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America Is Not the Heart
Cover of America Is Not the Heart
America Is Not the Heart
A Novel
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Named one of the best books of 2018 by NPR, Real Simple, Lit Hub, The Boston Globe, San Francisco Chronicle, The New York Post, Kirkus Reviews, and The New York Public Library "A saga rich with...
Named one of the best books of 2018 by NPR, Real Simple, Lit Hub, The Boston Globe, San Francisco Chronicle, The New York Post, Kirkus Reviews, and The New York Public Library "A saga rich with...
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Description-

  • Named one of the best books of 2018 by NPR, Real Simple, Lit Hub, The Boston Globe, San Francisco Chronicle, The New York Post, Kirkus Reviews, and The New York Public Library 
    "A saga rich with origin myths, national and personal . . . Castillo is part of a younger generation of American writers instilling literature with a layered sense of identity." —Vogue
    How many lives fit in a lifetime?

    When Hero De Vera arrives in America—haunted by the political upheaval in the Philippines and disowned by her parents—she's already on her third. Her uncle gives her a fresh start in the Bay Area, and he doesn't ask about her past. His younger wife knows enough about the might and secrecy of the De Vera family to keep her head down. But their daughter—the first American-born daughter in the family—can't resist asking Hero about her damaged hands.
    An increasingly relevant story told with startling lucidity, humor, and an uncanny ear for the intimacies and shorthand of family ritual, America Is Not the Heart is a sprawling, soulful debut about three generations of women in one family struggling to balance the promise of the American dream and the unshakeable grip of history. With exuberance, grit, and sly tenderness, here is a family saga; an origin story; a romance; a narrative of two nations and the people who leave one home to grasp at another.

Excerpts-

  • From the cover After the cake, after the singing, after the offering of presents that would only be opened at home, they kept with tradition for the first dance: Roni and Pol took the floor. The live band was made up of four Filipino men, bakla, all dressed in barong tagalogs. They were jokingly calling themselves Mabuhok Singers. The song they started playing was one Hero recognized from some of the karaoke nights at the restaurant, Jose Mari Chan’s Beautiful Girl.

    Coooooorrrny, Rosalyn said, seated across from Hero at a table near the back, but the smile on her face was real.

    It’d been so long since her seventh birthday; Hero couldn’t remember if she, like Roni, had danced with her father alone on some dance floor, or one of the inner courtyards of the De Vera house, to some terrible love song, popular at the time, forgettable forever if not for having been chosen for this moment. Pol had one hand on Roni’s shoulder, one hand tucking stray hairs behind her ear, even though earlier in the evening Janelle and Rochelle had made a point of shellacking her ponytail with hairspray, Rochelle covering her eyes to shield her from the mist.

    Hero watched Roni throw her arms around her father’s waist, settling her face snug against his belly, blissful, not even bothering to do anything more than hug him and sway. She had a thought, then, sudden as a knife between the ribs: for all she knew, Teresa, Eddie and Amihan were dead, while she was still alive. Sitting in a community center hall in Milpitas, watching her cousin turn eight years old. That this could be the actual condition of the world—a world in which there was still corny music, lechon kawali, heavy but passing rain, televised sports, yearly holidays, caring families, requited love—seemed to Hero a joke of such surreal proportions the only conclusion she could make of it in the end was that it wasn’t a joke at all; and if it wasn’t a joke, and it wasn’t a dream, that meant it was just. Real life. Ordinary life.

    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 what the feeling was—hate. Just a tiny, tiny hate, humble and missable, heavy as lead, nothing in comparison to the 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.

    Then she heard it back, the sound of her own thought, like someone was replaying it through a loudspeaker, lingering on each word, making the playback count. Disgust surged up within her so fast she felt herself dry-heaving, her hand closed in a limp fist on her lap, and when a voice in her head spoke up to admonish her, the voice wasn’t her own. Jealous of a kid, donya, really?

    The lead singer was crooning, I just knew that I’d love again after a long, long while—

About the Author-

  • ELAINE CASTILLO was born in the San Francisco Bay Area and now lives in southeast London. She is a graduate of the University of California, Berkeley and received her MA in Creative & Life Writing from Goldsmiths College, University of London, where she was shortlisted for the Pat Kavanagh Award. She is a Pushcart Prize nominee, a Gatewood Prize semi-finalist, and three-time winner of the Roselyn Schneider Eisner Prize for prose. America Isn't the Heart is her first novel.

Reviews-

  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from January 1, 2018
    Castillo’s debut, a contemporary saga of an extended Filipino family, is a wonderful, nonpareil novel. It opens with Paz, a long-suffering nurse from Vigan who, having immigrated to Milpitas, Calif., shoulders much of the responsibility for her entire family. Her husband, Pol, a member of the De Vera family in the Philippines and once a successful surgeon, had to flee due to political turmoil and take a job as a security guard in the U.S. When their niece Hero arrives, they take her in, and she leads the rest of the story. Hero is burdened with a disturbing political past that she silently carries with her as she spends her days driving Paz and Pol’s daughter, Roni, to school and to the faith healers that Paz finds to treat Roni’s eczema. Both Hero and Pol struggle to define themselves. While Hero cautiously tries out new friends and lovers of all ilks—most notably a makeup artist named Rosalyn—Pol’s crisis of identity will send him on a journey with Roni that threatens the tenuous American roots Paz has worked so hard to put down for the family. Castillo uses multiple languages—Tagalog, Pangasinan, Ilocano—and the strangest of tenses, hopping around in time and among her characters’ heads; that taking all of these risks pays off is a remarkable feat. The result is a brilliant and intensely moving immigrant tale. Agent: Emma Paterson, Rogers, Coleridge & White.

  • AudioFile Magazine This is not your typical coming-of-age story. Hero De Vera arrives in America with mangled hands and a checkered family history. She's been disowned by her parents and is disoriented by her new surroundings, a plight that listeners will empathize with. Narrator Donnabella Mortel characterizes the mostly Filipino characters in this story of immigrant hopes and dreams with a punchy delivery and high energy. Hero's pluckiness is enhanced by Mortel, as are the personalities of the colorful aunts, uncles, and neighbors that make up her new community. Mortel dramatizes their roots without exploiting their status as foreigners. Her immersive performance places the listener within a multigenerational culture that is striving to make good on the American dream. M.R. � AudioFile 2018, Portland, Maine

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Elaine Castillo
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