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3.94 of 5 stars 3.94  ·  rating details  ·  438 ratings  ·  90 reviews
Monstress introduces a bold new writer who explores the clash and meld of disparate cultures. In the National Magazine Award-nominated title story, a has-been movie director and his reluctant leading lady travel from Manila to Hollywood for one last chance at stardom, unaware of what they truly stand to lose. In "Felix Starro," a famous Filipino faith healer and his grands...more
Paperback, 224 pages
Published January 31st 2012 by Ecco
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K.D. Absolutely
For a first book, this collection of short stories is exceptional. Lysley Tenorio is born in the Philippines, currently lives in San Francisco and is an associate professor at Saint Mary's College of California.

This book caught my fancy while in the bookstore late January (last month). I saw an announcement of this book's launch for February 9 (early this month). I have not been to a book launch yet so I said why not? So, I decided to shell out my hard-earned cash to buy this book at a regular p...more
March 2012

Cover love. Title love. Story love! Amazon knows what I like, and what I like is short stories. See, Internet Companies, it's not that hard! I don't mind the loss of privacy as long as you recommend good books. That goes for you, Google. You too, Mark Zuckerberg.

Great debut collection from Lysley Tenorio, about the lives of Filipinos and Filipino-Americans. Faith healers, B-movie directors and stars, immigrants, lepers, teenage delinquents, and sexual minorities. Great collection, hig...more
Feb 15, 2012 Jenny rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to Jenny by: ARC
Shelves: character
This final Hyphen review ended up taking a different approach from my original version but it's probably better this way.

Lysley Tenorio’s debut short story collection Monstress takes us through the metropolis of the San Francisco Bay Area to wasteland cities in central California. Tenorio’s Filipino and Filipino American characters dream of California as a Promised Land that will give them money, love, fame, or acceptance. This may sound like a typical first and second-generation immigrant stor...more
Armand Alidio
As a Filipino-American, I can relate to the cultural anecdotes and the common themes of identity and assimilation which weave their way through each story. These themes felt familiar yet fresh within Tenorio's imaginative storytelling. All of the main characters struggle to find themselves while either toeing the line between the Philippines and America, dealing with sexual/gender identities and family relationships or simply growing up. They each deal with love and betrayal with sadness and hum...more
Peter Heinrich
I really enjoyed these stories. Culture clash and assimilation, gender identity, generation gaps, physical beauty and outward appearances, family relationships, love and betrayal—these are the threads that Tenorio weaves throughout the book. My emotional interest in each character grew up so quickly that it was easy to forget the stories were short; turning the last page on each one was always disappointing.

I'm looking forward to reading more of his work, as it becomes available.
The title story was the best by a long shot. The others were dragged down by leaden Meaningfulness. Tenorio placed too much emphasis on too many objects, bogging down his stories' action and miring the reader in emotional muck. I'm sure I'm exaggerating, but it felt like every glance in the mirror led to self-reflection, every edible led to nostalgia, every flight of steps or escalator created vast distances between people. Ergo eyerolling. The beating-the-Beatles story, "Help," had such potenti...more
Juan Alvarado Valdivia
Wow, where to begin... I love this book and I'm not just saying that because I happened to have a graduate writing class with Lysley. I didn't think there was one weak story in this collection. They were all really good to drop-your-jaw astounding. Like any great writer, Tenorio writes with a great deal of reverence for his characters and story matter. For me--and I thought this was amazing (and I am aware that a lot of people overuse that word nowadays)--but each story had at least one sentence...more
As a Filipino NON immigrant and at at the same time a huge fan of immigrant stories (A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain, Unaccustomed Earth, etc) this collection of short stories is such an awesome, welcome addition to the relatively few texts on the Filipino immigrant experience. But, as I've come to realize what makes it such a great read isn't so much about the "Filipino-ness" of it, or to be specific the "Filipino-American-ness" of it so much as the fact that the stories themselves were ju...more
I personally might not have chosen this as the One Book, One San Diego piece for 2014, as I feel that a collection of short stories somewhat defeats the purpose of encouraging the people of this city to read the same book. While a novel must be read beginning to end, one may safely dip in and out of a collection of stories at any point. That being said, I did immensely enjoy reading Monstress, and I believe it will generate some great dialogue in San Diego. I found it well-written, and enjoyed a...more
Tenorio's series of short stories highlights the Filipino American experience through the eyes of characters on the fringes of society. The title story features a C-list actress and her film-making longtime lover who make a trip to America to participate in a basement production of a budget sci-fi horror flick. The brother of a recently deceased transgendered man, a disillusioned protege to a quack healer, a teenaged leper exile, all come to life through Tenorio's skillful and compassionate stor...more
"It's like the start of a joke: a dozen drag queens walk in on eighty Filipinos praying on their knees..."

