flowers crowded the stairs of our house, with tomato, bitter melon, chili, squash, calabash gourd, cucumber plants and other varieties filled the northern section of our garden. I had an orchard of poems.

I certainly didn’t want to write about love, because I knew I didn’t really know much of it, no matter how many love poems I’ve read. I’m not entirely sure how I was able to resolve that situation but it’s one of the earliest moments of my lifelong affair with poetry.

For women, then, poetry is not a luxury. It is a vital necessity of our existence. It forms the quality of the light within which we predicate our hopes and dreams toward survival and change, first made into language, then into idea, then into more tangible action. Poetry is the way we help give name to the nameless so it can be thought. The farthest horizons of our hopes and fears are cobbled by our poems, carved from the rock experiences of our daily lives.

— Audre Lorde, Poetry is Not Luxury

These days, I don’t write much poetry although I still read a lot of it. There are so many poets whose work I swear by that I’ve dedicated parts of my body for these lines to be tatted on: Audre Lorde, Wislawa Szymborska, Hafiz, Adrienne Rich, Tomas Tranströmer, Ocean Luong, Nikky Finney, Lorena Barros, June Jordan, Danez Smith, Juan Miguel Severo, Warsan Shire, Saeed Jones.

I’ve also written so many posts on this blog about the work of beloved poets: The Inevitability of Ocean Vuong’s Poetry, Poems of a Half-Finished Heaven with Tomas Tranströmer and The Poetics and Physics of Hugot, with Juan Miguel Severo.

 

A page out of Juan Miguel Severo’s book, Habang Wala Pa Sila

I can remember most of the most memorable — beautiful and painful — moments of my life through poems with the likes of Cherríe Moraga’s The Welder and Warsan Shire’s For Women Who Are Difficult to Love. Everything in my life, it seems like, is punctuated by a poem.

April is National Poetry Month and I’ve been thinking about my relationship with poetry, although I don’t write much of it anymore. Some of the last poems I’ve written were back in 2014, written while riding jeepneys in the Philippines. I’ve also been featured in one of the earliest online poetry collections of Nayyirah Waheed, the very first installment of Salt on Tumblr. I read some of my poems at a Sugarcane reading event in Oakland, where I workshopped my poems with a bunch of amazing queer, women of color for months.

Maybe I’ll find my poetry groove back one of these days, but my love for reading poetry has never stopped.

There’s the writer, who is appealing to her unconscious, to her profound sense of unknowing. And then there’s the reader, who, as the poem comes into being, as I say, as one word puts itself after another, is trying to figure out what the impact of those words in that order might be from a position of knowing. Right? And it’s the negotiation between these two, the unknowing and the knowing, that, crudely put, would represent the positions of the writer and the reader. So if the first reader of the poem is the writer herself, in a strange way the poem is, indeed, only finished, only completely — becomes completely what it might be when that other person comes to it.

— Paul Muldoon, A Conversation with Verse

Here are a few of the poetry books I’m reading this month:

Tuwing Ikatlong Sabado compiled and edited by Juan Miguel Severo
(Amazon | Goodreads)

There Are More Beautiful Things than Beyonce by Morgan Parker
(Amazon | Indiebound)

Look: Poems by Solmaz Sharif
(Amazon | Indiebound)

Check out the Academy of American Poets’ 30 Ways of Celebrating #NaPoMo, listings and other events here. Write a poem, get a book of poetry for a loved one or read with me! Happy National Poetry Month!

#SavetheNEA: A Campaign to Save the Arts

As the plane touched down in SFO from Manila on the eve of March 16th, not only did I step out of the plane with a heavy heart, I was also dumbfounded with recent news. Being away from the States gave me the false idea that for a second, I can get away from Trump. But there I was, waiting in line at the immigration kiosk, reading about the orange bloviator’s latest move: eliminating funding for the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities, among other agencies.

I was jetlagged, already homesick but most of all, I was angry.

