Feature Image Credit: @npreads
American history should be a history for all people—but when you grow up in a setting whose history isn’t necessarily your own, embracing your culture and showing the world who you are becomes crucial. So, this October and every, we recognize Filipino American Heritage Month, a movement inspired by Dr. Fred Cordova, an activist who wrote the book Filipinos: Forgotten Asian Americans. To celebrate, we’ve rounded up titles that address love, race, culture, gender, the hardships and triumphs of the Filipino American community. Take a look at our must-read books by Fil-Am authors.
You, Me, U.S. by Brigitte Bautista
Jo and Liza are two best friends who lead different lives but remain friends, nonetheless. While Jo’s job includes an affair with a married woman, she still takes things one day at a time. Liza, on the other hand, has all of her plans laid out: she wants to marry a handsome American man and move her family out of the Philippines into the U.S. When Liza finally meets a man who proposes, all of her dreams are in sight. There’s just one problem. She never considered the possibility that she’d develop romantic and sexual feelings for her best friend, Jo. Now the two need to decide: should they take a risk and explore their feelings, or continue with the lives they always thought they wanted?
More Than Organs by Kay Ulanday Barrett
A collection of poems that remind Brown, Queer, and Trans individuals that they are more than the labels people impose on them. In this book Barrett creates stories that wonder: what the last words of the legendary Filipino warrior princess Urduja would be, or intimacy in a post-apocalypse but also stories grounded in a reality that is cruel, harsh and filled with equal amounts of grief and love.
America Is Not the Heart by Elaine Castillo
Hero De Vera is on the run for a new home. The political upheaval in the Philippines and the recent shun from her parents has her seeking life in America with her uncle and his wife. Hero’s life up until now wasn’t easy. Living in California seems to be her fresh start. Her job at the restaurant keeps her busy, so she doesn’t have to think about the past. She also doesn’t mind babysitting her cousin when her uncle requires it, and talking to her new crush Rosalyn. Slowly she begins to open up to Rosalyn, and through their conversations, readers learn about her broken thumbs, her time as a doctor working for a revolutionary group, the wealth she experienced in the Philippines, and her journey to America.
In the Country by Mia Alvar
Teachers, pharmacists, migrant workers, nomads, and exiles make up the nine stories Mia Alva tells, and each one reveals the Philippine experience as they travel across the world to find new places to call home. Some travel to the United States, some to the Middle East, some leave only to return shortly after. But through it all is a universal feeling of displacement, longing, and a need to connect.
Insurrecto by Gina Apostol
On a road trip to write and create a film about the Philippine-American War, specifically a massacre that took place, Magsalin, a Filipino writer and translator, and Chiara, a U.S. filmmaker, are constantly butting heads. The two find themselves seeing the truth about history from different viewpoints and ultimately writing two contrasting versions of a history untold. But, overall, their journey uncovers the heart and truth of a forgotten war that shaped the history and relationship between nation and country.
Ambuscade by Brian Ascalon Roley
Brian Roley transports readers into a world filled with pain, grief, and the coping mechanism of a father who receives life-altering news. Diagnosed with a mitochondrial disease, the father must watch as his son grows disabled and needs a permanent wheelchair. Sadness, rage and love intertwine this story between father and son living in California and learning to live a new normal.
The Groom Will Keep His Name by Matt Ortile
Matt Ortile was 12 when he came to the U.S. with his family. Right away, he learned to downplay his Filipino identity. His memoir The Groom Will Keep His Name captures those moments during his youth up to his adult life where he marries a white American man. Matt, through his journey, creates myths about how his life should be. He highlights his experience with loneliness, his sexuality, his constant doubt over his real identity, and what it means to be a gay immigrant, fighting with growing in America, trying to build a life in New York.
The Ruin of Everything by Lara Stapleton
This collection of nine short stories center around abandoned children stuck inside adult bodies, bi-racial half-siblings, immigrant tales, the glamour of Hollywood, and orphans raised by aunts. Stapleton gives the reader tales of hope, sorrow and mourning that make us all think about what it truly means to be American.
In a Book Club Far Away by Tif Marcelo
Three Army wives, Adelaide Wilson-Chang, Sophie Walden, and Regina Castro, who bonded during a book club for military wives, will reunite after nearly a decade of silence. Adelaide, who’s preparing for gallbladder surgery, plots to reconcile with Sophie, an African American nurse, and Regina Castro, a Filipina caterer. With no one to watch Adelaide’s two-year-old daughter, the two other women set aside their feelings to watch the young child. Now that they are in person, can the three women reconcile their past hurts and save the future of their friendship.
The Queen’s Assassin by Melissa de la Cruz
Shadow, a lady of the palace, wants nothing more than to go on adventures and train to be an assassin. However, her mother and aunts want her to be a proper lady and find a suitor to marry. Caledon Holt, the Queen’s deadliest assassin, is sent away for a crime he did not commit. Bound to the Queen’s side, Cal struggles to break his vow and leave his trapped existence. When he meets Shadow, his life is one step closer to freedom—but first, he must team up with her to save their kingdom. Going undercover together as an assassin and apprentice and infiltrating their neighboring kingdom has its challenges, as Cal and Shadow must learn to ignore the tension and the growing attraction they feel if they are to find the root of evil that’s out to destroy them.