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3.89 of 5 stars 3.89  ·  rating details  ·  652 ratings  ·  124 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
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
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
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
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
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
Giselle at Book Nerd Canada
May 07, 2015 Giselle at Book Nerd Canada marked it as to-read
Shelves: 2012
You had me at "Filipino."
In another life I was a child protective social worker in San Diego. My brush with the Filipino culture was only a taste and never really had the feeling that I could assess situations accurately. My one cautionary note was that the males were unpredictable, macho and not to be messed with.

Tenorio takes the reader to the unfamiliar back streets of the Filipino reality and helped me to meet complex and extraordinary personalities that otherwise would have existed only in his unique perception. Th
Very beautifully and subtly rendered vignettes of the lives of Filipinos, Filipino-Americans, and Filipinos in America. It's amazing the breadth of issues that Tenorio manages to cover; there wasn't a thing I couldn't identify with. From the boy who fashioned himself superpowered in his struggle to cope with being a mixed race Other to the mother who, in her religious fervour, bound her transwoman daughter's breasts, this anthology is completely unafraid to look at the shadows in the Filipino re ...more
Kate Z
This book was the One Book, One San Diego selection for 2014. It's a collection of eight short stories - each of them is a little "strange" but I have found that the stories and the humanity contained within them has lingered with me and caused me to reflect a bit on why I label them as "strange."

The story that stuck with me the most is the story called "Brothers" about the death of a transgender man who has been estranged from his family because he revealed to them that he was transgender. Afte
Heartfelt collection of short stories exploring Filipino American issues and storylines. Author Lysley Tenorio presents eight unique tales, from the relationship between a transgender woman and her family to an American soldier living in a leper colony in the Philippines. There is also a huckster healer handing down the family "secrets" to his grandson, a proud Pilipino upset over the Beatles' snub of Imelda Marcos, and a film director and star learning that not everything is bigger and brighter ...more
Chris Blocker
I have an aversion to rating short story collections. Some collections aren’t that hard to rate, because all the stories are equally good or bad. Then there are collections where the stories are all over the place, and how do you rate that? Do you go with the best? The overall? It’s like watching all the Star Trek films ever made and having to rate them as one. Not an easy task. And then, how will others interpret your score? Will they ignore a great series because a crap film like Nemesis drast ...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
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
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
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
Christina Mitchell
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.

Update: I have read it. I very much enjoyed it. I am going to the One Book, One San Diego kick off on October 13 where to author will be in attendance. I am going to hold off on writing anything further until after that time. Cheers!
"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
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.
Lorie Eckert
Monstress is a book of short stories by Filipino author Lysley Tenorio. One of the reviews on the book jacket - by Peter Ho Davies - says that "each story is a confession of love betrayed" and I found that a useful way to think of these wide ranging stories. Just to mention the first four out of eight stories, the title story deals with the director and lead actress in monster movies. The second deals with brothers, one straight and one transsexual. The third deals with a Filipino faith healer s ...more
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
I am nut usually a fan of short fiction, but this was a book chosen by my library as the one book everyone should read this year.

I am happy to say that I enjoyed the majority of the stories. Usually short stories leave me wanting more and I can honestly say that there were only two which left me that was with this book. I especially enjoyed the way the author gave a sort of Phillopine history lesson with each of his stories which included everything from their films, food, and even leprosy citi
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
I'm not generally a short story fan and rarely read them, but I'm very glad I made an exception to my silly rule in this case. These were excellent stories, varied, intriguing, and very moving. The cover blurb summed it up beautifully: "tales of bighearted misfits who yearn for their authentic selves with extraordinary passion and grace." Amen, Chang-Rae Lee (who wrote the blurb): you said it. The final story in particular knocked my socks off. Kudos to the San Diego Public Library for choosing ...more
An enjoyable collection of short stories, mostly about Filipinos in San Francisco. The stories often have a somewhat fantastic feel, without being in any way unrealistic or unbelievable.

Favorite quote, from "Save The I-Hotel"

"Fortunado had never struck a person before, but there were times in his life he wondered what it might be like, and now he knew: the force of everything you are in a single gesture at a single moment; the hope that it will be enough and the fear that it won't. No different
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Litquake Fiction ...: First book! 1 8 Aug 31, 2012 09:58AM  
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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...
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“...that breath of relief that there is someone in the world, finally, who understands what hurts you.” 18 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.” 6 likes
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