NDT

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to understand what all of this means. As Trump moves to present his federal budget, he has chosen to eliminate what constitutes 0.002% of the $1.1 trillion budget. While it may seem inconsequential, losing $300 million is a huge blow to folks, programs and projects which have been traditionally underfunded: artists, writers, magazines, libraries, local television stations, radio programs and other projects.

According to the American for the Arts Action Fund:

1) The NEA is the single largest national funder of nonprofit arts in America. NEA grants help leverage more than a 9 to 1 match in private charitable gifts and other state and local public funding.

2) The NEA also has an exemplary partnership with the states, with 40 percent of program funds distributed through state arts agencies.

3) With only a $148 million annual budget, the NEA investments in the arts helps contribute to a $730 billion economic arts and culture economic industry, including 4.2 percent of the annual GDP and supporting 4.8 million jobs that yields a $26 billion trade surplus for the country.

4) For more than 50 years, the NEA has expanded access to the arts for all Americans, awarding grants in your congressional district and throughout all 50 states and U.S. Territories.

5) NEA funding reaches small, rural towns through its “Our Town” grants and specifically helps our wounded soldiers and veterans with effective arts therapy.

And it’s not only the arts that’s losing funding but also a milieu of other agencies as he, unsurprisingly, increases the budget for defense. John Oliver takes a jab:

As a queer Filipino immigrant writer in the Bay Area, this hits close to home. Not only will opportunities be taken away at expanding the arts and uplifting the voices of marginalized communities, it also has far-reaching consequences across the globe. Case in point: my homeland, the Philippines.

Trump’s proposed increase in military spending comes at the heels of a recent allegation concerning US naval officers in the country:

On March 15, 2017, Admiral Loveless, four retired Navy captains and a retired Marine colonel were charged with corruption and other offenses [in the Philippines]. Among the charges includes accounts of “raging multi-day party, with a rotating carousel of prostitutes” and accepting bribes from Leonard Glenn “Fat Leonard” Francis in the form of gifts, luxury hotel stays and prostitutes. “Fat Leonard” is a Singapore-based defense contractor who has pleaded guilty to defrauding the Navy of tens of millions of dollars.

GABRIELA USA

So what can we do at this point? The most important thing is to 1) reach out to your local representatives, express your outrage/concern and urge them to fight against Trump’s budget and 2) spread the word by telling your friends/family/neighbor/crush/ex-lovers/others and blast it on your all your social media profiles.

After all, John Keating/Robert Williams (RIP) said it best:

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Read more:

14 Authors on the Life-Changing Impact of the NEA (Electric Literature)
Laura Callanan on Inequality and Art
Fighting to Give Everyone Access to Arts and Culture (KQED)
Mike Huckabee: A conservative plea for the National Endowment for the Arts (The Washington Post)

No Ban, No Wall

I was going to publish a post today about how I was looking for a reader-inchief at the White House, but things have just gotten way too messy in the country to even focus on literature at this minute.

Source: Design Action Collective

For the past two days, I’ve been protesting Trump’s Muslim Ban executive order at San Francisco International Airport, where people from seven Muslim-majority countries are being detained. This executive order suspends the U.S. refugee resettlement program for 120 days with exceptions; suspends the admission of Syrian refugees indefinitely; and suspends the entry of lawful permanent residents, refugees and nonimmigrants from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen for at least 90 days. Xenophobia and Islamophobia in this country has reached new, horrendous heights and we can not idly stand by.

Instead of my usual posts about books and literature, I’m reposting a list of things to keep in mind created by Prerna Lal, a queer Indo-Fijian lawyer in the U.S.

1. If detained at a CA airport under Executive Order, call the local ACLU hotline:

SFO 415-621-2488
LAX 213-977-5245

2. A federal district judge in New York has stayed the Executive Order. The stay is temporary but effective immediately and nationwide, and is an order to CBP to not remove people under the Executive Order (and should also extend to those who are trying to enter the U.S.). If your non-citizen family or friends are traveling from countries that have been designated on the list (Iran, Iraq, Libya, Sudan, Somalia, Syria, Yemen), tell them to print out a copy of the stay order and carry it on them: http://documents.latimes.com/deportations-stay-trump/.

