America Is Not the Heart
Three generations of women from one immigrant family trying to reconcile the home they left behind with the life they're building in America.How many lives can one person lead in a single lifetime? When Hero de Vera arrives in America, disowned by her parents in the Philippines, she's already on her third. Her uncle, Pol, who has offered her a fresh start and a place to stay in the Bay Area, knows not to ask about her past. And his younger wife, Paz, has learned enough about the might and secrecy of the De Vera family to keep her head down. Only their daughter Roni asks Hero why her hands seem to constantly ache.Illuminating the violent political history of the Philippines in the 1980s and 1990s and the insular immigrant communities that spring up in the suburban United States with an uncanny ear for the unspoken intimacies and pain that get buried by the duties of everyday life and family ritual, Castillo delivers a powerful, increasingly relevant novel about the promise of the American dream and the unshakable power of the past. In a voice as immediate and startling as those of Junot Diaz and NoViolet Bulawayo, America Is Not the Heart is a sprawling, soulful telenovela of a debut novel. With exuberance, muscularity, and tenderness, here is a family saga; an origin story; a romance; a narrative of two nations and the people who leave home to grasp at another, sometimes turning back.

America Is Not the Heart Details

TitleAmerica Is Not the Heart
Author
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseApr 3rd, 2018
PublisherViking
ISBN-139780735222410
Rating
GenreFiction, Historical, Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction

America Is Not the Heart Review

  • Emily May
    January 1, 1970
    Baggage means no matter how far you go, no matter how many times you immigrate, there are countries in you you’ll never leave. There's only one slightly disappointing thing about this book-- that the prologue introduces us to Paz and her compelling story, which completely drew me in, but then she fades into the background as a secondary character for the rest of the book. Don’t get me wrong, I loved Hero’s tale, but I never quite got over losing that connection with Paz.That being said, this is Baggage means no matter how far you go, no matter how many times you immigrate, there are countries in you you’ll never leave. There's only one slightly disappointing thing about this book-- that the prologue introduces us to Paz and her compelling story, which completely drew me in, but then she fades into the background as a secondary character for the rest of the book. Don’t get me wrong, I loved Hero’s tale, but I never quite got over losing that connection with Paz.That being said, this is a beautiful novel. Castillo writes about the Filipino migrant experience across three generations of women and she captures it, not through grand events, but through small details and poignant interactions between characters.Hero de Vera arrives in California, having left her old life behind but still bearing its scars. Her uncle Pol has given her a second chance in the Bay Area, yet she must navigate this strange new world and the new relationships that come with it - most notably those with Pol's wife Paz, their daughter Roni, and new love Rosalyn. As for loving America or not loving America, those aren’t your problems, either. Your word for love is survival. Everything else is a story that isn’t about you. It's a bit complex in parts, with jumps to two odd, but somehow fitting, second-person narratives, lots of untranslated Tagalog, Pangasinan and Ilocano, and flashbacks. But the characters are so vividly-drawn and the family saga so compelling to me that it was easy to persevere through some of Castillo's more dense and complicated narrative choices.We've seen a lot of migrant fiction in the last couple of years, but America Is Not the Heart carves out its own unique place for itself. It is a quiet, carefully-crafted family saga, driven by its characters. It is a story of leaving places, but never quite leaving those places. And it is a beautiful queer romance. Personally, I knew nothing about the Philippines and its political history before reading this so it was an educational read, too.Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Youtube
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  • Valerie Best
    January 1, 1970
    Okay, bear with me—which, by the way, would have been an appropriate subtitle for this book.So, I liked this book. Sometimes an awful lot. There were moments in this book that took my breath away. It’s writing is great, and got me excited about a kind of writing that I haven’t been very excited about for a while. The story deals with the Filipino experience, and feels truly immersive. One of the book's most interesting aspects is its liberal use of differing dialects. The language is occasionall Okay, bear with me—which, by the way, would have been an appropriate subtitle for this book.So, I liked this book. Sometimes an awful lot. There were moments in this book that took my breath away. It’s writing is great, and got me excited about a kind of writing that I haven’t been very excited about for a while. The story deals with the Filipino experience, and feels truly immersive. One of the book's most interesting aspects is its liberal use of differing dialects. The language is occasionally, though not always, translated, which creates a space between the story and some readers. Which I like. What’s most interesting, though, is that the three adults who live in the house all came to America from the Philippines as adults, but they each speak these three dialects to a greater or lesser degree. One, Paz doesn’t speak at all, one, Pol only speaks to Hero stiffly, and in certain contexts. One, Hero has nearly forgotten. The language excludes the reader from their world, but also, more intimately, the characters from each other. There was also an enormous focus on food, which really worked for me. It wasn’t necessarily food I recognized, but it was really richly described and played a full, sensual role in the story, nearly a character itself. However, this story meandered. I’m certain the slow unspooling was intentional, but knowing that didn’t make the story move any faster. There were moments that moved so slowly they bordered in excruciating. The story also leaves a lot of unanswered questions, which I also assume was deliberate, but, in such a long, slow-moving book, so many unresolved plot points felt a tad unnecessary.This book is beautiful in many, many was. It moves slowly and deliberately, and simply assumes that you’ll figure out a way to contextualize what you don’t personally understand. It is opaque and challenging and truly beautiful. “Your word for love is survival. Everything else is a story that isn’t about you.” (30)
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  • Jaclyn Crupi
    January 1, 1970
    I’m so conflicted about this book! After reading Mia Alver’s IN THE COUNTRY a few years ago I’ve been wanting to read more fiction about the Filipino diaspora so was thrilled to hear about AMERICA IS NOT THE HEART. The prologue pulled me in immediately and I ate it up. But I overinvested in Paz who then almost disappeared from the narrative once Hero, our true protagonist, arrived. Hero is an amazing character and the reveals about her life are handled masterfully but I experienced them at a rem I’m so conflicted about this book! After reading Mia Alver’s IN THE COUNTRY a few years ago I’ve been wanting to read more fiction about the Filipino diaspora so was thrilled to hear about AMERICA IS NOT THE HEART. The prologue pulled me in immediately and I ate it up. But I overinvested in Paz who then almost disappeared from the narrative once Hero, our true protagonist, arrived. Hero is an amazing character and the reveals about her life are handled masterfully but I experienced them at a remove. I spent 300 pages pining for Paz only to have a gorgeous queer romance sweep me up in its beauty. I’m so annoyed at myself for not recognising Paz as a gateway to Hero!
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  • Candace
    January 1, 1970
    Set in the unglamorous cities of San Francisco's East Bay, "America Is Not The Heart" follows Filipino immigrants as they dig in and take their place in their new country. It's the 1980s, and Paz uses her training as a nurse to leverage an escape from the poor rural Philippines. Her surgeon husband comes from a rich, corrupt family, but when he joins her in Milpitas, he becomes a security guard. They offer sanctuary to his niece, Hero, who has been rejected by her family after joining a revoluti Set in the unglamorous cities of San Francisco's East Bay, "America Is Not The Heart" follows Filipino immigrants as they dig in and take their place in their new country. It's the 1980s, and Paz uses her training as a nurse to leverage an escape from the poor rural Philippines. Her surgeon husband comes from a rich, corrupt family, but when he joins her in Milpitas, he becomes a security guard. They offer sanctuary to his niece, Hero, who has been rejected by her family after joining a revolutionary group as a doctor. She has been captured and tortured, and released suddenly with her thumbs broken and mind battered.Hero's job is to help with Paz and Pol's daughter Roni, because the two of them work all hours of the day and night. With Roni, Hero begins to build relationships in her new world among East Bay Filipinos and Mexicans. Hero makes friends and ventures out. She loves to have sex with both men and women, but women are her favorites. How will that play in this conservative community?"America Is Not The Heart" is fresh and compelling--why aren't there more novels about the Filipino experience?--and I would give it five stars except for the irritating amount of Tagalog and regional Philippine dialects that are poured into the text with no explanation. Since I read an e-review copy (thanks, Viking!) there may be a glossary in the hard copy, but most readers would be flipping back and forth so much that their reading pleasure would be badly compromised.
