What I’m Reading / Thinking / Feeling this February

#GetLit, Soul + Spirit

Fresh off of a trip from New York City and I’m feeling all sorts of inspired + excited for this year’s opportunities and gifts!

I just wrote a piece on Hella Pinay about making 2018 the year of emergence, along with a couple of book recommendations that I hope can guide and enlighten. You can check out the full piece here, and share with a friend or two.

February is probably one of my favorite months, in anticipation of March (my birth month) where for the past couple of years, a lot of life-changing things have been happening. It’s also usually Chinese New Year (I’m not Chinese but have reverence for the occasion), Black History Month and duh, Valentines Day (which is always a good time to challenge/recreate/celebrate the different ways we love).

I know we’re almost halfway into the month already, but I’ve got a few more literary-ish things I’m hoping to publish in addition to weekly book reviews. I’m reading a bit slower than usual though, and usually I would berate myself for not keeping on track with my reading/publishing schedule but I learned a lot of good but hard lessons last year.

A few things coming up your way is a V-day special, books to celebrate Black History month and this month’s reading of course! I just finished Tom Hanks’s book of short stories An Unncommon Type and unexpectedly loved it. I’m about to dive into another set of short stories by Susan Sontag, so watch out for reviews of both of these. This week also, my review for Ana Simo’s Heartland will be out!

As I continue to open myself up to new experiences and things that make me want to cower in bed and hide, I find myself feeling lighter and expansive at the same time, each day a wave of goodness (even on the bad days). I can say that for the first time in my existence, I feel at peace with what I have, what I’m doing, what I’m feeling. Is this what being in your 30s feel like?!

Navigating a tumultuous political and economic reality can wear even the strongest spirit down, so for the past few months, I’ve been focused on nourishing my mental, emotional and physical health. And it’s worked wonders! Apart from living within the books I devour, I’ve also learned how to truly live in this world–to be ever present. At the end of the day, knowing that everything I chose to say yes and no to feels good in my heart (and gut!) gives me a sense of power and agency I’ve never really felt before.

This, in spite of continued attacks on women from heads of state (Trump & Duterte) — u got a domestic violence apologist/misogynist for your adoptive country with a macho-fascist for your homeland. Talk about being a Filipino-American queer woman at this time!

Still, we resist. We create. We thrive and continue to exist. I am grateful to feel rooted, grounded and centered like never before and it is my wish that every single one feels the same way. We need all of our strength and resilience as we fight to make our way in this planet, as we make room for many more. I love how I’ve been able to connect with so many folks through this Libromance and as always, thank you for supporting me and my blog! 🖤

#GetLit: Trump & White Supremacy

#GetLit

“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.

* * *

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.

* * *

img_1354

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.

* * *

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: Galaxies & Universe

#GetLit

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.

sfo_baybridge

San Francisco

ny_empire

New York City

* * *

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.

bookwall

More of these here.

* * *

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.

austinkleon

Keep these things in mind on your next flight!

* * *

“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: “The United States Welcomes You”

#GetLit

“Why and by whose power were you sent?
What do you see that you may wish to steal?
Why all this dancing? Why do your dark bodies
Drink up the light? What are you demanding
That we feel? Have you stolen something? Then
What is that leaping in your chest? What is
The nature of your mission? Do you seek
To offer a confession? Have you anything to do
With others brought by us to harm? Then
Why are you afraid? And why do you invade
Our night, hands raised, eyes wide, and mute
As ghosts? Is there something you wish to confess?
Is this some enigmatic type of test? What if we
Fail? How and to whom do we address our appeal?”

— Tracy K. Smith, “The United States Welcomes You”

* * *

There’s a long weekend coming up — which means more time under the sun (or fog if you’re in San Francisco!) with your current boo(k). Here are 101 books to dive into this summer from TED which features some reads from dope-ass women like Octavia Butler, Yaa Gyasi and Adrienne Maree Brown. Get out and read!

img_7619

Summer of 2016, Grand Canyon.

* * *

If you’re planning on traveling this summer, worry not. TSA just ended its pilot program of asking passengers to remove books from their carry-on during the screening process. What is this, 1984? Is the Trump administration looking for more ways to implicate those who are against his policies (and him, really, even as a person)? Happy reading, good riddance.

