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America Is in the Heart: A Personal History

3.91  ·  Rating details ·  2,881 ratings  ·  275 reviews
First published in 1946, this autobiography of the well known Filipino poet describes his boyhood in the Philippines, his voyage to America, and his years of hardship and despair as an itinerant laborer following the harvest trail in the rural West. Bulosan does not spare the reader any of the horrors tha accompanied the migrant's life; but his quiet, stoic voice is the mo ...more
Paperback, Washington Paperbacks, 327 pages
Published February 1st 1974 by University of Washington Press (first published 1946)
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Jr Bacdayan
Apr 24, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"It is but fair to say that America is not a land of one race or one class of men. We are all Americans that have toiled and suffered and known oppression and defeat, from the first Indian that offered peace to the last Filipino pea pickers. America is not bound by geograpahical latitudes. America is not merely a land or an institution. America is in the hearts of men..."

Carlos Bulosan's semi-autobiographical novel starts out with his early life born from a lowly peasant family in the Philippine
Mar 25, 2011 added it
Shelves: memoir
At present moment, especially in my own Seattle, Filipinos are a pretty wealthy, pretty widely respected group highly represented in business and political leadership. Hard to believe that a mere 70 years ago they were beaten for sport by shitheel Oregonian cops.

There isn't as much self-criticism and irony in America Is in the Heart as I normally like in my memoirs. But when the surrounding circumstances are so brutal (racism, murder, diseases of poverty, oppression of paisano populations), I do
"The old world is dying, but a new world is being born. It generates inspiration from the chaos that beats upon us all. The false grandeur and security, the unfulfilled promises and illusory power, the number of the dead and those about to die, will charge the forces of our courage and determination. The old world will die so that the new world [will have] less sacrifice and agony on the living."

Carlos Bulosan is a Filipino author who is considered both a socialist writer and a labor
May 29, 2020 rated it it was amazing
• AMERICA IS IN THE HEART by Carlos Bulosan, 1946.

Some quotes from this semi-autobiographical work, a classic of Filipino/American literature:

▪️"We must destroy that which is dying, because it does not die by itself... The old world is dying, but a new world is being born... The false grandeur and security, the unfulfilled promises and illusory power...the old world will die so that the new world will be born."

▪️"I died many deaths in these surroundings, where man was indistinguishable from beas
According to 23andMe, my Chinese DNA is as strong as anti-bacterial disinfectant: 99.9%! But in my heart? I've always felt a little bit Filipino. Growing up, my only friends were Filipinos: bold, outspoken, compassionate homeboys with large, loving families that I looked upon jealously through the shattered glass of my own. I recall longing so deeply to be a part of that which seemed to encompass all that I was missing that I once embarrassingly told a peer I was part Filipino, to which he took ...more
K.D. Absolutely
Feb 03, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoirs, local
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
Hmm I am personally conflicted about America Is in the Heart. Although a semi-autobiography that never undermines the impact of violence, self-inflicted or otherwise, ugly and unclothed, its apparent one-dimensional portrayal of women as seemingly damsels in distress is difficult to ignore. Despite this weak spot, its most riveting and tearing moments are tightly fastened to its narrator’s struggles to attain education and freedom whilst his native country uncertainly wades the murky waters and ...more
Ayban Gabriyel
Nov 15, 2013 rated it it was amazing
America is in the Heart, in pursuit of his “American Dream”

America is in the Heart was an autobiography of Carlos Bulosan(1913-1956) a native of Binalonan, Pangasinan who went to California for greener pastures during the great depression in the US. The book was first published in 1946 in the US and was only given an attention in the country during the First Quarter Storm (1972), its great relevance during those times gave this biography the attention it needs.

In the book he gave his 3 brothe
Jul 28, 2007 rated it really liked it
This is not an autobiography. This is fiction or a composite of many different experiences. For example, Bulosan did not work in the canneries in Alaska. I’m not sure why this book is continually introduced as an autobiography, rather than a piece of literature that falsely presents itself as autobiography. Doing so contributes to the tendency to read certain forms of literature as historical fact, and also I think downplays the particular literary merits of this piece.