If non-citizens continue to be harassed, detained, interrogated, tell them to make copious notes and get names and details of how long they waited, what happened, who they spoke to and precisely what was said. Keep demanding access to counsel and not sign anything.

Lawyers for other families who are detained can use the pleadings filed in the New York case so they do not need to reinvent the wheel.

Additional orders issued by judges:

Washington, D.C.
U.S. District Court in Massachusetts

3. Anyone who holds a passport from a designated country is considered as being “from” the designated country. This includes dual citizens who hold passports from a designated country, as well as a non-designated country.

4. For lawful permanent residents, DHS is admitting people on a case by case basis, following additional and invasive screenings. Any green card holders from designated countries should make sure not to sign the I-407/Record of abandonment of lawful permanent residence. CBP officers often coerce and deceive people into doing this as a condition of release from detention. If detained for extended periods, people should similarly, take notes, take names, ask for their lawyer, ask to speak to the Congressional representative, and demand to see an immigration judge.

5. People from designated countries, even dual nationals, should try to not travel abroad at this time, unless one absolutely must. Reports indicate that people abroad are not being allowed to board airplanes (even with visas) and even visa interviews for citizens of these countries have been canceled (with the exception of those who hold diplomatic visas).

6Contact your Congressperson:

If you know who your representative is but you are unable to contact them using their contact form, the Clerk of the House maintains addresses and phone numbers of all House members and Committees, or you may call (202) 225-3121 for the U.S. House switchboard operator.

7. For those persecuted in their home countries or fear of persecution in countries CBP would return them to, individuals should speak to their lawyers to discuss claims to asylum and demand a credible fear interview at ports of entry.

8. There are some rumors that USCIS will stop processing applications for naturalization, work permits, travel permits, green card renewals, and other immigration benefits for people from these designated countries. We are waiting for an official announcement. This is very clearly outside the scope of Presidential authority and the executive order, and will lead to many more lawsuits.

9. Media:

NY Times.  If you have been impacted by this Executive Order, willing to share your story with the media and public, the New York Times is asking for those stories to be shared with them via email to immigration@nytimes.com.

There are many other outlets looking for stories of people who have been impacted.

10. For everyone else, see you at the airports!

Happy Birthday to a Revolutionary: Angela Y. Davis

I am no longer accepting the things I cannot change… I am changing the things I cannot accept. 

— Angela Y. Davis

I remember the first time I heard Angela Y. Davis speak in Berkeley, at the Empowering Women of Color Conference in 2011. There I was surrounded by women of color, listening to a black woman revolutionary speak about building movements, in spite of our vast differences.

Today is Davis’s birthday and her continued resistance is as critical as ever. My inbox has been flooded with news of executive order after another on immigration, on refugees, on cutting funding for sanctuary cities, on the Mexican border wall. I thought of Davis:

Walls turned sideways are bridges. 

— Angela Davis: An Autobiography
(Worldcat | Amazon | Indiebound)

After a historic women’s march over the weekend, I was ecstatic by the mobilization of so many women, men, queer and trans folks, children, older folks. I was reminded of the transformative power of ordinary people coming together. But I was also made painfully aware of how many folks — specifically white people — don’t show up to mobilizations for immigrants, black people and other people of color.

How do we then build bridges with folks who have traditionally benefited from our oppression? For starters, there’s “Healing from Toxic Whiteness” which is a training program for white folks committed to racial justice. There are also tons of resources and literature available out there, including a post of resistance literature I compiled earlier this week. Best of all, there are many organizations and grassroots groups doing the actual work that folks can join.

As for us who have been resisting and in the struggle for so long, may we never lose sight of seeing the world we want to live in, may we continue to build alongside each other.

You have to act as if it were possible to radically transform the world. And you have to do it all the time.

— Angela Y. Davis

 Here’s a list of necessary reading by the revolutionary herself:

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Gearing up for Women’s March

“Donald John Trump has placed his hand on two Bibles and taken the oath of office. He is now the 45th president of the United States.”