* * *


My heart is very much rooted in the Philippines, even though my feet are currently planted on U.S. soil.

Fourth of July marks the country’s independence day from Great Britain, and it also marks a holiday in the country — the signing of the Treaty of Manila, which granted the Philippines independence from the U.S. in 1946.

I finished Lualhati Bautista’s Desaparesidos (book review out on Tuesday) a few days ago and there is a chapter in the book detailing how the U.S. explicitly directed, manipulated and controlled the administrations of the former dictator Marcos as well as (Cory) Aquino’s.

You won’t find me waving the red, white and blue this weekend. Nor in the coming days, months, years, decades. That’ll only happen when this country, known for its democracy and independence, will learn to respect other countries’ struggle for the very same things.

1920

This week’s biggest story is The Atlantic‘s My Family’s Slave by Alex Tizon, a piece that that told the story of the writer’s helper or “katulong” which went viral. I first noticed it on Twitter, where so many folks were talking about it. On Facebook, it was being shared over a hundred times. I’m still thinking about Eudocia, what the term “Lola” actually means, and of course, feudalism in the Philippines. As soon as I am able to, I’ll be writing about it in here. In the meantime, check out some responses that I’m really thankful for and appreciate: GABRIELA USA, Bayan USA, Anakbayan USA.

* * *

I’m also thankful for this self-care guide compiled by the Sylvia River Law Project called Self-Care on the Inside which has tips on meditation and mindfulness, grounding techniques and for nurturing creativity.

* * *

When I’m lost in the work, I’m curious. I don’t know if curiosity is a balm, because it often gets me in trouble, but it gives me control. It becomes fuel, and it brings me out of myself and into the world, even if I’ve just been sitting at my desk and thinking about spirals, which is what I’ve been thinking about this morning.

— Ocean Vuong (aka a Libromance favorite) on being generous in your work

* * *

Because not everything in this world can be dampened by Trump,
nor by the fuckedup-ness of situations, things and/or people.

I always have hope.

c_9xzlbxoaaq7y0

Tuesday morning’s trip to the Rose Garden

#GetLit: Lola, Kinship, Feudalism

#GetLit

#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.

18274876_1537527432937649_4375206124698894361_n

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.

* * * 

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

 * * *

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.

c_a0rvqwaaa6vmk

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

* * *

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.

* * *

Lastly, the best things come in three’s:

img_4956

Ramen Parlor (San Mateo, CA)

img_5067

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

Happy 420! Here are 15 writers who’ve gotten baked, via Electric Literature. Please smoke responsibly and be safe out there. But more importantly, this:

420

Mass incarceration and racial disparities spurred by the “war on drugs”

* * *

A proper homie roll call is in order: two of my friends, My-hanh Lac and Sunshine Velasco are doing amazing things and these two brilliant queer women of color deserve a shout-out.

My’s film BUDAI debuted at the Brava Theater last Friday, a short docu-film on her experience as a young refugee from Vietnam. Twelve minutes on a captivating story, along with a gorgeous cinematography had me screaming for more! Also, her film is in Cannes!

Sunshine’s work on the other hand will be exhibited at the SOMArts Cultural Center on April 22nd, at a benefit for the art gallery. Pièce de RESISTance: A contemporary renaissance ball to support SOMArts will feature her photography on femmes, wherein a friend is also one of her subjects. If you’re in the Bay, don’t miss it.

* * * 

07002_bredenbekk_raised-fist_50x701-802x1062

I’m loving this Raised Fist by Børge Bredenbekk (Norway).

* * *

Teju Cole has been on mind recently, as I sift through more photos from my last trip to the Philippines. I also finally opened another folder of photos from 2014, from another trip to the homeland.

I noticed that most of what I had taken with my camera weren’t “action shots” — not a lot of people or activities but instead, of minute details of the country’s everyday life. An empty soda bottle. A storefront. A row of dog bobbleheads. And for each photo, I can remember the exact moment from almost three years ago.

“…stillness, in photography, can be more affecting than action.”