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  • Erin Glover
    January 1, 1970
    Fascinating for its depiction of Filipino immigrants’ lives in northern California, a refreshing immigrant perspective, sadly, the story falls gracelessly flat. Initially sucked in by Paz’s depiction of life in the Philippines as a poor young girl ignored by her family during martial law, Paz’s life gets even more interesting when she immigrates to northern California. She marries into a well-known upper crust Filipino family offering her husband-to-be, Pol De Vera, US citizenship and getting st Fascinating for its depiction of Filipino immigrants’ lives in northern California, a refreshing immigrant perspective, sadly, the story falls gracelessly flat. Initially sucked in by Paz’s depiction of life in the Philippines as a poor young girl ignored by her family during martial law, Paz’s life gets even more interesting when she immigrates to northern California. She marries into a well-known upper crust Filipino family offering her husband-to-be, Pol De Vera, US citizenship and getting status in return. But 8% of the way into the novel, the story abruptly turns and a different De Vera, Hero, becomes the protagonist. This is too bad because Hero is not as likeable as Paz.Like her uncle Pol, Hero was a surgeon in the Philippines. That is, until she joined The New People’s Army around 1990 and hid in the mountains with fellow soldiers. Caught and held in a camp for two years, her captors broke both of her thumbs, ending her doctor’s career. When they discovered she was a De Vera, who were friends with the Marcos family, she was released. At the same time, Marcos’ regime was being overthrown, so Pol invites Hero to California.Castillo rambles on about every-day life for the Filipinos living in Malpitas, California. The writing is often confusing since she doesn’t use quotation marks. Some interesting things happen related to Hero’s sexuality, but for the most part, Castillo fails to make Hero’s life anything but ordinary. Perhaps it’s the overuse of details that pulls the story into the boring category. You have to read about a lot of food before the peak emotional moment of the scene is revealed. I wanted to like this book. It felt like it was going somewhere, but it never did.
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  • Andy Lillich
    January 1, 1970
    I want to admit, right up-front, that it took me awhile to really connect with this story. After all, what did I know about the Philipines? Absolutely nothing. Which meant that much of what I read in the beautifully told prologue and even the first several sections of Hero's story, felt like it went right by me. I had no knowledge of the places, customs - and especially the many passages in Filipino dialects (of which there many) and had trouble connecting with the story.Once the story shifted t I want to admit, right up-front, that it took me awhile to really connect with this story. After all, what did I know about the Philipines? Absolutely nothing. Which meant that much of what I read in the beautifully told prologue and even the first several sections of Hero's story, felt like it went right by me. I had no knowledge of the places, customs - and especially the many passages in Filipino dialects (of which there many) and had trouble connecting with the story.Once the story shifted to California, however, I began to realize that CONNECTION, indeed, was what this book is all about - once I began connecting with Hero as person as she began the slow and painful process of CONNECTING to the people (family AND community) and places she had been forced to immigrate to.And it is that emotional connection to main character Hero and to the people and places that she connects to that caused me to fall in love with this story and - most especially with - the beauty of Elaine Castillo's writing.I feel I learned SO MUCH from this book, about another America that exists in the country I love and also live in, but most of all, I enjoyed falling in love with these characters.I cannot praise this novel highly enough. Please, PLEASE - do not miss this one, dear Reader Friends!
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  • Theresa
    January 1, 1970
    The thing about growing up Filipino in America, and especially growing up Filipino in a heavily white area, and especially growing up Filipino in a family that doesn’t fully see you as Filipino and allow you access to your culture or a right to your heritage or the freedom to define yourself, is that certain things — what should be shared cultural experiences, memories, references — sometimes feel like they’re happening in a vacuum. You don’t really know if they’re shared, if you’re imagining th The thing about growing up Filipino in America, and especially growing up Filipino in a heavily white area, and especially growing up Filipino in a family that doesn’t fully see you as Filipino and allow you access to your culture or a right to your heritage or the freedom to define yourself, is that certain things — what should be shared cultural experiences, memories, references — sometimes feel like they’re happening in a vacuum. You don’t really know if they’re shared, if you’re imagining things, if you’re crazy or sensitive, if maybe the microagressions are just happening in your head, if the weird things your family does are actually Filipino things or just weird things your family does.Any review I could give of this would be too personal. It’s a slice-of-life story about a woman who was part of the anti-Marcos resistance and came to live with her uncle in Milpitas, CA after being released from a prison camp. The pacing is pretty slow and the language weaves in and out of Tagalog and Ilocano and some references in Pangasinan. People don’t really understand when second generation Filipinos say that they can understand the language but not speak it, and this book felt like home in that way — all of these other languages formed a single language that was spoken in all of our homes. I don’t know that non-Filipino readers would really get this. But it is beautifully and unapologetically Filipino, which I think American readers (Filipino or not) need to see — immigration and diaspora outside of the context of sacrifice, and outside of the “coming to America for a better life” narrative. It is also beautifully and unapologetically queer and just generally sexually liberated.Reading and listening this book was so important to me. It wasn’t even about anything I have any remote experience with — Filipino immigrants in the Bay Area in the early 90s — but I felt like this book saw me and recognized me and told me I was part of this, a child of the diaspora, as much as anyone else.
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  • Adam
    January 1, 1970
    This book! What a triumph. It was a bit too long but I never wanted it to end. The prologue, Ga-li-la, is exceptionally powerful...it makes you want to stay with Paz, but we spend most of the novel with Hero, who is a little inscrutable....Roni, however, is the most lively, realistic child in fiction I've read in a while. Rosalyn is sparkling and endearing...other characters, like Jaime, or Pol, or Adela, leap off the page. This is a huge, big-hearted epic novel with a scope and size to parallel This book! What a triumph. It was a bit too long but I never wanted it to end. The prologue, Ga-li-la, is exceptionally powerful...it makes you want to stay with Paz, but we spend most of the novel with Hero, who is a little inscrutable....Roni, however, is the most lively, realistic child in fiction I've read in a while. Rosalyn is sparkling and endearing...other characters, like Jaime, or Pol, or Adela, leap off the page. This is a huge, big-hearted epic novel with a scope and size to parallel Marquez or the big, bolshy male Americans- I mean the Franzens and Eugenides and Updikes. But this is a love letter to Filipino identity, Filipino language, this is a paean to outsiders and the traumatised, to the cut-off and the disenfranchised, to families that have fallen out and to communities formed through economic hardship or floes of migration. Elaine Castillo is a novelist of tremendous empathy and talent. And this is such a special novel. How often do you read a book with an all-Filipino cast of characters, focused on a lesbian love story that is tender, lovely, evolves so slowly and delicately and without condescension? This book is one of a kind and will make all the waves this year, and it fully deserves it.