I picked up Monstress without knowing anything about the book and found myself quite pleasantly surprised. Tenorio's stories bridges between the Philippines and America (really California) and each of his protagonists is so achingly introspective that I left the collection feeling both touched and heartbroken.*

What I found most rewarding about Monstress was Tenorio's ability to express the s...more
Malena Watrous
I adored these stories. How does Tenorio manage to be hilarious and simultaneously so touching? I really did laugh and cry, often in the course of reading the same story, which I consider to be the ultimate achievement and pleasure. The stories are specific to the experience of Filipino and Filipino Americans, but also universal in their themes and emotional resonance. A fantastic writer that I will follow eagerly from book to book. Write faster, Lysley!
These short stories made me feel attached and detached at the the same time. It's hard to pick a favorite, but the story that touched me most was Save the I-Hotel.

Here's an excerpt:

"...Fortunado understood how difficult love could be, how its possibility hinged on a delicate balance between complete anonymity and the undeniable need to be known."
A fantastic collection of stories, great characters and distilled moments that stick with you like a good story should. I would say Tenorio makes it look easy if I didn't know from this great teacher the years and multiple drafts that go into concentrating this level of beauty into prose. Also, you can get it in paperback, ebook or cake form.
Just met the author in my library and can't wait to read this book!

A solid short story collection about Filipino Americans that explores themes of sexuality, identity and outsider status in some inventive ways. Understated yet lovely writing.

I hope he writes a novel soon!
Really engaging short stories about life in the Philippines and in the U.S. -- and sometimes the crossing as well. My favorites were "The View from Culion," about two unlikely inhabitants of an isolated leper colony, "Save the I-Hotel," which veers off from all the traditional stories about the campaign to save the I-Hotel to follow the lives of two of its residents, their friendship, their falling out, and their last moments together, and "Monstress", the title story about the Philippine film i...more
All of these stories feature Filipinos and most take place primarily in the United States, the two exceptions being a story bout Culion, a former leper colony, and "Help", a story of one family's reaction to the Beatle's snubbing of Imelda Marcos. Many of the stories deal with the alienation of being a Filipino in the United States, a group that most of us don't think about that often. His characters range from charlatans to misfits to ordinary folks trying to fit in. I found this to be a deligh...more
Lysley Tenorio's Monstress is chock full of tales well told. The characters inhabit a tangled web between a Philippine homeland and California dream (or nightmare)-land. Many themes such as runaway women--the narrator's mother in "Help", who never returned from her "Vacation USA"--recur. Instead of feeling like a re-hash, each story uniquely adds a layer of depth to the collection as a whole.

Though all the voices are their own, each story unfolds in a wonderful storytelling style that leaves me...more
[I'm going to start writing some reviews/thoughts on the books I read because I think my future self will appreciate it.]

I read this for my English seminar and did a presentation about it. And wow, it is just wow. Every time I think about it I want to raise the rating to 5 stars. Maybe I will. Why am I not doing that now? I'll get into that later.* Anyways.

My group did the presentation just a few days after the news about Typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda broke and before we started, our professor made a...more
Lysley Tenorio’s stunning first book reads more like a greatest-hits album than a debut. Moving from a leper colony in the Philippines to a men’s boarding house in 1930s San Francisco, among other places, the collection explores the lives of Filipinos and Filipino-Americans with a sharp and sensitive eye for the absurd. In the title story, a B-movie director brings his muse from Manila to Hollywood, where success comes at an unexpected cost to their marriage. In “Felix Starro,” a quack faith hea...more
Lysley Tenorio’s Monstress holds a remarkably strong collection of stories. Focusing on a varied group of Filipinos and Filipino-Americans, he effectively balances the strange, heartbreaking, and humorous in ways that keep readers engaged throughout the book.