— The New York Times Breaking News, 1/20/17 12:01 PM EST

I’m letting that sink in for a bit.

I’ve been trying to avoid the coverage of Trump’s inauguration but of course, it’s everywhere. My only saving grace has been the number of people protesting what he represents, what he’s been doing and in all sincerity, how he intends to lead the country.

There are protests all over the country as I write this and tomorrow, there will be a wave of Women’s Marches in different states and cities. Mao Zedong once said that “Women hold up half the sky” — the assault and misogyny Trump has continuously inflicted towards women is unacceptable and needs to be halted. The last thing we need in the government is another misogynist and racist white man who sees and treats women, people of color, Muslims and immigrants as lesser beings. But of course, this is what now have.

Tomorrow, I’m marching with GABRIELA USA to rise against fascism, resist militarization and unite for liberation along with other immigrant and people of color-led organizations in Oakland, California. Check out the nearest women’s march near you and organize and mobilize with the people!

As Assata Shakur of the Black Panthers once said:

“It is our duty to fight for our freedom.
It is our duty to win.
We must love each other and support each other.
We have nothing to lose but our chains.”

— Assata: An Autobiography (Amazon | Indie Bound)

980x7All artwork can be found here.

James Baldwin on Martin Luther King, Jr: “For one thing, to state it baldly, I liked him.”

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James Baldwin and Martin Luther King, Jr. 

I think the first time I learned about Martin Luther King, Jr. was on MLK day in 2005. It hasn’t been a year yet since my family moved to the U.S., and I started working at a small business owned by my aunt’s ex-husband. Like many new to the country, I was infinitely curious about American culture and a holiday as big as MLK day prodded my young, immigrant mind to inquire.

Since then, I’ve seen his name quoted by several writers, read his name on many books, watched films that memorialized him. Given my own struggles as a queer, brown, immigrant woman in the country, I cannot not know who he is. His legacy meant survival for a lot of folks — for black folks, but for immigrants and people of color as well. People from the Third World like myself owe it to the Civil Rights Movement and black leaders for their work and struggle for justice and equality, which has continuously inspired us to struggle for self-determination ourselves.

Beyond his infamous speeches and his legacy, I wanted to know and understand his persona from a writer’s perspective. I found this through James Baldwin’s profile on him, “The Dangerous Road Before Martin Luther King” first published on Harper’s in 1961. The article can also be found in Baldwin’s collection nonfiction anthology The Price of the Ticket where I was finally able to read it. 

Baldwin seemed to know exactly what I wanted to know: “I wanted to ask him [King] how it felt to be standing where he stood, how he bore it, what complex of miracles had prepared him for it.”

What follows is a Baldwin’s account of meeting, listening and witnessing MLK from the church to the solitude of his desk, where he was working on a book. Baldwin wrote that he liked him, that he was “winning” (there’s really no other word for it). He described a man of modesty, of steady temperament, someone incapable of grudges. And because he himself wanted to be a preacher, Baldwin draws on MLK’s gift for speaking:

The secret lies, I think, in his intimate knowledge of the people he’s addressing, be they black or white, and in the forthrightness with which he speaks of those things which hurt and baffle them. He does not offer any easy comfort and this keeps his hearers absolutely tense. He allows them their self-respect — indeed, he insists on it.

This intimate knowledge of the people he’s addressing speaks to me on so many levels, particularly at a time of political uncertainties. MLK Day this year is just a mere four days away from the inauguration of Donald Trump as the country’s next president, a sure cause for alarm.

With the new president’s predisposition to spew racism, misogyny and bigotry towards everything he’s not, it is perfectly right to be scared. When I saw Zadie Smith at Book Passage in Corte Madera for a reading, I remember her saying that Obama must have loved his enemies because they were also a part of him. I can’t help but be reminded of MLK himself, as Baldwin was a close witness.

I overheard him explaining to someone that bigotry was a disease and that the greatest victim of this disease was not the bigot’s object, but the bigot himself. And these people could only be saved by love. In liberating oneself, one was also liberating them.