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  • Thor Balanon
    January 1, 1970
    "You've been foreign all your life. When you finally leave, all you're hoping for is a more bearable kind of foreignness." 🔹America is Not the Heart is our collective longing: a mixtape of our youth, a recipe of our cravings, a scar, a reminder. An ache. (Thanks, Bennard @bcfajardo ) With a Prologue that reads like a precise, stylish short story—which I have personally read three times—the novel unfolds deliberately. Domestic details, road trips, tropical maladies, and a budding romance weave in "You've been foreign all your life. When you finally leave, all you're hoping for is a more bearable kind of foreignness." 🔹America is Not the Heart is our collective longing: a mixtape of our youth, a recipe of our cravings, a scar, a reminder. An ache. (Thanks, Bennard @bcfajardo ) With a Prologue that reads like a precise, stylish short story—which I have personally read three times—the novel unfolds deliberately. Domestic details, road trips, tropical maladies, and a budding romance weave in and out of a surfacing, volatile memory. Castillo's prose is beautiful and powerful, with surprising metaphors that show her sheer joy of writing. It also feels wonderful to read Filipino and Ilocano (my native tongue) in a novel that is published internationally. Without italics. Comfortable and rhythmic between English words. Nakakaiyak. America is not the heart but you know what is? This book. With all its aches and longing and uncertainties and pride. And pancit. 🇵🇭
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  • Rhi
    January 1, 1970
    Shocking, heartbreaking, deeply affecting, confronting, balls-out, raw, passionate, sensual.Those are just some of the words I noted down whilst reading this book. An amazing debut from Elaine Castillo who for me epitomises a good writer: someone who is able to convey a range of emotions and feelings that many people would find difficult to articulate."There was just a fist of emotion in her chest, but it was too tightly closed to tell just what emotion it was; she figured it was grief, or even Shocking, heartbreaking, deeply affecting, confronting, balls-out, raw, passionate, sensual.Those are just some of the words I noted down whilst reading this book. An amazing debut from Elaine Castillo who for me epitomises a good writer: someone who is able to convey a range of emotions and feelings that many people would find difficult to articulate."There was just a fist of emotion in her chest, but it was too tightly closed to tell just what emotion it was; she figured it was grief, or even just shock, but she knew it wasn’t that, not really. It was close to the feeling of someone finally turning out a light in a room that had long ago been emptied – shelves dustless, floor bare."Told from the perspectives of three women, each character is richly described, and all have believable intricacies and complexities. Castillo seems to understand people with all of their strengths and flaws and describes them with such eloquence and ease. I don’t often come across a sex scene in a book so beautifully and naturally written, also refreshing is the fact it’s between two women. I also enjoyed the little observations that capture snapshots of real life so effortlessly that help bring the story to life:"She closed the door, and he shook his head. Nah, it’s not closed all the way. You gotta really slam it. She opened the door again, then yanked it closed with the full strength of her shoulder, making the entire car shake."The story includes disturbing references to historical events in the Philippines in the 1990s which I immediately wanted to look up and research further. These glimpses of the relatively recent past are fascinating and informative but never detract from the main thrust of the story and the importance of the characters. I was pretty clueless on the history and politics of the Philippines so it was quite shocking to read about the horrors of the civil war and the brutalities committed.The use of different languages such as Tagalog, Ilocano and Pangasinan was extremely effective – the speech isn’t always translated, which I guess some could find off-putting, but I found it added substance and realism to the characters’ family dynamic. The mentions of traditional food dishes and delicacies were mouth-wateringly described, and made me vividly recall eating pandan desserts and various noodle dishes when I lived in Asia.While the Filipino immigrant experience in the US looms large over the book, it is not exclusive at all. It is written in a very inclusive way so that I think everyone who reads it will relate to it on a different and personal level. The book’s strength is its cast of characters and Castillo’s skilful creation of them, which allows us to delve so deeply into their lives that at times it feels like a fly-on-the-wall autobiographical account. The book is ultimately about families, friendships, love and pain and I highly recommend it.Thanks to NetGalley.co.uk for my ARC.I can’t really fault this book so am giving it 5 stars.
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  • Kevin Hu
    January 1, 1970
    AINTH takes you down a narrative course that is subversive at every corner. In Geronimo's young life, she has already seen life in the Philippines from the countryside of Pangasinan, from the mountains of Baguio where she was slowly radicalized and inducted in the New People's Army during her years in college before dropping out, as a political recalcitrant serving as a medic, as a political prisoner for 2 years narrowly escaping death after a series of tortures, and having been estranged from h AINTH takes you down a narrative course that is subversive at every corner. In Geronimo's young life, she has already seen life in the Philippines from the countryside of Pangasinan, from the mountains of Baguio where she was slowly radicalized and inducted in the New People's Army during her years in college before dropping out, as a political recalcitrant serving as a medic, as a political prisoner for 2 years narrowly escaping death after a series of tortures, and having been estranged from her parents who rejected her for joining the NPA, now sees life as an American migrant.Is home where you grew up, or is it where you became an adult? Is home with people who battled side by side with you, struggled with you; even bled with you? Is home your native country? Is home where you feel the most loved? Geronimo, affectionately referred to as Hero at times, Nimang at other times, carries her trauma with her as she migrates away from political persecution and family estrangement to America where she intends to restart, but is brought to a halt when she realizes that you can never completely run from your past, and that defining home is just as difficult for the Filipino American as it is for the Filipino. To title this book as America is Not the Heart, I'm afraid, leads us back to the temptation to read the book from an America-centric perspective when it really should not be. AINTH explores the life of the socially and politically displaced. It explores the life of the refugee. It explores the life of the political prisoner who has endeavored against a dictatorial government. And then, it explores the possibility of a Filipino American's accessibility to the American economy and the American social fabric. After navigating through the lives of Hero's family in America, we see that defining home is not as formulaic for some as it may be for others. That the social and political identities follow you to diasporic communities post-migration. That new homes, and new identities, only bring new social and political complexities. That everyone has their dreams and their demons. But that in each of these places, new family and new loves may be able to free you.3/4 of the way through, I felt like the repetition of Hero and Rosalyn's relationship made the book feel like a slog. I think Castillo could have explored sexual identity more instead of bringing in a barrage of seemingly redundant scenes of Hero and Rosalyn's affair. Overall, a good read.This ARC was received from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
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  • Trish
    January 1, 1970
    Personally, this book has qualities that make this an intimidating read:- It’s been described as an “epic family saga” (too many characters)- It’s 400+ pages (too many words)- There are shifts in time periods and POVs (too confusing)None of this mattered to me when I found this title floating around on bookstagram. It didn’t take long to become absorbed into the lives of these fully-realized characters in Castillo’s impressive debut novel. They live in a world I’m familiar with (the languages, t Personally, this book has qualities that make this an intimidating read:- It’s been described as an “epic family saga” (too many characters)- It’s 400+ pages (too many words)- There are shifts in time periods and POVs (too confusing)None of this mattered to me when I found this title floating around on bookstagram. It didn’t take long to become absorbed into the lives of these fully-realized characters in Castillo’s impressive debut novel. They live in a world I’m familiar with (the languages, the food, the mannerisms, social dynamics, etc.) and yet, they are strangers with layered backstories that I’ve come to know personally with the turn of each page.As a Filipina American, I am always searching for Fil-Am literature. Besides relating culturally, there’s a desire to learn more about Philippine history and question what has been told, especially the popular narrative of “We came to America for a better life.” Is it “better” to work 16 hour days to send money back home? Reading different perspectives shows the diversity of the “Filipinx-American experience” as well as enriches my own.I should note that the character driven story may be considered “slow.” Hero’s everyday life in Milipitas is mundane. Or, some readers might feel slowed down by the intermittent use of languages, especially the different dialects. I don’t speak Tagalog, Pangasinan, or Ilocano, but the mix of languages, along with English, is an inherent part of the Filipino-American experience, which made these people and their world feel so real. These characters have lives beyond the book’s 400 pages and am left wondering how they’re doing today.