This book tells the journ
Sep 29, 2018 rated it liked it

I find memoirs and autobiographies very difficult to rate because how does one rate someones life?

But, I'm basing this off what i believe the author wanted the reader to get out of his story. And I think, in some areas, he didn't succeed. I think this story could have been INFINITELY better if he had decided to focus on JUST certain parts of his life - rather than trying to put literally every single person, place and thing he ever did from childhood to adulthood.

The beginning, focusing
Feb 09, 2022 rated it it was amazing
I read this for my Asian American literature class and this is absolutely a must read. What an incredible book.
In the midst of reading or right after you have read it, you may conclude that Carlos Bulosan ‘s personal accounts of his childhood experiences as well as his abject misery in America appear to be OVER EXAGERRATED , or far from the reality. I thought so, for I was not aware of the real situations among OFW’s. But you may come to the deeper realization that Carlos Bulosan must have had personal reasons: This book could serve as an eye-opener not only to the Filipino immigrants but also to the oth ...more
Dec 25, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An Important Read

An important read for Filipino-Americans (especially recent immigrants), for anyone who wants to truly understand the state of the nation during the Great Depression, and for anyone interested in the history of civil rights.

As a Filipino-American (recently naturalized), even though I have lived in the US for about 17 years, I was completely unaware of this aspect of our history as Filipinos and Filipino-Americans. I was spurred into reading this by my curiosity about a grand-unc
Janica Vinas
Dec 10, 2013 rated it really liked it
America is in the Heart tells the story of Carlos Bulosan, a strongly inspired Filipino peasant who strives to leave his life of poverty behind to fulfill his American dream. The book is set in small towns throughout the Philippines to different states and cities in the United States during the 1920’s through the 1940’s, a time when being an immigrant in America was harsh. Wanting nothing more than to live a decent life, Bulosan must endure the struggles of being a poor Filipino in America and c ...more
Margot Pitero
Mar 22, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This. This book should be read more, should be included in more curricula in Philippine education. We're so aware of what Spain did to us but we don't really know much about what America has done and continues to do to us (violence against AAPI, ie). This is one very unique take on the "American dream" a lot of Filipinos have.

I also read this right after Elaine Castillo's "America is Not the Heart." Really great juxtapositions.
Elatsoe Stan
Jul 02, 2008 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jun 17, 2022 rated it it was ok
A good read in that I got a better sense of Filipino-American history in the US. I am grateful for the sacrifices of those who came before us, they who suffered so much to be accepted and welcomed here. Perhaps without them Filipino migrants would not have the lives we have today. Beyond that though I didn't find much here to inspire or aspire to. I'm much more inclined to look at my own family members' and friends' stories, many of which are also heartbreaking and difficult to understand at tim ...more
May 19, 2021 rated it really liked it
This was so hard to read, but it also ultimately provided some historical context (on a personal level) about the experiences of Filipinos in the US in recent history. This piece ultimately brimmed with raw emotional honesty and slightly romanticized nostalgic views, and it certainly felt illuminating to learn about this part of history that I honestly didn’t know much about before now.
Aug 13, 2017 rated it did not like it
Shelves: american, asian-am, memoir

This text has value as a document of migrant Filipino (and other Asian) immigrant workers on the West Coast during the early 20th century. It depicts the circumscribed life these migrants had living with the Western States racist laws restricting economic and social activity by Asians, depicts the (often) horrifying working conditions in which these migrants were employed, and describes the nascent labor struggles of these workers to unionize and demand better working conditions. There ar
Ramzzi Fariñas
“Yes, I will be a writer, and make all of you live in my words.”

This novel is HEARTBREAKINGLY BEAUTIFUL. Carlos Bulosan rendered all his shards, from our country wrecked by poverty and colonialism up to America established by racism and fascism, to write a personal history.

