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
ReleaseApr 3rd, 2018
PublisherViking
ISBN-139780735222410
Rating
GenreFiction, Historical, Historical Fiction, Cultural, Literary Fiction, Novels, Womens, Family, Contemporary, American, American Fiction

America Is Not the Heart Review

  • 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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  • Justine (Pep In Your Step)
    January 1, 1970
    A BOOK ABOUT THE FILIPINO EXPERIENCE???I am SO excited to read this because I am first generation Filipino living in the Bay Area, California. I have yet to read a book about migrating to the U.S. from the Philippines. I've actually yet to read anything about Filipinos, period. This sounds like something I can ask my mom about while reading because she also escaped the Philippines and ended up in the Bay Area of California (where we now live) by becoming a nurse.I actually made it a point to loo A BOOK ABOUT THE FILIPINO EXPERIENCE???I am SO excited to read this because I am first generation Filipino living in the Bay Area, California. I have yet to read a book about migrating to the U.S. from the Philippines. I've actually yet to read anything about Filipinos, period. This sounds like something I can ask my mom about while reading because she also escaped the Philippines and ended up in the Bay Area of California (where we now live) by becoming a nurse.I actually made it a point to look at GR lists for Filipino authors because I was feeling a little misrepresented haha. I can't WAIT for this!
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  • 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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  • 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.
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  • Misha
    January 1, 1970
    Debut novel by a Filipino American author featuring a queer female lead character. There is a remove to Hero De Vera's story, her involvement with the resistance movement in her home country, and her relationships with her family that made this book feel like more of a slog than it should have. A fascinating character study revealing the hard truths that immigrant families face, but overall not as direct or emotionally involving as I had hoped.
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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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  • S
    January 1, 1970
    Very excited to read this book. Review to come.
  • Veronica Erb
    January 1, 1970
    HT: Roxane Gay’s Instagram feed, Dec 17-18, 2017. https://instagram.com/p/Bc2npm6FU7g/
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