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  • Stephanie
    January 1, 1970
    In her acknowledgements at the end of "America is Not the Heart," 33-year-old author Elaine Castillo writes, "in terms of utang na loop , this one's last but definitely not least: To the Bay and in particular the 408."To the very end, then, this talented, first-generational Filipino American persists in her peculiar coding of the immigrant diaspora in America. The untranslated utang na loop , Tagalog for "debt of gratitude," is in keeping with the consistent inter-mixing of Filipino languages -- In her acknowledgements at the end of "America is Not the Heart," 33-year-old author Elaine Castillo writes, "in terms of utang na loop , this one's last but definitely not least: To the Bay and in particular the 408."To the very end, then, this talented, first-generational Filipino American persists in her peculiar coding of the immigrant diaspora in America. The untranslated utang na loop , Tagalog for "debt of gratitude," is in keeping with the consistent inter-mixing of Filipino languages -- primarily Tagalog, Ilocano and Pangasinan -- that fill this novel. The "408" refers to the Santa Clara County area code so infiltrated by her rich Filipino subculture: Milpitas, Sunnyvale, Santa Clara, Cupertino, California.Castillo creates many barriers that make this quasi-memoir difficult to penetrate. We don't meet Hero (Geronima), the protagonist of the story, until page 30. It comes after a prologue narrated in the second person by Paz, her aunt by marriage.  Hero is a broken woman in body and soul, whose healing comes through the intervention of her uncle, Pol, Paz, and their seven-year-old daughter Roni, the only family member born in the U.S.For readers unfamiliar with the politics of the 1980s in Phillippines and its early history under Spanish and U.S. colonial rule, Castillo handles the introduction of historical events and flashbacks poorly. Hero, like her uncle Pol, comes from an upper-class family, well-connected with Fernando Marcos. She has only one year of medical school before she is recruited as a guerrilla, part of the communist insurgency, the New Peoples' Army, stationed in the mountainous area of Isabela province. She spends time in a prison camp, where her thumbs are broken; she goes through rehabilitation at the home of an aunt in Manila before joining Pol's family in Milpitas, on the south San Francisco Bay.Let's see now: How old was she when she joined the guerrillas? How long was she in the mountains? In the prison camp? In rehabilitation? Is she still in her 30s? Then there's the sex. The wild abandonment of her initial sexual encounters once in California read like a case of "arrested development." And when she actually finds symbiosis in a real soulmate and sensual partner, please spare me all the raw details. Or maybe I'm just old-fashioned. I believe you can describe sex in more ways than just calling it "f---ing.""American is Not the Heart" is a story of chain migration at work: family members who have piggy-backed on the tenuous legal links of a parent, sibling or spouse to access a pipeline to citizenship. In the meantime, these hardworking new Americans drive and work undocumented, taking advantage of credit, the goodwill of fellow immigrants and a bit of the under-the-table thievery of goods and services.I mention none of these criticism to dissuade readers from embarking on Hero's journey of reconstruction. The writing is incredibly rich; the dialogue is spot on. We witness the rebuilding of many identities and re-creation of new family units around meals and festivals in this family saga. At its center is the child Roni, a precocious fighter, beloved by Pol, Paz and Hero. Never is Castillo's writing more crystaline than when she describes the gift that giving birth to Roni in California was for Paz."You have fake teeth," Paz writes about herself, "You sold chico and mung beans by the side of the road, no one in your family ever had a car, your Tagalog still has Pangasinan holes in it, your fluency in English is a recurring dream that always cuts off just at the crucial moment -- but. You've given your first child something like a pedigree, and no one can take it from her."
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  • Elise
    January 1, 1970
    There's a lot one can say about what makes this novel powerful. For example: the way the complex political history of the Philippines unfolds alongside a more contemporary setting; or how the characters, spanning three generations, relate with one another in surprising and often heartbreaking ways. For me, as a Filipina-American reader, what was most powerful was how Elaine Castillo wove throughout the novel numerous details about Filipino families and communities in America--details that I take There's a lot one can say about what makes this novel powerful. For example: the way the complex political history of the Philippines unfolds alongside a more contemporary setting; or how the characters, spanning three generations, relate with one another in surprising and often heartbreaking ways. For me, as a Filipina-American reader, what was most powerful was how Elaine Castillo wove throughout the novel numerous details about Filipino families and communities in America--details that I take for granted when I'm with my family, and that I'm hyper aware of when non-Filipinos are around us. I was reminded of a recent podcast episode of "Call Your Girlfriend" in which one of the hosts, Aminatou Sow, talked with author Morgan Jerkins about how Jerkins writes openly about what Sow considered to be the "secrets" of the Black community and specifically, Black women. Sow explained her initial disbelief that Jerkins not only disclosed these secrets beyond the Black community, but also deemed them worth sharing with readers of all racial identities. Similarly, as I read "America is Not the Heart," part of me was a little shocked that Elaine Castillo was openly sharing with a broad readership details about Filipino life that I have long considered idiosyncratic or uninteresting to, and vulnerable to ridicule from, non-Filipinos. For example: the complicated logic behind most Filipino nicknames; the use of tsinelas in the house; the aluminum trays of pancit and barbeque at every family gathering and the foil-wrapped paper plates of leftovers that everyone expects to take home. The author also doesn't shy away from the less savory aspects of Filipino life, such as the subtle racism: she writes of the unspoken racial hierarchy spanning from mestizos to "Igorotas."But more than shock, once I stopped wondering about whether non-Filipino readers would "get" the story, I felt overwhelming appreciation and pride that this novel exists, that Elaine Castillo deemed Filipinos important and interesting enough to write about. In this novel, Filipino life is significant enough to stand on its own and is not explained with White American culture as a reference point. One of the most powerful aspects of the novel, for me, is how the dialogue moves freely among English, Tagalog, Pangasinan, and Ilocano, and the author doesn't translate for her English-speaking readers. She doesn't even italicize the Filipino languages to offset them from the English. In this way, the dialogue is not oriented around English and is a true representation of how Filipinos speak.There's a budding movement for more diversity and representation in literature, and it's not insignificant: I'm 32, I consider myself a pretty prolific reader, I make intentional efforts to read women authors and authors of color, and reading "America is Not the Heart" was the first time I recognized my Filipina-American identity in literature. Reviewing the novel in the New York Times, Ligaya Mishan described the rich, often "untranslatable" details with which Elaine Castillo depicts Filipino-American life: "Such details are strewn like crumbs for Filipino readers like me: moments of recognition marking the way home." YES.
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  • Jimbo Pantas
    January 1, 1970
    This book seemed too difficult to get into at first, but a few chapters in and I was ravenous for more Filipino drama. I'm glad I had no knowledge of its synopsis or whatsoever prior to reading, except that it was written by a Filipino. I read "book" and "Filipino" together in an online article headline and I dived right in, no further questions asked. America is Not the Heart by Elaine Castillo is my second Filipino read this year.While reading America is Not the Heart, I ran into two or three This book seemed too difficult to get into at first, but a few chapters in and I was ravenous for more Filipino drama. I'm glad I had no knowledge of its synopsis or whatsoever prior to reading, except that it was written by a Filipino. I read "book" and "Filipino" together in an online article headline and I dived right in, no further questions asked. America is Not the Heart by Elaine Castillo is my second Filipino read this year.While reading America is Not the Heart, I ran into two or three (okay, maybe more than ten, as a matter of fact) lines that just drove me right up the Cringe Wall of Filipino-ness. I started having doubts: Is this merely a Filipino soap opera of a novel, disguised by a huge American publisher as an intellectual work by a Filipino who lives in the States? When Pol spat at Hero "But she's a De Vera!" I nearly lost it. I closed the book and mulled it over; then I realized yes, yes, yes it was terrible dialogue. But do people--real, breathing people and not '80s Filipino movie characters--actually talk this way? The answer embarrassed me: YES. Well, at least in my personal experience, this is very true. My first niece, daughter of my eldest sister, used to be this wonderful, beautiful angel whom my parents and the parents of my sister's boyfriend fought over for rights. With whom should the child live? Well, my parents always said with such heat that the kid should stay with us because (yep, you got that right) she's a Pantas. I know, I know. Filipino families can be so melodramatic. It is kind of embarrassing but that's just how people really talk. Well, at least my family does. Hence, the five stars I'm giving to AINTH. It isn't perfect but I really like this book, personally.If you're not ready for a long novel with an uneventful plot try to come back to AINTH some other time. It is mostly memories, family drama, existential crisis, midlife crisis, poverty, politics, and pancit. Lots and lots of pancit.