–Teju Cole

* * *

Maybe it’s because I started this week with Teju, but it’s incredibly heartwarming to see my post from Sunday get so much love. Thank you to everyone who has read, shared, commented and written to me about Postcards from the Philippines. It’s still a work in progress. It gives me tremendous strength that in moments of grief, I am not alone.

img_4681

* * *

It was an act of faith, and faith would not be faith if it was not hard, if it was not a test, if it was not an act of willful ignorance, of believing in something that can neither be predicted nor proved by any scientific metric.

— Viet Thanh Nguyen

I came across Viet’s piece on The Los Angeles Times wherein he talks about writing. This week, I wrote and published a book review on his newest book The Refugees.

* * *

This week’s new find is a homemade marshmallow swimming, or sinking in a cup full of latte goodness. Still eating my feelings.

img_4748

The Titanic II, a vegetarian breakfast empanada from Hollow in San Francisco, and Elle Luna’s book “The Crossroads of Should and Must.”

And sometimes, dancing it all off with friends.

img_4647

San Francisco Dyke March Benefit at El Rio, SF. 

#GetLit: 4/20 and Homies

#GetLit

#GetLit: Peace, Pasta & the Pulitzer

#GetLit

This week’s biggest news: the Pulitzer Prizes! Even bigger? Black Pulitzer Prize winners:

Screenshot of a tweet from my favorite person/poet/writer ever, Saeed Jones AKA @theferocity.

I was elated to find out that Colson Whitehead won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction with The Underground Railroad (Amazon | Indiebound), which I read and reviewed on this blog last year (Read: A Lifetime of Remembering with Colson Whitehead).

I have yet to read Tyehimba Jess’s book of poetry Olio (Amazon | Indiebound), but I am planning to while getting into this month’s poetry books. We’re about midway through April, National Poetry Month, so are you getting your daily dose of poems? Check out a girl’s lifelong affair with poetry.

* * *

If you’ve been weary from the news these days, from Trump’s brand of all-the-things-your-worst-dreams-are-made-of, here’s a little reprise: hope. I’ve been using Deepak and Oprah Winfrey’s latest meditation series (cost: free) called Hope in Uncertain Times and it’s been giving me the kind of peace and calm I need. I’ve been a fan of these series since 2013, and trust me — this stuff is gold.

Me on a Saturday, at Carmel-by-the-Sea, CA

* * *

After doing the necessary inner work, there’s a ton of things happening around us we can always be plugged into. Unless you’re a monk, of course, but for folks like me (brown, queer immigrant activists in the belly of the beast) there’s this: Peace Tour 2017.

In this week’s book review (War and Turpentine by Steffan Hertmans), I wrote about reading the story of the author’s grandfather, who was a soldier and a painter. I intentionally omitted the war years, because 1) honestly not a fan of war novels and 2) here we are in another war again, dropping missiles on other nations (Syria).

What I don’t see in the realm of international geopolitics are attempts to address the root causes of conflicts, which is why the Peace Tour 2017 gives me infinite hope. As a Filipino, I’ve long wondered about the longstanding civil war between the government and the “other government,” led by the Communist Party of the Philippines. If you’re interested in finding out more, look up to see if the tour will be making a stop in your city!

* * *

If you follow me on Instagram (and I think you should 😉), you’ll know that I like to eat my feelings. Here are a few things that have brought me joy in the past few days:

Damn good homemade pasta at Affina.

Also: live music in someone’s living room in San Francisco (yes, like the good ‘ol days). Lattes in the rain, specially turmeric lattes like the one pictured below from As Quoted in San Francisco.

* * *

Have you ever fallen in love with a magazine? Because I have, four times a year for three years now. Kinfolk magazine, to be exact, which is one of a kind. It’s a lifestyle magazine filled with thoughtful pieces on philosophy, music, culture, art, design, fashion and cooking. Reading it is almost meditative; you can’t help but be completely present to the page. 

Imagine my joy at As Quoted cafe with Kinfolk as pictured above, as I read and learned about Shoshin, a Buddhist concept of “a beginner’s mind which refers to having an attitude of openness, eagerness, and lack of preconceptions.” Total hyggeligt.

* * *

Please say hi.

Until the next post,
your friendly Libromance creator + curator, Pia