I have an ambiguous relationship with short stories; on the one hand, I echo the common refrain of many readers who bemoan how short stories are so limited in length that I never feel as if I can sink my teeth into the story and be invested...more
A book of mostly realistic short stories by Filipino-American author Tenorio. I say mostly realistic, because these stories are occasionally a little wacky, like the opening story about the woman in the rubber monster suit of a group of Filipino monster movies from the seventies, and it's a little over the top, but still, the stories are primarily interested in realist questions: who are these people? what is in their lives? and to a lesser degree, what makes them do what they do?

As far as that...more
Few Americans could likely name a well-known Filipino-American short-story writer. Perhaps Bienvenido Santos or Carlos Bulosan, or the short works of Jessica Hagedorn, but I can’t think of other possibilities right off the cuff. I know they exist, but they seem eclipsed by better-known immigrant novelists such as Julia Alvarez, Oscar Hijuelos, Jamaica Kinkaid, Jumpha Lahiri, Chang-Rae Lee, Amy Tan, and Bharati Mukherjee. Well, a new writer has emerged who deserves attention and is destined to ga...more
Originally published at Lambda Literary

The vibrant stories in Lysley Tenorio’s debut collection, Monstress (Ecco), depict an immigrant experience that reveals the implications of what it means to be a perpetual outsider. Intimate portrayals give way to larger meditations in these eight stories of Filipino fiction.

In “Save the I-Hotel,” forty years of friendship and the vagaries of old age have finally granted Fortunado the intimacy he’s always desired with neighbor Vicente, but imminent eviction
A vivid, well-titled collection of stories about the lives of Filipino-Americans and Filipinos. I was quite engrossed in the way bodies and embodiment functioned in these stories, and the ways relationships, family, and outsiderness are transmitted and depicted through and with our bodies. Is being at home in our bodies even harder than being at home among our family, or at home in America? There's a lot of tenderness among the selfishness and cowardliness that Tenorio unflinchingly depicts in h...more
I don't usually gravitate to short stories but I read this because I read One Boo, One San Diego and this was the book for 2014. You know how, in school, there were books on the reading list that were required for a course so you had to read them even though you might not have picked up the book otherwise? And then you discovered what a good book it was and so were grateful that it had been required? This is one of those books. Thank you, One Book, One San Diego!
This is one of the best books of short fiction I've read since Memory Wall by Tony Doerr. Every single of these stories is a gem, and so carefully written. They remind me of Jhumpa Lahiri's style, in the soul of a Philipino. A lot of these stories return to the writer's interest in immigration and pop culture, the role that the US might play in various incarnations of Philipino immigrant lives, but they're all different. Whereas, for example, in Daniel Alarcón's War By Candelight, one Peruvian p...more
Just finished this book. It's the One Book One San Diego selection, and I can see why it was selected. It's well written. It's by a Filipino and mostly about Filipino immigrants in California. So -- perfect for San Diego. I guess it would have been too much to ask for a little happiness, cheer, love, success. Admirable, but kind of a downer.
Christina Mitchell
May 15, 2014 Christina Mitchell marked it as to-read
Shelves: personal
This is the 2014 One Book, One San Diego winner - a community reading program sponsored by the San Diego Public Library and KPBS. I will have it read before reading events kick off in October. Stay tuned for my thoughts.
Feb 09, 2012 Paul rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2012
Pretty great. I'm biased, as Tenorio was a professor of mine, but this collection is truly good. Truly good, ya'll. The writing itself is strong, but the thematic weight is what hit me hardest. Every story involves a culture class between American and Filipino mores, usually but not always spanning two generations. All but one story were written in first person, though my favorite happened to be the third-person piece. Though I prefer third person, I don't know that that's why I liked it best. O...more
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Litquake Fiction ...: First book! 1 7 Aug 31, 2012 09:58AM  
  • Aerogrammes: and Other Stories
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Lysley Tenorio’s stories have appeared in The Atlantic, Zoetrope: All-Story, Ploughshares, Manoa, and The Best New American Voices and Pushcart Prize anthologies. A Whiting Writer’s Award winner and a former Stegner Fellow at Stanford University, he has received fellowships from the University of Wisconsin, Phillips Exeter Academy, Yaddo, The MacDowell Colony, and the National Endowment for the Ar...more
More about Lysley Tenorio...
Manila Noir

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“...that breath of relief that there is someone in the world, finally, who understands what hurts you.” 17 likes
“I think I might understand the way time works: how its passing is impossible to see but when it's gone, you feel it.” 5 likes
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