#GetLit: On Workers & Indie Bookstores

#GetLit

Still reeling from the energy of the May Day mobilization in Oakland, and incredibly inspired and hopeful by the continued global resistance.

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Oakland May Day, holding the flag with Rachel from Third World Resistance and my kasama Irma from GABRIELA USA.

How did folks around the world celebrated May Day? Here’s an article + photos. Last year, I compiled a list of I thought of Carlos Bulosan and the first migrant farmers in the U.S. while I was holding that banner. I guess it was no coincidence that I read Claudia Salazar Jimenez’s Blood of the Dawn right after. Next book on this series: On Tyranny.

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I don’t remember when I signed up for the TUT – Notes from the Universe emails, but they have been really refreshing in the sea of emails in my inbox. Here’s one from May 3rd:

Every burden bears a gift, every challenge brings a treasure, and every setback hides a blessing.

Is it just me, or does time and space sometimes seem far too good to be true?

Hallelujah,
The Universe

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Yesterday, I dropped by Arkipelago Books and one of the owners, Lily Prijoles just came back from the Philippiness which means tons of new books from Filipino publishers, specially titles which have been selling out! Check out my interview with Lily here, and holla if you know of other similar bookstores.

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Latest book recommendation from Lily: “The Kissing” by Merlinda Bobis, a Fil-Aussie writer. 

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If you support places like Arkipelago, consider donating to Duende District, an up and coming bookstore in Washington D.C. owned, operated and managed by a majority of people of color.

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Lastly, the best things come in three’s:

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Ramen Parlor (San Mateo, CA)

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Mangonada from La Torta Sabrosa (South San Francisco, CA) 

One summer day, when the rice lay golden in the sun, startling rumors came to Mangusmana: the peasants in a province to the south of us had revolted against their landlords. There the peasants had been the victims of ruthless exploitation for years, dating back to the 18th century when Spanish colonizers instituted severe restrictive measures in order to impoverish the natives. So from then on the peasants became poorer each year and the landlords became richer at every harvest time.

–Carlos Bulosan, America is in the Heart

I just published my book review for Bulosan’s America is in the Heart at the same time that #OccupyLuisita in the Philippines is happening. The struggle of farmers and peasants has always been an issue, even a century later.

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Militant farmers break down a portion of the wall of the Cojuangco-owned Hacienda Luisita Monday in their own version of “Occupy”, citing a Supreme Court ruling that mandated the distribution of the land. (PHOTO BY DAX SIMBOL, INTERAKSYON)

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If there was anything that I was reminded the most of this week, it’s that repression and oppression only breeds resistance and struggle. That the peace that we truly want is a just one, a peace that is genuine and lasting.

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And if peace could ever come in the form of hip hop music, I’d have to give it to Chance the Rapper for giving me an out-of-body-ethereal-spiritual experience Wednesday night.

I left the Oracle Arena in Oakland feeling at peace with who I am and what I have. Maybe it’s the gratitude, messages of healing and hope he imparted that had me feeling all the feels, but I know that if we were to ever create lasting movements of struggle, music can be another language of resistance.

“Are you ready for your blessings? Are you ready for your miracles?”

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Gratuitous self-portrait. 

 

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April 29 is Independent Bookstore Day!

Independent Bookstore Day is a one-day national party that takes place at indie bookstores across the country on the last Saturday in April. Every store is unique and independent, and every party is different. But in addition to authors, live music, cupcakes, scavenger hunts, kids events, art tables, readings, barbecues, contests, and other fun stuff, there are exclusive books and literary items that you can only get on that day. Not before. Not after. Not online.

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Celebrate this day by supporting your local bookstores — find your local bookstore here.

#GetLit: Carlos Bulosan, Chance the Rapper & Peace

#GetLit

To Break the Wall Between Self and the Future, with Carlos Bulosan

Book Reviews, Fil/Lit

“I will be a writer and make all of you live again in my words.”
–Carlos Bulosan

My introduction to Carlos Bulosan, perhaps one of the greatest Filipino-American writers to have ever lived, is a little late. While most of my peers learned about Bulosan and read his work in college, I finished the book just a little over a week ago.

It is the year 2017, the first year of Donald Trump’s presidency. As the month of April nears its end, many of the preparations in the community are geared towards May 1st, International Workers Day.