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  • Jade
    January 1, 1970
    About 20 pages in I realized that I know barely anything about the Philippines apart from some random dishes, and some political crises over the years!! I worked for a translation company for years and assumed that Tagalog was the main language and never looked further than that. I feel pretty ashamed about it to be honest - but I’ve really enjoyed reading America is Not the Heart and researching so much about the Philippines at the same time. One thing that I love about reading eBooks is that y About 20 pages in I realized that I know barely anything about the Philippines apart from some random dishes, and some political crises over the years!! I worked for a translation company for years and assumed that Tagalog was the main language and never looked further than that. I feel pretty ashamed about it to be honest - but I’ve really enjoyed reading America is Not the Heart and researching so much about the Philippines at the same time. One thing that I love about reading eBooks is that you can easily switch to google and research things while you are reading. I know some people find that annoying but I actually enjoy it.Ahhhh this book is beautifully written. The narrative is sprinkled with words in Tagalog, Ilocano, and Panganisan, but it doesn’t distract from the story, on the contrary it enriches it, plunges you into Filipino life, in the Philippines and in the US. I did end up googling quite a few words, mainly food because I love to envision what certain dishes look like in my mind, but it didn’t bother me at all. The languages flows beautifully, it creates a rich, vibrant environment, and Elaine Castillo has a great knack for character development.America is Not the Heart is the story of immigration, of hardship, of relearning trust, of family, and ultimately of love. Hero arrives in the US to live with her uncle and auntie, bringing along a ton of baggage from her childhood, her life in the New People’s Army, and then in prison. We discover Hero’s story as the narrative unfolds.One thing that surprised me a little, was that the first few chapters introduce us to Paz, and then BAM the story turns to Hero’s. I felt slightly miffed, I was beginning to develop Paz in my mind and then she was relegated to the background. It threw me off and I found it a little harder to get back into the narrative of Hero’s story. If you also find that this throws you off, don’t put the book down, because Hero is actually amazing and her story is so poignant and beautifully written.Another thing: there are so many names in the book, and each name has another name, usually a diminutive of the original name (which I assume is pretty common in Filipino families). I found that I couldn’t read this novel with any distractions at first (children, background TV or music noise), or I would just get confused. But it got easier after a while. Just don’t give up, understanding all of the background is important and makes sense as the story unfolds.There is a LOT of history of the Philippines nestled in the story, while reading it I really started to wonder how long it took the author to write this book. There are so many characters, so much research, so many layers... It’s an amazing book and an amazing feat. Also a million thumbs up for the developing a realistic love story between two women, and exploring the themes of acceptance in tight-knitted traditional family settings.Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for the copy, America is Not the Heart is just sublime AND such an amazing first novel for Elaine Castillo!!
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  • Jacqueline
    January 1, 1970
    3.5 stars. For some reason, lately some of the books I've been reading, especially the long ones, haven't been extremely enjoyable, and yet I feel a sense of sadness when it's over. Though I felt like this book was way too long when I was reading it, I felt a little empty and sad when I finished the last page and had to say goodbye to Hero, Rosalyn, Roni.. :'(. I definitely did not dislike this book at all, but I wouldn't say I "clicked" with it--I guess you could say it's like a first date with 3.5 stars. For some reason, lately some of the books I've been reading, especially the long ones, haven't been extremely enjoyable, and yet I feel a sense of sadness when it's over. Though I felt like this book was way too long when I was reading it, I felt a little empty and sad when I finished the last page and had to say goodbye to Hero, Rosalyn, Roni.. :'(. I definitely did not dislike this book at all, but I wouldn't say I "clicked" with it--I guess you could say it's like a first date with someone where you have no chemistry, but you can appreciate their qualities. I hope this book gets a lot of buzz, cuz it really adds a lot to the canon of diverse books. Filipina queer romance? Cool! Set in the 90s California bay area? Awesome! (I'm biased because I'm from the bay area, specifically Fremont, and it was surreal to read so many specific details about Milpitas, the main setting of the book--the streets, the dumpster smell, allusions to the future Great Mall, etc, even shoutouts to Fremont). Personally I didn't like this book as much as others did, for a few reasons. First of all, I can't stand when books don't use quotation marks in dialogue. I don't know if it's just the act itself or that usually this trait is present in books that I don't really enjoy in the first place. I also agree with some of the other reviewers who found the prologue from Paz's perspective more fascinating than Hero's character. I wish I could have read a book about Paz and her journey from the Philippines to Milpitas, California.Overall, I liked this book because it enabled me to learn a little more about Filipino history and martial law, of which I was pretty ignorant. For me, I find historical fiction the most compelling and educational, moreso than reading actual history books.. maybe because I can empathize with characters and their stories on a more personal level, versus reading about all the atrocities and injustices from a big-picture perspective.Also, even though I'm not Filipino, and didn't grow up in the bay area during the early 1990s, the author painted some realistic pictures of Asian life back then.. made me pretty nostalgic. One Vo1ce, anyone?
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  • Nick Klagge
    January 1, 1970
    No, this book is not by my wife, just by her shadow twin!A really awesome debut novel. I liked almost everything about it. The story is about Hero (short for Geronima), a Filipino woman who comes to Milpitas, CA, as an undocumented immigrant in the late '80s/early '90s. The title is a reference to "America is in the Heart," a memoir written by the Filipino immigrant Carlos Bulosan in 1946 (see my Goodreads review of same). For the most part, the story is quite understated. Despite the fact that No, this book is not by my wife, just by her shadow twin!A really awesome debut novel. I liked almost everything about it. The story is about Hero (short for Geronima), a Filipino woman who comes to Milpitas, CA, as an undocumented immigrant in the late '80s/early '90s. The title is a reference to "America is in the Heart," a memoir written by the Filipino immigrant Carlos Bulosan in 1946 (see my Goodreads review of same). For the most part, the story is quite understated. Despite the fact that the protagonist is literally a Communist bisexual undocumented immigrant, the story doesn't lean super hard on any of these things, and Castillo is definitely not going for an edgy vibe. It primarily revolves around the relationship of Hero with the relatives she moves in with, Paz and Pol, and especially, their young daughter Roni (also Geronima); as well as Hero's relationship with Rosalyn, a slightly younger Filipino-American woman. It's kind of a hang-out book; there is tons of people hanging out, mostly at Boy's BBQ, but also at a hair salon, at home, at parties, and driving around Milpitas. We get some flashbacks and exposition of Hero's time in the Philippines as part of a revolutionary Communist group, as well as in a prison camp, but I'm glad to say that Castillo doesn't do the typical MFA alternating-chapters parallel-stories thing. The book mostly stays with Hero in the "present."The book has a ton of Tagalog/Taglish in the dialog (as well as other Filipino languages), and Castillo doesn't do a ton to translate. Elise and I talked a fair amount about how the book would go over with audiences with no knowledge of Tagalog (I've picked up enough that I got maybe 80%). It was fun to read the Tagalog and also to see on display some of the mundane aspects of Filipino-American culture that I've been exposed to to some degree, which I've never seen in a novel before. I really appreciated that Castillo wrote in a lot about the distinctions drawn by Filipinos between various regional, ethnic, and linguistic groups, which makes it really clear how "Filipino-Americans" aren't just one thing. The references to the Hukbalahap revolutionaries and ongoing Communist resistance groups made me very motivated to learn more about this aspect of Filipino history, which I've always wondered about. Finally, the interplay of Catholicism and pagan Filipino traditions was really interesting too.Elise and I also talked at some length about the meaning of the title, and the intent of the reference to the Bulosan book. On the face of it, the books are pretty different. Bulosan focuses heavily on the very explicit racism and discrimination against Filipinos in early 20th century America, but ends the book talking about how he basically still loves America even so. In Castillo's book, racism and discrimination against Filipinos play almost no role, mostly because the book takes place almost entirely within the Filipino-American community in Milpitas. Unlike Bulosan, who comes to America for economic opportunity, Hero comes to America basically for political asylum (though this is informal), and has pretty dead-end economic prospects because of her undocumented status. It's clear throughout the book that Hero misses a lot about her life in the Philippines. By the end of the book she seems fairly happy, largely because of her relationships with Roni and Rosalyn. Ultimately, my interpretation (backed up by a short but pretty explicit passage in the book) is that the title is an anti-romanticism statement. Neither America, nor the Philippines, nor anywhere else is good in and of itself, something worth suffering and sacrificing for. That level of meaning only comes from the relationships we build with other people in those places. I found it to be a realist but hopeful statement--we can't simply expect happiness from our surroundings, but it's almost always available, though it may require being open to seeing it in different forms.Not quite five stars because some of the character and plot developments, especially toward the end, are a little rushed, and only Hero and Rosalyn feel like fully fleshed-out characters.