In four parts, Bulosan braved the literary world through America is in the Heart. The first part, in spite being a novice yet in prose, amateur and lost in tone, had pulled the frozen tears out of my eyes. While the secon
Brian Ferguson
This panorama of life originating in the Colonial-dominated Philipines and driven by privation and naive-idealism to west-coast America in the thirties and forties is divided like a triptych. Each sub-book deals with the central issue with a respective focus. The first part inhabits the author's sentimental affection for his home. The theme is anything but purely sentimental though as also described in detail in the day-to-day struggle to survive against the rigged game of mass land ownership in ...more
The figure of Carlos Bulosan cuts a distinct outline in the history of Philippine-American relations. His account of the exploitation and violence perpetrated upon Filipino farm workers in the United States during the Great Depression, through the War and until the early 1950s when McCarthyist hysteria started gripping the minds of the mainstream American population, provides an incalculable source of a viewpoint that is not much read in mainstream historical works even today. Reading Bulosan is ...more
Jan 14, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: historical
Read for a class I am taking but thoroughly enjoyed. In four parts, the author places himself in events that were the push factor of many Filipinos to leave the Philippines and come to America. When they arrived the pull factors of democracy and freedom taught in their occupied land were not readily available to them. Prejudice, discrimination and xenophobia greeted the immigrants. Occasionally a bit of the American dream would introduce itself and illuminated the disparity of the land and it's ...more
Jan 20, 2009 rated it it was amazing
This is an autobiography about Carlos Bulosan's life in America. Bulosan was born in the central Philippines in Binalonan.
After arriving in America in 1930, at the age of 17, he discovered a new world of violence, racism and oppression.
I personally think this is a GREAT text! It is sad of course because it is about the lives of Filipinos in America and their struggles with racist people and even amongst themselves.
Jake Bittle
Peasant from the Philippines moves to America, rides freight trains around the country for like 10 years, and thinks in abstract terms about the development of the agrarian labor movement. Interesting from a strictly documentary perspective, but if there was something else going on here, I missed it.
Jul 28, 2007 rated it really liked it
this is a good book showing filipino american history
Vicky Hunt
Worlds Away

It is a geographic fact that all of the continents would fit snugly into the Pacific Ocean, within its current boundaries. Given the great distance many immigrants travel, it is no wonder they feel they've reached a 'new world.' This is the story of one man's life, growing up in the Philippines and immigrating to the US while just in his teens. Since he had been doing hard farm labor since the age of five to help his family survive, while they struggled to send one son to high school
Ben Truong
America Is in the Heart is a semi-autobiographical novel written by Filipino American immigrant poet, fiction writer, short story teller, and activist, Carlos Bulosan.

This book serves as an entry (A book you think they should read in schools) in The 52 Book Challenge 2021. I think this book should be read in schools, because my education was Euro-centric with the exception of February where Black History was taught. Very little or if any of East-Asian culture was taught, which retrospectively wo
I found this (fictionalized?) autobiographical account to be fascinating if a bit hard to follow in places. It begins with Bulosan's account of his childhood in the Philippines. His father was a poor farmer and Bulosan writes about how the family made sacrifices to put one of the sons through school. He makes many observations about the struggles of the peasant farmers against absentee landlords and and narrates how one by one his brothers leave their hometown in search of a better life, many of ...more
Jul 26, 2020 rated it really liked it
Until my wife recently brought this book to my attention, I knew nothing about it. It is certainly revealing that such an expansive, engaging, beautifully-written memoir about Filipino life in the US in the first half of the 20th century gets, at least from my experience, zero attention. The book moves quickly, especially the first third or so when Bulosan is describing his childhood in the Philippines. I would say the operative words for this book are restlessness and tragedy. Throughout, the s ...more
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Carlos Sampayan Bulosan was a Filipino American novelist and poet best-known for the semi-autobiographical America is in the Heart.

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“Yes, I will be a writer and make all of you live again in my words.” 18 likes
“This is the beginning of your life in America,” Julio said. “We'll take a freight train from Sunnyside and go to nowhere.” “I would like to go to California,” I said. “I have two brothers there—but I don't know if I could find them.” “All roads go to California and all travelers wind up in Los Angeles,” Julio said. “But not this traveler. I have lived there too long. I know that state too damn well….” “What do you mean?” I asked. Suddenly he became sad and said: “It is hard to be a Filipino in California.” 2 likes
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