I think about Bulosan and his words, and the significance of May Day as I write this. How a book that was written in the 30s of the last century — which detailed the simultaneous heartbreaking and back-breaking struggle of Filipino farmworkers in the Northwest, and Bulosan’s first encounter with fascism — is still relevant to this day.

America is in the Heart (Indiebound) is presented as the autobiography of Carlos Bulosan, a Filipino peasant migrant from the Philippines to the U.S. While many facts in the book are refuted, it nonetheless stands as a testimony and a witness to the early experiences of Filipinos in the country.

The book is a sweeping account of his life, from growing up poor in the Philippines, in a small village in the northern islands. Allos, as he was referred to initially, grew up helping his father farm and his mother vend small goods. At an early age, Allos was becoming more and more aware of the conditions of people like him, which made up the majority of the Philippines — the peasantry.

Most of those who were young and able-bodied, specifically men, knew that in order for their families to survive, they had to get out and look for jobs elsewhere.

In the provinces where the poor peasants lived and toiled for the rich hacienderos, or landlords, the young men were stirring and rebelling against their heritage. Those who could no longer tolerate existing conditions adventured into the new land, for the opening of the United States to them was one of the gratifying provisions of the peace treaty that culminated the Spanish-American war.

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Early Filipino American farm workers, as in this 1936 picture of a musical get-together at Estalio’s labor camp. (Photo courtesy of Rosalie Marquez)

America became a dream for young Allos, and as soon as he was given the opportunity to board one of the ships that could potentially change his life forever, he immediately hopped on.

Still on the same frequency after publishing this post because I just came across this gem — Don’t Be a Dick: Colum McCann’s Advice to Young Writerswhich had this essential quote:

Trying to write without reading is like venturing out to sea all by yourself in a small boat: lonely and dangerous. Wouldn’t you rather see the horizon filled, end to end, with other sails? Wouldn’t you rather wave to neighboring vessels; admire their craftsmanship; cut in and out of the wakes that suit you, knowing that you’ll leave a wake of your own,and that there’s enough wind and sea for you all?

— Téa Obreht

So read with me! Currently: America is in the Heart (Amazon | Indiebound) by Carlos Bulosan, and an ongoing read/lesson/roadmap in creativity, Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way (Amazon | Indiebound). Got book recommendations? Drop me a line!

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In other news, I just finished watching the Netflix series Thirteen Reasons Why. It’s powerful stuff, yo. First published as a young adult book by Jay Asher, the series revolves around 13 tapes that a teenager made and disseminated after her suicide. While the show tackled issues like rape, bullying and toxic high school culture, the biggest thing for me is that it opened up the discussion around mental health in the mainstream.

The series isn’t perfect, and can at times misrepresent many facets of suicide, but it’s worth watching. There are tons of local and national resources out there too, like Lifeline and The Trevor Project. I also came across this thing called bullet journaling specifically for keeping up with your mental and emotional health.

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Had the most scrumptious toast and a lavender latte from Home Cafe. Go visit them in San Francisco!

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And if you haven’t read my recent fiction book reviews, here they are:

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What can I become quite good at that’s really difficult for a computer to do one day soon? How can I become so resilient, so human and such a linchpin that shifts in technology won’t be able to catch up?

Seth Godin

#GetLit: A Libromance Round-up

#GetLit

5 Books to Celebrate Filipino-American History Month

Fil/Lit, Sunday Spotlight

“America is also the nameless foreigner, the homeless refugee, the hungry boy begging for a job and the black body dangling on a tree. America is the illiterate immigrant who is ashamed that the world of books and intellectual opportunities are closed to him. We are all that nameless foreigner, that homeless refugee, that hungry boy, that illiterate immigrant and that lynched black body. All of us, from the first Adams to the last Filipino, native-born or alien, educated or illiterate – we are America!”
–Carlos Bulosan

October is Filipino American Historical Month (also #FAHM2016), a commemoration of when Filipinos first landed on American soil at Morro Bay, California. That was back in October 18, 1587, about 300 years before I was born! 

So what’s up with Filipino-American history, and how far do we go back? Filipino-American relations have always been contentious, since the U.S. paid $20M to buy the islands from Spain. And then World War II happened, where we first got our “third-world country” designation (along with being slaughtered by the Japanese, and then ‘saved’ by the Americans). Since then, we’ve had our share of being a colony — with military bases and talk of freedom and economic hit men (World Bank, IMF) coupled with presidencies super tight with Washington.

