This is #2 in a series of posts for Filipino American History Month. You can read #1 here. Thank you all for your social media “likes” and “shares.”
First, I should say that if it isn’t already apparent, the works of Filipino American women that I am including here are literary works. I know there are a lot of scholars who are putting out a lot of important work. That is awesome. My field and expertise is literary work, so that’s where I am focusing.
Second, I will also say that I have invited a few Filipino American women authors to contribute recommendations, so you will be seeing some of those here as well.
I am recommending yet another work of non-fiction. Pati’s work here is so touching, personal, well-constructed. This is a very relatable narrative about the American Pinay coming to terms with her roots, the “foreign” grandparents who have invaded her Bay Area American suburban home, with their value systems, “old world” traditions, and yes, their wisdom. There is the very real American whining teenager that we all know too, too well, at having to be accommodating, at having to inhabit a world in which she is not the center, and then coming to understand how necessary their presence is for her, so much so, that living without them becomes unbearable.
This graphic novel is a Pinay classic! So I never even knew that Barry was Pinay. I always knew of her as a Matt Groening collaborator. But, when a woman writes about her grandmother’s aswang stories, we can already see the roots, the connection is deep. If you want to know what it’s like to grow up mestiza, with an overworked and angry single mother, to be raised by a Filipina matriarch/grandmother, both of whom have been forever changed by war and poverty; what it’s like to be all of those things, and call home the “wrong” side of town, among the dark-skinned immigrant and American working class, to have your pomaded titos dancing the latest dance crazes in your kitchen on any given morning, to live in a house perpetually smelling of garlic and fried fish. Well, you probably already do know something about this. And it’s fantastic to see it on these pages.
This is a dramatic work; yes, seriously, it’s a play. And I love that reading this work, we envision Pinays on center stage, the quality of their lives the central focus of a performance. Perhaps we also recognize this protagonist, an urban Filipina immigrant, a single mother, trying her best to do it all, failing at doing it all. This is not a judgment. The adage, “No history, no self,” or “Know history, know self,” is in operation here, for herself, and most importantly, for her American son. The clash of class and culture with her son’s yaya, a hilot, a storyteller, a laborer, is the struggle between two halves of a cleaved self. There is also a third Pinay in this work, an intriguing woman, who seems to move fluidly through indigenous, Urduja archetypes into Western, contemporary, modern woman archetypes. And so much more in between.
Recommended by Eileen Tabios: “‘The exhausted object have no body of work,” says one poem in Kimberly Alidio’s AFTER PROJECTS THE RESOUND. But that’s just surface. Ever lurking and in ALL CAPS even are potential poems that would affirm, ‘LOL AGENCY AND THE COURAGE TO SPEAK.’ From the ‘howling on YouTube’ to ‘Igorots at St. Louis’ to the ‘new sardonic’ to ‘a heart hit twice by shrapnel,’ the poems skitter over, infiltrate, radiate, revolt from, and apply ‘karaoke studies’ to interrogate both history and contemporary culture, especially cracks and what lurks within them. These poems are attuned to as many zeitgeists as reveal themselves. From Alidio’s dissecting eyes and focused hands—the ‘I [who] can sense the space around objects in the room because I’m often unnoticed’—the Filipino trait of Kapwa (interconnectedness) enables poems to arise and they bespeak: ‘This is exactly what gentleness is // dragging everything up whole—.'”
That’s all for today! Stay tuned for installment #3!