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  • Barbara VanDenburgh
    January 1, 1970
    "So you're a girl and you're poor, the worst combination, but at least you're light-skinned - that'll save you." Now that's just a great first line."America Is Not the Heart" is a book outside my comfort zone in many ways. It's a multi-generational immigrant family saga that begins in the politically fraught Philippines and ends in Milpitas, Calif. in the early 90s, where Hero de Vera arrives broken seemingly beyond repair after years of confinement and torture - and somehow begins to build a ne "So you're a girl and you're poor, the worst combination, but at least you're light-skinned - that'll save you." Now that's just a great first line."America Is Not the Heart" is a book outside my comfort zone in many ways. It's a multi-generational immigrant family saga that begins in the politically fraught Philippines and ends in Milpitas, Calif. in the early 90s, where Hero de Vera arrives broken seemingly beyond repair after years of confinement and torture - and somehow begins to build a new life. I'll be honest about my ignorance: I don't think I've ever read a book by a Filipino author before. And Castillo is merciless on non-Filipino readers, plunging us headfirst into the culture with no glossary to help us along the way, peppering the text with untranslated dialogue in several Filipino languages. It might be annoying to some readers, as it was to me initially; for the first 100 pages or so, I Googled everything I didn't understand. I eventually realized it was folly and just let the text carry me away, and I had a better experience for it.I'm also, well, kind of a prude. I like the Code-era Hollywood version of sex, where two characters closing a bedroom door on the camera telegraphs that they're gonna get it on. But Castillo is a raw, earthy writer, and she writes with an explicit honesty about food, bodies, sex, and in particular several graphic scenes of sex between two women - something I realized I've never read in a work of literature before (and I read a lot). I grew to appreciate it, much as I did the language. I am grateful to Castillo for taking me outside my comfort zone, and with such a quietly profound story of identity and healing in the wake of trauma."America Is Not the Heart" is not an easy book, and not one I always enjoyed while I was reading it. But it's one I'm glad to have read.
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  • Jaymee
    January 1, 1970
    Beautiful language, and commendable because despite the use of different Filipino dialects, I've seen a lot of foreigners reading and enjoying this. It's a good way of sharing the history and culture, but here's where the problem lies, at least for me. The historical narrative is a bit shallow, and the story between Hero and Rosalyn just dragged on; the tension was lost. In the end, I wasn't sure what this story was about. I'm not imposing that this be a historical fiction, but as it gave a few Beautiful language, and commendable because despite the use of different Filipino dialects, I've seen a lot of foreigners reading and enjoying this. It's a good way of sharing the history and culture, but here's where the problem lies, at least for me. The historical narrative is a bit shallow, and the story between Hero and Rosalyn just dragged on; the tension was lost. In the end, I wasn't sure what this story was about. I'm not imposing that this be a historical fiction, but as it gave a few hints, I naturally expected something along those lines. I did like the character exploration of Hero, but like the other things in this book, I wish it yielded more. The ending for me was a disappointment; the usual rushed and tacked-on, but my biggest problem with this book is the ungrammatical sentences in Filipino!!! I wish this were a tight 200+ paged book instead of the long-winded 400.
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  • Gwynne
    January 1, 1970
    I've read hundreds of books, but this is the first time I've ever read a book with characters that more or less represented who I am -- not just the basic Filipino, but a Pangasinense.
  • Laura
    January 1, 1970
    I loved this book so much and was completely immersed in the story each time I picked it up. Set during the 80’s and 90’s this novel follows the lives of Paz, Hero and Roni. There is a whole host of supporting characters: Pol, Rosalyn, Adela and Jamie to name a few, who really help to bring the story to life, but the three female leads are the glue that hold it all together. Paz, whose determination to never be poor again and to always be the one that is able to financially help her family, driv I loved this book so much and was completely immersed in the story each time I picked it up. Set during the 80’s and 90’s this novel follows the lives of Paz, Hero and Roni. There is a whole host of supporting characters: Pol, Rosalyn, Adela and Jamie to name a few, who really help to bring the story to life, but the three female leads are the glue that hold it all together. Paz, whose determination to never be poor again and to always be the one that is able to financially help her family, drives herself to work all hours to make this money. In so doing, she inadvertentlydistances herself from her daughter Roni, is never there to look after Roni and this in turn causes Roni to suffer from terrible, stress-induced Eczema. Hero arrives in the US, with no papers, to live with Paz, Pol and Roni and in return for their financial support and hospitality she becomes Roni’s carer and companion. Throughout the novel, these three characters develop and change and it is told in such a beautiful way, every word seems perfect and considered. Roni, who at first is angry and anxious, develops a beautiful friendship with Hero. She finds a place where she feels loved in Adela’s restaurant and she heals and blossoms into a lovely, affectionate child. Paz, by the end, has discovered that she has focused on the wrong things, she discovers a need and desire to mend and build her relationship with her daughter. As for Hero, broken and damaged Hero, who arrives in Milpitas, she grows stronger, she faces her past which is revealed, slowly, bit by bit, to us the readers, and Rosalyn. As we discover her past we begin to understand her and she begins to let down her walls. The relationship which grows between Hero and Rosalyn, despite the weight of Hero’s past, is strong and beautiful and is one I will hold on to forever.Along with Hero’s past I discovered a history of the Philippines and America I had previously known nothing about. The civil war in the Philippines, the volcanic eruption in Pinatubo and the mass immigration from the Philippines to the US are just some of the things I took to the internet to learn more about and better my understanding. Another thing that I adore about this book is the Spotify soundtrack that is available to listen to alongside the novel. Unfortunately, I discovered it too late to listen to while reading, but I have since taken advantage and I can say that it is fun to listen to the songs listened to, mentioned and loved by Hero.What a start to 2018! I love it when an author lets you become so intimately involved with their characters. I feel like I want to know more, did Hero and Rosalyn move their relationship forward? Did Paz and Roni become more comfortable around each other and build their relationship after Pol’s failed attempt to move Roni back to the Philippines? What a book, I have a feeling Hero will stay with me for a very long time!
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  • Ellen
    January 1, 1970
    Four to even 4.5 stars overall, in its own way. This was a challenging book for me, with many words and phrases left untranslated, and not much plot driving the story forward. But, despite all that I really liked the author’s style, the characters, and the great dealof knowledge I gained about Filipino culture. The queer love story was a surprise, and a welcome one. Although there were parts where my attention wandered, the last 10% of the book really beautifully tied everything together. I woul Four to even 4.5 stars overall, in its own way. This was a challenging book for me, with many words and phrases left untranslated, and not much plot driving the story forward. But, despite all that I really liked the author’s style, the characters, and the great dealof knowledge I gained about Filipino culture. The queer love story was a surprise, and a welcome one. Although there were parts where my attention wandered, the last 10% of the book really beautifully tied everything together. I would love to spend more time with these characters!