On the first day of the month, Pres. Obama had a special message (a first!) wherein he recognized the contributions of Fil-Am soldiers during World War II. It only took 74 years for the government to finally launch the Filipino World War II Veterans Parole Program “which enables certain Filipino-American veterans to request that their family members join them in the United States as they wait for their green cards.”

I’m not sure if this message was to fortify the Philippines’s relationship with the U.S., after Pres. Duterte’s remarks of pursuing a foreign policy independent of the latter back in September.

“I am no American puppet. I am the president of a sovereign country and I am not answerable to anyone except the Filipino people.” 
–Pres. Rodrigo Duterte

This month, I’ve been really thinking long and hard about #FAHM2016 from personal and political perspectives. I could talk about being Filipino in the Bay, about being part of the Asian-American fabric, about being a queer brown immigrant but along with these identities are socioeconomic and political landscapes that I’ve always been a part of.

And as always, I turn to literature for perspectives that continue to enrich the culture of Fil-Ams and at the same time challenge what we know: 
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America is in the Heart by Carlos Bulosan

First published in 1943, this classic memoir by well-known Filipino poet Carlos Bulosan describes his boyhood in the Philippines, his voyage to America, and his years of hardship and despair as an itinerant laborer following the harvest trail in the rural West.

(It’s a shame that I haven’t read this book yet but it comes as a highly recommended title which speaks of the Filipino migrant’s experience.)

516ljlycykl-_sx324_bo1204203200_The Gangster of Love by Jessica Hagedorn

Rocky Rivera arrives in the U.S. from the Philippines the day that Jimi Hendrix dies. So begins a blazing coming-of-age story suffused with the tensions of immigration which finds Rocky moving from the counter-culture in 1960s San Francisco to the extravagant music scene in Manhattan of the 1980s. The Gangster of Love tells the story of the Rivera family as they make their new life in the States all the while haunted by the memory of the father and the homeland they left behind. 

(I read this book in 2014 as I was on my way back to the Philippines for a brief trip and thought — this is everything that I love and detest in a Fil-Am novel!)

51wzfy7vg4l-_sx294_bo1204203200_Philip Vera Cruz: A Personal History of Filipino Immigrants and the Farmworkers Movement by Lilia Villanueva

Filipino farmworkers sat down in the grape fields of Delano, California, in 1965 and began the strike that brought about a dramatic turn in the long history of farm labor struggles in California. Their efforts led to the creation of the United Farm Workers union under Cesar Chavez, with Philip Vera Cruz as its vice-president and highest-ranking Filipino officer.

(This is another book I’ve yet to read, but definitely on my next-to-read list.)

41-ie7cypcl Doveglion by José Garcia Villa

Known as the “Pope of Greenwich Village,” José Garcia Villa had a special status as the only Asian poet among a group of modern literary giants in 1940s New York that included W. H. Auden, Tennessee Williams, and a young Gore Vidal. But beyond his exotic ethnicity, Villa was a global poet who was admired for “the reverence, the raptness, the depth of concentration in [his] bravely deep poems” (Marianne Moore). Doveglion (Villa’s pen name for dove, eagle, and lion) contains Villa’s collected poetry, including rare and previously unpublished material.

(On my way to Hawai’i, I was finally introduced to José Garcia Villa’s poetry with this book and boy was it an out-of-this-world experience. Villa’s poems not only transcended form and format but also political and social boundaries.)

41xmvcxul7l-_sx331_bo1204203200_Leche by R. Zamora Linmark

After thirteen years of living in the U.S., Vince returns to his birthplace, the Philippines. As he ventures into the heat and chaos of the city, he encounters a motley cast of characters, including a renegade nun, a political film director, arrogant hustlers, and the country’s spotlight-driven First Daughter. Haunted by his childhood memories and a troubled family history, Vince unravels the turmoil, beauty, and despair of a life caught between a fractured past and a precarious future.

(Yet another one I’ve missed out on, but of which promises to be the kind of book I’ll find pieces of myself in.)

For a full and glorious list of Fil-Am reads, check out this list on Goodreads.

“You… see us… and you think you know us,
but our outward guise is more deceptive than our history.”
–Carlos Bulosan