K.D. Absolutely's Reviews > America Is in the Heart: A Personal History

America Is in the Heart by Carlos Bulosan
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's review
Feb 03, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: local, memoirs
Read from February 06 to 08, 2011 , read count: 1

Carlos Bulosan (1913-1956) was the first Pilipino who published a novel in English while in the US. This was in 1946 when he was 33 years old. He was a native of Binalonan, Pangasinan and went to the US at the age of 17 landing in Seattle in 1930.

This book amazed me in many ways but it also raised several questions in my mind.

Reading this brings back John Steinbeck’s 1939 magnum opus The Grapes of Wrath. The only difference is that the white Joad family – the main characters in Grapes - becomes brown Bulosan brothers. Both novels are set in California during the height of Great Depression in the 30’s. It was also the time when building notices like ”Filipinos and Dogs are Not Allowed” are visibly displayed in the US. But this was before the WWII. The heroism exhibited by Filipino soldiers fighting side-by-side with their American compatriots changed the impression of Americans with regard to their brown brothers in the Far East.

Since one of my favorite novels is Grapes, I thought that all copy-cats will surely fall below my expectations. This did not. Bulosan’s first person narration gave a very personal touch and believable. However, Wiki says that one of the characters in the book said in the interview that this book is only: "30% autobiography, 40% case history of Pinoy (Filipino immigrant) life in America, and 30% fiction." Again, Bulosan is entitled to use poetic license but he also had a plagiarism case so everything leaves a questionable after thought when I finally closed this book.

Nevertheless, a remarkable must read that all Filipinos especially those who are planning to migrate to foreign countries. Definitely not to learn about the then extreme racism against Asians in the US but to learn from how Bulosan persevered in his dreams (to become a writer and contribute in making a difference turning America a better place) despite all odds.

Bulosan did not achieve his dream of returning back to the Philippines but he left us this book for generations of Filipinos to learn from and to cherish.
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05/31/2016 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-10 of 10) (10 new)

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message 1: by Apokripos (new)

Apokripos K.D., reading this made me wonder if Steinbeck and Bulosan might have spoken with each other and sort of compared notes since essentially both of their books is concerned with the same themes. Pero baka he found Bulosan beneath his notice. Suplado ata si Steinbeck, e.

message 2: by K.D. (last edited Feb 08, 2011 06:14PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

K.D. Absolutely Thanks for the like, Jzhun.

There was no mention about it. I think Bulosan was not popular enough. Unlike Raymond Carver and John Irving who showed up when Haruki Murakami requested for a meet up ha ha.

Bulosan only finished up the 3rd year HS and worked in different menial jobs (pea picker, dishwasher, fishing boat boy, etc) but he was hospitalized for 2 years for tuberculosis operation (he lost his ribs and a good part of his left lung). During this hospitalization, he read 1 book a day including Sundays. Then he found himself writing na. In the book, he oftentimes mentioned Robinson Crusoe comparing his life with this literary character. He also read Proust, Voltaire, Wolfe, etc and of course Steinbeck.

message 3: by K.D. (last edited Feb 08, 2011 06:18PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

K.D. Absolutely The writing is great, Emir. However, I cannot compare him yet with anyone in the best Filipino writers in English list because I am still to read them: Nick Joaquin, F. Sionil Jose, Carlos Romulo and Jose Garcia Villa. Did I miss a name? I will read them soon!

message 4: by Apokripos (last edited Feb 08, 2011 06:28PM) (new)

Apokripos Thanks for the additional info. Yes, I think he would've balked at the thought of inviting Steinbeck for a meet up considering his stature as a writer during those times. :)

K.D. Absolutely Bulosan were not recognized as mainstream literary writer (not sure if I am using the right term) because during that time he was tagged as a communist. This is also the reason why he was denied when he volunteered to go back and fight in Bataan. This was also the reason why he was not granted American citizenship. Also the reason why he was not allowed to go back to the Philippines.

message 6: by Barbara (new)

Barbara Nice, probing review, KD. It seems to point out a fact that we know, minorities are not well accepted, no matter where they originate.

K.D. Absolutely Agree, B. Also, this was in the 30's during the Great Depression. It is outdated but still nice to know.


message 8: by Tintin (new)

Tintin Wow, I never knew of Carlos Bulosan. Sounds intriguing. I'm currently reading Grapes of Wrath on and off, so if I'll like it, I may try this one.

message 9: by Andrea (new) - added it

Andrea 4 stars but it was a shame that Bulosan's not recognized as a triumph, and instead is relegated to a Grapes of Wrath copy cat.

Karenclaireferrer Hello Who's have this book?. Where it is buy or I can borrow to someone?
I need it,because its my report for my major subject. Thanks

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