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  • Rory Dela
    January 1, 1970
    "So you're a girl and you're poor, but at least you're light skinned - that'll save you." - An opening sentence that might as well have described my mom. A very well written book that smacks of familiarity for those of us who grew up under Marcos' Martial Law and managed to immigrate to the US in the late 80s. The book has richly painted characters and I had to keep turning the page to see how they fared. I'm glad I read the book and I can't wait for the next one from Elaine Castillo.
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  • Anna
    January 1, 1970
    I received this ARC from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.A poignant story about sacrificing for you family and losing yourself and them in the process. Specifically focuses on 3 women but the cast encompasses the entire extended families. In many ways, an immigrant/ mother-daughter story.Paz works numerous nursing jobs to provide for her family and extended family. Having grown up poor, she never wants to live through that again and she doesn't want her family to have to live through I received this ARC from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.A poignant story about sacrificing for you family and losing yourself and them in the process. Specifically focuses on 3 women but the cast encompasses the entire extended families. In many ways, an immigrant/ mother-daughter story.Paz works numerous nursing jobs to provide for her family and extended family. Having grown up poor, she never wants to live through that again and she doesn't want her family to have to live through that either. We look at how these actions have impacted her relationship with her family, specifically her daughter, and how a niece coming to live with them affects the situation.It's a beautifully written story with shifting narratives. We switch between the past and the present from the points of views of a few characters. There's a lot of historical information about the Philippines thrown in throughout, and it shows how everything in the Philippines affected the lives of the characters and what they have become. This book also touches on the Filipino-American experience and the important role nursing played on immigration.It goes into great length depicting how and why characters are the way they are, and the interactions that really helped "make" the person they become. You slowly see characters come to harsh realizations (or gentle understandings) of themselves and those around them.I do think some of the ping ponging in terms of time lines and story telling lead to some confusion for me. But America is not the Heart has a lot of heart and is well worth a read.
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  • Mainlinebooker
    January 1, 1970
    For fans of third world literature, you might want to dive into this novel for there seems to be a void of Filipino novels. It opened up a world that I was not familiar with as it broached the immigrant experience, the horrors of insurgencies and conflict, familial ties, and also lesbian relationships. This is a multigenerational saga filled with many characters but chiefly Paz, the nurse who has settled in the Bay area with her husband, Pol,who formerly a surgeon but now acted as a security gua For fans of third world literature, you might want to dive into this novel for there seems to be a void of Filipino novels. It opened up a world that I was not familiar with as it broached the immigrant experience, the horrors of insurgencies and conflict, familial ties, and also lesbian relationships. This is a multigenerational saga filled with many characters but chiefly Paz, the nurse who has settled in the Bay area with her husband, Pol,who formerly a surgeon but now acted as a security guard in this new environment. Pol's niece, Hero, who was studying to be a doctor in the Philippines, got caught up in the revolutionary fervor, was disowned by her parents and then suffered costly injuries at the hands of the enemies. She was offered sanctuary at Pol and Paz's home with no questions asked. The rest of the book focuses on the interfamilial relationships, the secrecies, the sacrifices made in the name of family and Hero's blossoming relationship with Roslyn. The fierce but tender relationship with Roslyn and Hero created a beautiful visual scene of two women finally allowing themselves to be true to their own selves .Admittedly, I am conflicted about the book. I kept wanting to read it and figure out how this family would survive but I found myself irked at the Tagalog and Philippine words and sentences used heavily throughout the novel that were presented without explanation. The author might have thought this made it more authentic but for the average reader it was only frustrating and distracting.
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  • Linda Robinson
    January 1, 1970
    Strongest female writing voice I've read in a very long time. Powerful, sonic boom writing. I was lucky to read this in one day - underslept but engaged throughout, so I had no chance to lose track of an excellent storytelling session. It's not an easy read. Castillo doesn't use quotation marks when people are talking. The POV is odd - "so you are the eldest daughter and eldest child. You live in..." There are 4 languages, phrases of each used throughout that are not translated. There is a chara Strongest female writing voice I've read in a very long time. Powerful, sonic boom writing. I was lucky to read this in one day - underslept but engaged throughout, so I had no chance to lose track of an excellent storytelling session. It's not an easy read. Castillo doesn't use quotation marks when people are talking. The POV is odd - "so you are the eldest daughter and eldest child. You live in..." There are 4 languages, phrases of each used throughout that are not translated. There is a character named Ruby we do not meet, but she does translations, and I wanted to hire her. Except. Except. I've not spent that much time with a book looking for clues as to what the phrase means in the context of the action. Maybe ever. Smart capture, Castillo. Another less mighty author, I'd have this back unfinished. The women are strong, and when they are weak, we understand that weakness. Roni is my new 7 year old idol. Hero, Teresa, Amihan, Rosalyn, Jaime, Adela, Lolo Boy (who doesn't talk much, but what a presence), Pol, Paz are marvelous characters. The characters we don't meet, but enjoy disliking or admiring as required, are extra ingredients in the savory dish. Thanks, Castillo, for getting my focus and keeping it. Thanks for the storytelling.
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  • Jaclyn
    January 1, 1970
    Elaine Castillo is a fresh and welcome new voice to Filipino immigrant fiction. I loved the Filipino touches throughout the story -- the sprinkling of Tagalog and Ilocano, the obsession with pancit and Pinoy-style BBQ, and all the talk about faith healing and the power of brujas to heal things like eczema. There are some great passages about Filipino folklore -- the white lady of Balete drive, the consequences of a supernatural being (I can't remember which one Castillo referenced) falling in lo Elaine Castillo is a fresh and welcome new voice to Filipino immigrant fiction. I loved the Filipino touches throughout the story -- the sprinkling of Tagalog and Ilocano, the obsession with pancit and Pinoy-style BBQ, and all the talk about faith healing and the power of brujas to heal things like eczema. There are some great passages about Filipino folklore -- the white lady of Balete drive, the consequences of a supernatural being (I can't remember which one Castillo referenced) falling in love with you and not wanting to let you go. There are also all-too-real depictions of Filipino gatherings, and the oddly instantaneous sense of closeness when Filipinos encounter each other abroad -- from a grandmother figure tactlessly discussing Roni's eczema in front of everyone to a complete stranger asking Hero about the condition of her hand.Major kudos as well to the audiobook narrator (Donnabella Martel), who really brought the story to life. From other Goodreads reviews, I learned the text version of the book doesn't use quotation marks, which often pulls me from the story and particularly when the story is this long. So I was glad to have her voice clearly distinguishing between characters for me. I'm also often wary of how non-native Filipino speakers pronounce Tagalog words, so I'm really happy that Martel did a good job overall with the accents. Like many other Goodreads reviewers, I had been captivated by Paz's story in the beginning, so it was a bit of a disappointment to realize she's not the actual protagonist of the book. I was glad to see her play a prominent role again near the end, and wish I'd seen more of her throughout. She was probably the most compelling character to me, and so often, like Hero, I wanted so badly for her to fight Pol and win. (No spoilers, but basically he does something I find unforgiveable later in the book, and due to the power of his family, Paz is relatively helpless to fight back.)Even while I wanted more of Paz, I also found Hero to be a compelling heroine. I loved her love story with Rosalyn, and I also enjoyed reading about her experiences as a doctor with the New People's Army (NPA), a militant Filipino communist group. I rarely see the NPA featured in Filipino fiction, much less in such a sympathetic light, so it was interesting to read.Roni, as the American-born daughter of Paz and Pol and cousin of Hero, is fascinating to me mostly because of what she represents. There's a great line early in Paz's portion of the book that reads: "She (Roni) doesn't have to love America; she's of it." (7%)And it's so incredibly true. For immigrants like Paz, Pol and Hero, who struggle between their longing for home in the Philippines and their desire to make a home in America, there's almost a requirement to become super-American. To love America so much that no one can question your right to be here. It's a very familiar feeling to me as an immigrant -- much as I sincerely love Canada, there was also a touch of the performative in my love for the country at the beginning, almost like I felt I needed to prove my worth to become Canadian. So that line about Roni being of America and therefore not being required to love it really resonated with me, and so much kudos to Elaine Castillo for capturing this complex feeling so succinctly.There are so many similarly brilliant gems throughout the book -- Hero's observation that Rosalyn's world in Milpitas is primarily Asian people and places, Roni's story of her classmates calling Filipinos "more Mexican than Asian" -- that beautifully capture various aspects of Filipino immigrant experiences. It's a wonderful book, and I highly recommend it, ideally with a bowl of pancit and a stick of Pinoy BBQ by your side
