10 Filipino Authors I Recommend

Filipino-authored books you must read (Photo by Barbara Jane Reyes)

Here’s a list of ten Filipino-authored books that I think are interesting and worthwhile reads. I teach some of these authors' works, and it's always a joy to see young Filipino Americans become aware of the rich and varied traditions from which our community writes.

Filipinos write from rich and varied traditions.

Elynia S. Mabanglo, Invitation of the Imperialist    

Elynia S. Mabanglo, Invitation of the Imperialist. A beautiful and devastating, continually relevant, bilingual collection of poetry. This collection’s span is historically and geographically far-reaching. (LINK)

   

Merlinda C. Bobis, Cantata of the Warrior Woman, Daragang Magayon: An Epic 

Merlinda C. Bobis, Cantata of the Warrior Woman, Daragang Magayon: An Epic. I think more of us should be writing (rewriting) epic, recasting feminist versions of our old stories, as Australia-based Filipina author Merlinda Bobis has in this bilingual volume.  (LINK)

   

Dean Francis Alfar, The Kite of Stars and Other Stories 

Dean Francis Alfar, The Kite of Stars and Other Stories. I simply adore this book of speculative fiction; but do not let genre deter you, if speculative fiction is not your thing. These stories are elaborate and lush, magical and unafraid of formal experimentation. Ultimately, The Kite of Stars is fantastic storytelling. (LINK)

     

Ninotchka Rosca, Sugar & Salt

Ninotchka Rosca, Sugar & Salt. Contained in this wonderfully illustrated little book is a big story, a modern fable about Filipina women’s wisdom and resilience. (LINK)

     

Melinda L. de Jesus (Ed.), Pinay Power: Peminist Critical Theory

Melinda L. de Jesus (Ed.), Pinay Power: Peminist Critical Theory. This might be the first of its kind published in the U.S., an entire volume of Filipina-authored academic and personal non-fiction writings, about self, history, body and the arts. (LINK)

 

E. San Juan, Jr. (Ed.), On Becoming Filipino: Selected Writings of Carlos Bulosan

E. San Juan, Jr. (Ed.), On Becoming Filipino: Selected Writings of Carlos Bulosan. By far my favorite writings of Bulosan, this volume is a very well-considered compilation of his stories, poetry, essays and letters. Reading his own words (and not the sentimental and oversimplified things written about him), we come to understand well his writing process, political beliefs and his anger. (LINK)

   

Luis Francia, Eye of the Fish 

Luis Francia, Eye of the Fish. This is a powerhouse of a memoir, in which Francia goes deep into the country from which he emigrated. I admire his keen journalistic eye and his commitment to memory and experience. (LINK)

   

Doreen G. Fernandez, Tikim: Essays on Philippine Food and Culture

Doreen G. Fernandez, Tikim: Essays on Philippine Food and Culture. This is a wonderful and informative collection of essays and columns of Philippine food ways throughout history, from pre-Hispanic times, through colonialism, into the contemporary mash-up of culture and commerce, privilege and poverty. Yes, it is a food book that takes us all much deeper than simple nostalgia. (LINK)

   

Wilfrido D. Nolledo, But for the Lovers

Wilfrido D. Nolledo, But for the Lovers. By far, one of the most challenging reads I’ve ever encountered, this novel is extraordinary, dense and well worth your effort. Pick up this book and try to read it as many times as you need, if only to know and experience the literary capabilities of the Filipino writer in the world. (LINK)

   

Denise Cruz (Ed.), The Crucible: An Autobiography by Colonel Yay, Filipina American Guerrilla Yay Panlilio

Denise Cruz (Ed.), The Crucible: An Autobiography by Colonel Yay, Filipina American Guerrilla Yay Panlilio. A gem of a find. Originally published in 1950, this memoir by the Filipina American woman journalist who became a guerrilla army colonel during WWII fell into obscurity for the past half a century. “I wrote into my column advice for the women: ‘Let your children look back and remember how their mothers faced the war’.” And this is exactly why this book is important. (LINK)

 
 Barbara Jane Reyes  (Photo by Peter Dressel)

Barbara Jane Reyes (Photo by Peter Dressel)

Barbara Jane Reyes is the author of Diwata (BOA Editions, Ltd., 2010), winner of the Global Filipino Literary Award for Poetry and a finalist for the California Book Award. Born in Manila, raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, she is the author of two previous collections of poetry, Gravities of Center (Arkipelago Books, 2003) and Poeta en San Francisco (Tinfish Press, 2005), which received the James Laughlin Award of the Academy of American Poets. Reyes teaches Philippine and Filipino American Literature in the Yuchengco Philippine Studies Program at University of San Francisco, and at San Francisco State University.