What does it mean, in our times, to know that people like Trump and his army of bigots, could only be saved by love? How does that look like, and how can that even be manifested?

It’s been one of the many questions I have as of late, as I navigate different movements centered on liberation. It’s either my own political consciousness hasn’t transcended anger yet, or that I am caged by what I think is the only solution. Nevertheless, his vision remains and while it is hard for me to grasp, I believe there is a continuum of light.

To read Baldwin’s profile on MLK, you can go here (p. 249).

Books for Days! (& All the Titles You Should be Reading in 2017)

More creating

Less consuming

More leading

Less following

More contributing

Less taking

More patience

Less intolerance

More connecting

Less isolating

More writing

Less watching

More optimism

Less false realism

— Seth Godin, More and Less

Friendly reminders as we move forward in the new year, as we usher in a new era of reality across the political and social spectrum. In just a few days, the “orange bloviator” as Zadie Smith referred to him will attempt to further plunge this country into an even more damning abyss of racism, fascism, imperialism.

I’ve been finding solace in so many things: this 2017 Plan of Resistance from the Transgender Law Center, small acts of resistance like The Booksmith‘s response to the alt-right bigot Milo Y’s 250k book deal and of course, infinite joy from book lists from The MillionsVulture and Kirkus Reviews

A book I’ve seen on many 2017 lists is Viet Thanh Nguyen’s The Refugees, a collection of short stories from the famed The Sympathizer author. I’m a big fan of his work and I can’t wait for this one!shortI’ve always been more of a novel/literary fiction fan more than anything but these days, short stories are blowing me away. Mia Alvar is the culprit; her weapon, In the Country: Stories. The last time I enjoyed short stories was with This is How You Lose Her by Junot Díaz a couple of years ago, and I’m anticipating even more as Roxane Gay’s Difficult Women collection of stories also just came out. Be still, literary heart, be still.

In a time when most of us — queer, people of color, immigrants — are feeling vulnerable, I always come back to books, among many tools of resistance, to ground me. What are you reading this time around? 

Libro-Resolutions: 2017 Projects

Though 2016 brought so many of us anger, grief and bewilderment, may 2017 be the year that we reckon with our humanity, fully.

While reflecting on the many lessons the past year has brought through literature, I started thinking more about the purpose of Libromance and what it meant for me as the blog’s creator and curator.

The books I wrote about were carefully selected, each brimming with a promise of enlightenment. They were also almost always socially and politically relevant, affirmations but also challenges to my own beliefs.

So many of the books I read and the pieces I published revolved around deepening political consciousness and nourishing emotional intelligence. This year, I resolve to do the same but focus more on specific themes:

  • #DiverseBookBloggers: If there’s anything that I love more than anything, it’s finding out about the existence of book blogging communities online — and on Twitter nonetheless. I found out about #DiverseBookBloggers, folks who explore and write about books celebrating diversity and related issues. My challenge this year is to contribute to the conversation at least once a month, and encourage others to read books by diverse authors.
  • Fil/Lit: Last year was all about Alain de Botton, a British philosopher whose work I admire and tout quite religiously. This year, I want to read and feature more work by Filipino writers; I’ve already started by reading Mia Alvar’s In the Country. Midway through last year, I read Juan Miguel Severo’s book of poems which broke my heart in a thousand ways. His work reminded me of the tenderness of Filipinos and Tagalog, and the many ways that my folks live and love.
  • Book Look: I had ambitious projects for 2016 — none of which came to fruition as I tried to find the rhythm of posting three times a week while juggling reading, working full-time and organizing with the Filipino community. I have a better grasp of my capacity after a year’s worth of work, so I want to delve into a project called “Book Look” which will feature beloved readers in the community. I’m partnering up with Bay Area based-photographer John C. on this project, the genius behind thextinct.

While I’m getting ready for these projects and prepping behind the scenes, here’s a preview of this month’s book list:

Have any reading projects you’re starting this year? I’d love to hear them in the comments below!