PHOTO CREDIT: Amaal Said via The Guardian

Filipino author Elaine Castillo’s debut novel about Filipino migrants living in America has earned a rave review from London’s The Guardian which described it as a “blazingly fearless debut novel.”

“America Is Not the Heart,” recently recommended by Asian Journal as one of the top 5 Fil-Am books, is the story about Hero – a woman with broken thumbs who works in a restaurant and babysits and lives in Milpitas, San Jose, California. The story reveals the harrowing long journey from a privileged life in the Philippines, to joining a rebel group as a doctor, captured, tortured and getting a chance to live a life in America.

The Guardian’s review talks about how the “hugely talented Castillo” probes the question of whether such a profoundly traumatic past ever really be redeemed by love?

Benjamin Evans writes:

“For a Filipino generation who spent their lives ‘dreaming of America, singing its lyrics’ the hardships of settling in their adoptive country are powerfully voiced here: ‘As for loving America or not loving America, these aren’t your problems, either. Your word for love is survival. Everything else is a story that isn’t about you.’

The American dream offers a salvation myth, which lures seekers to a country where a surgeon like Pol can become a ‘badly paid security guard at a computer chip company’. Frequently harking back to the privilege of the clan in the Philippines, we feel girded for a panoramic family saga about the disillusionment of the Filipino-American diaspora.”

Evans notes how the Filipino author infuses Hero’s romantic relationship with “a luminous naturalism.”

America Is Not the Heart by Elaine Castillo is published by Atlantic.

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