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  • Terry
    January 1, 1970
    Here’s a review that will tell you something about the book: https://www.theguardian.com/books/201....Here’s what a novel in which the central character is named Hero made me think about. What are we to make of Hero, herself, with a name like that, if anything more than what we take from the story itself on the surface and in depth. Sure, it’s a nickname, but not one too far from its source: Geronima.Literature is full of heroes, but not Heroes. Ours is feminine, though, which, if we played it t Here’s a review that will tell you something about the book: https://www.theguardian.com/books/201....Here’s what a novel in which the central character is named Hero made me think about. What are we to make of Hero, herself, with a name like that, if anything more than what we take from the story itself on the surface and in depth. Sure, it’s a nickname, but not one too far from its source: Geronima.Literature is full of heroes, but not Heroes. Ours is feminine, though, which, if we played it through the latinate inflected range might make of her a Hera [goddess of women, marriage, family, and childbirth in Ancient Greek religion and myth]. But no. Castillo has given us Hero.A hero (masculine), says wikipedia, or heroine (feminine) is a person or main character of a literary work who, in the face of danger, combats adversity through feats of ingenuity, bravery or strength; the original hero type of classical epics did such things for the sake of glory and honor. On the hand are Medieval and modern heroes, who perform great deeds for the common good instead of the classical goal of pride and fame.The concept of the hero can be found in classical literature. It is the main or revered character in heroic epic poetry celebrated through ancient legends of a people, often striving for military conquest and living by a continually flawed personal honor code. The definition of a hero has changed throughout time. Merriam Webster dictionary defines a hero as "a person who is admired for great or brave acts or fine qualities." Examples of heroes range from mythological figures, such as Gilgamesh, Achilles and Iphigenia, to historical figures, such as Joan of Arc, modern heroes like Alvin York, Audie Murphy and Chuck Yeager, and fictional superheroes, including Superman and Batman.In literature, we are wont to divide our heroes by type: romantic, tragic, folk hero, cult hero, social-realist hero, and so on, depending on the literary genre. In the language (Mescalero-Chiricahua) from which the name Geronimo derives, it means "the one who yawns". But at least one naming sight on the web [http://www.name-doctor.com/name-geron...] has it thatGeronima derives from the Greek “Hīerṓnumos (Ῑ̔ερώνυμος)”, composed of two elements: “hierós (ἱερός)” (connected with the gods, supernatural, holy, sacred, consecrated, under divine protection) plus “ónoma (ὄνομᾰ)” (name). In turn the name means “sacred name”.So, like Hieronymos Bosch, the artist. The other “fact” we glean from the web is that Geronima is far from a common name. Though in this novel there are at least three women from the same family who carry the name. One is our Hero, one is her cousin Roni, and the other is Hero’s grandmother, Geronima.I’m not persuaded that the hiero in Hero is all that different from the Geronimo that may inhere there, too. And this is a story about language. The words and phrases from Tagalog and Ilocano dance across the pages, and the infusions from Spanish are obvious. It’s a story about how language, and naming as a function of language, has a big role in making us who we are. I’m still pondering just what sort of hero our Hero is. It’s not terribly important in the grand scheme of things. I’m not worrying it like a bone. Just considering the possibilities. Good stories let us have that. The long dwell after we’ve read.
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  • Andrea Lechner-Becker
    January 1, 1970
    Slightly different version posted here: http://andrealechnerbecker.com/book-r... This story is about Hero, a woman in her early thirties, who, given the genre will better understand herself throughout the novel. Ms. Castillo’s writing is so crushingly beautiful and annoyingly effortless feeling (that comes from a writer - I was literally sitting there like, FUCK. I wish these words sprang from me) that it’s a delight to read. There’s this weird out-of-place ghost story that ends with, “Tragedy c Slightly different version posted here: http://andrealechnerbecker.com/book-r... This story is about Hero, a woman in her early thirties, who, given the genre will better understand herself throughout the novel. Ms. Castillo’s writing is so crushingly beautiful and annoyingly effortless feeling (that comes from a writer - I was literally sitting there like, FUCK. I wish these words sprang from me) that it’s a delight to read. There’s this weird out-of-place ghost story that ends with, “Tragedy could be unsensational.” I was trying to place the need for that tale until that last sentence, which got me to a place of considering this sentiment as it relates to Hero… Hero’s life wasn’t easy. Tragedy actually feels like too kind a word for the horrors Hero experienced and it certainly WAS sensational. So impactful and painful, she tends to think of her life as separate lives. She was one person with one life as a child and then a different person with a different life. But this shell of a person who existed to survive, who experienced such great loss shifts slightly throughout the book. She doesn’t transform in some fairytale BS way, some unrealistic and unrelateable way. She just shifts slightly and it’s done spectacularly. In her introspection, she admits insights that are not only beautifully done, but so, so, so profound: "There was a feeling in Hero’s chest she’d felt vaguely before, but had never thought to poke at, knowing instinctively that to let it lie would be better. Now she knew the feeling was—hate. Just a tiny, tiny hate, humble and missable, heavy as lead, nothing in comparison to the true affection she knew she felt for the girl, the everyday devotion she’d been consecrating to her since the moment they met. Just a tiny, tiny hate, circulating through her blood, occasionally reaching the heart, then passing out again. It was that tiny hate that spoke in her when Hero thought to herself what a formidable thing it was, what a terror, really a girl who was loved from the very beginning." “The girl” in that paragraph is a child whom Hero cares for. Ms. Castillo doesn’t use the word jealous. Doesn’t use the word resentful, dislike, sad, envy, grudge… no, hate. Humble and missable hate. So good.So why isn’t this 5 stars? Well, first, if I hadn’t read this for a book club, I would’ve put it down after the first few pages in SECOND PERSON. Oh man, do I HATE second person. “You” is a four letter word for me and I found it SOOOOOO annoying. There’s another “you” spout in the middle to give the perspective of Rosalyn (Hero’s love interest). I get it. I just really don’t like the approach. It felt, I dunno, gimmicky maybe? My other issue was the use of language. The different dialects of the Philippines were used throughout. I LOVED when Ms. Castillo explained a word like tabungaw, which was described as “a gentle rebuke, a way of turning a hardass over to expose her underbelly, remind her of her thin-furred and woundable parts.” That’s awesome, and now I understand tabungaw for the rest of the book. That’s good. But during the first sections of the novel, that doesn’t happen and I found it extreeeeeeemely frustrating. Now, could one argue that the author intended for readers to feel like fish out of water so that we FEEEEEEL what the characters as immigrants with so many different dialects feel? Suuuure. But it’s annoying. I’m your reader. Don’t annoy me please, not on purpose. Please? SO, those two issues for me were enough to reduce it to four stars. But maaaan, I loved this book. I loved how Ms. Castillo brought us into this world. Her dialogue is superb (although doesn’t use quotation marks, which was done VERY well and not at all distracting, unless you’re reading as a writer and more interested in sentence structure than a typical reader). I feel like if I heard any of these characters talking in a restaurant near me, I’d be like, “Hey, is that Hero?” And, daaaaaaym those sex scenes. They are fire.
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