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America Is Not the Heart

3.93  ·  Rating details ·  2,582 ratings  ·  462 reviews
Three generations of women from one immigrant family trying to reconcile the home they left behind with the life they're building in America.

How many lives can one person lead in a single lifetime? When Hero de Vera arrives in America, disowned by her parents in the Philippines, she's already on her third. Her uncle, Pol, who has offered her a fresh start and a place to st
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Hardcover, 408 pages
Published April 3rd 2018 by Viking
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Loretta Gaffney Takes place in the 1990s, with some flashbacks to the 1980s.

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Average rating 3.93  · 
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 ·  2,582 ratings  ·  462 reviews


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Emily May
Jan 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: modern-lit, arc, 2018
Baggage means no matter how far you go, no matter how many times you immigrate, there are countries in you you’ll never leave.

There's only one slightly disappointing thing about this book-- that the prologue introduces us to Paz and her compelling story, which completely drew me in, but then she fades into the background as a secondary character for the rest of the book. Don’t get me wrong, I loved Hero’s tale, but I never quite got over losing that connection with Paz.

That being said, this
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Truce
May 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing
The thing about growing up Filipino in America, and especially growing up Filipino in a heavily white area, and especially growing up Filipino in a family that doesn’t fully see you as Filipino and allow you access to your culture or a right to your heritage or the freedom to define yourself, is that certain things — what should be shared cultural experiences, memories, references — sometimes feel like they’re happening in a vacuum. You don’t really know if they’re shared, if you’re imagining th ...more
Meike
Dec 18, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: usa, 2018-read
I had such high expectations for Castillo's debut, but alas, this wasn't for me: While the story itself, a tale about an immigrant family from the Philippines, could have been super interesting, the narrative sructure drove me crazy and I almost abandoned the book halfway through. The novel starts with Paz, a young nurse who marries into the powerful de Vera family and leaves the Philippines with her husband to make a life for herself in the U.S. Then, the narrative shifts to Hero de Vera, her h ...more
Jenny (Reading Envy)
This was a great read about several Filipino women - one who supports her family as a nurse, returning to the Philippines at one point before marrying and moving to the United States. The focus eventually turns to Hero, who is a refugee after living as a political prisoner for ten years. She finds home and family in a Filipino community in California and even finds love. The end of the novel, in fact turns into a bit of a romance novel, and possibly the most realistic portrayal of a bisexual wom ...more
Valerie Best
May 08, 2018 rated it liked it
Okay, bear with me—which, by the way, would have been an appropriate subtitle for this book.

So, I liked this book. Sometimes an awful lot. There were moments in this book that took my breath away. Its writing is great, and got me excited about a kind of writing that I haven’t been very excited about for a while.

The story deals with the Filipino experience, and feels truly immersive. One of the book's most interesting aspects is its liberal use of differing dialects. The language is occasionally
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David
Mar 03, 2019 rated it liked it
"You already know that the first thing that makes you foreign to a place is to be born poor in it; you don't need to emigrate to America to feel what you felt when you were ten... You've been foreign all your life. When you finally leave, all you're hoping for is a more bearable kind of foreignness."

This truth, and others like it, forms the backbone of what could have been a very powerful debut novel. Sadly, there is so much adiposity loaded onto it that true form is lost. Just because a story i
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jo
if you, like me, get frightened when you read a book described as a multigenerational novel, fear not, dear reader. this novel is squarely about our 30 something protagonist, hero, ex guerrilla fighter in the philippines, survivor of two years of torture at the hands of the marcos regime, now living in the california south bay with her uncle and aunt.

this book is a love story. there is love between two women one of whom is so hurt she doesn't want to get near anyone ever again. there is love in
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Jaclyn Crupi
Mar 13, 2018 rated it liked it
I’m so conflicted about this book! After reading Mia Alver’s IN THE COUNTRY a few years ago I’ve been wanting to read more fiction about the Filipino diaspora so was thrilled to hear about AMERICA IS NOT THE HEART. The prologue pulled me in immediately and I ate it up. But I overinvested in Paz who then almost disappeared from the narrative once Hero, our true protagonist, arrived. Hero is an amazing character and the reveals about her life are handled masterfully but I experienced them at a rem ...more
Erin Glover
Fascinating for its depiction of Filipino immigrants’ lives in northern California, a refreshing immigrant perspective, sadly, the story falls gracelessly flat. Initially sucked in by Paz’s depiction of life in the Philippines as a poor young girl ignored by her family during martial law, Paz’s life gets even more interesting when she immigrates to northern California. She marries into a well-known upper crust Filipino family offering her husband-to-be, Pol De Vera, US citizenship and getting st ...more
Janet
Jan 06, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I found this TOB contender to be a bit of a slog. Initially I was trying to look up all the foreign words (in 3 different languages) and going back and forth between the hardcover and the audio but about a third of the way in I abandoned that and just went with the audio. I didn't understand everything but I got the gist of it.

The last quarter of the novel was more interesting than the first 3/4 which I can sum up for you here....food, food, food, footwear, faith healing, sex, sex, sex, supersti
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Justine (Milkz)
“As for loving America or not loving America, those aren’t your problems, either. Your word for love is survival. Everything else is a story that isn’t about you.”


I can only describe this as a beautiful ode to Filipinos everywhere. This book is outside my genre (fantasy), but it felt like a fantasy while reading because I was in such disbelief over seeing “Filipino” and “tsinelas” and other Filipino dishes besides adobo in a book that I purchased at an actual bookstore.

Paz’ prologue
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Thor Balanon
May 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
"You've been foreign all your life. When you finally leave, all you're hoping for is a more bearable kind of foreignness." 🔹America is Not the Heart is our collective longing: a mixtape of our youth, a recipe of our cravings, a scar, a reminder. An ache. (Thanks, Bennard @bcfajardo ) With a Prologue that reads like a precise, stylish short story—which I have personally read three times—the novel unfolds deliberately. Domestic details, road trips, tropical maladies, and a budding romance weave in ...more
ns510
Jan 03, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: sea
”The gift of the small world was that it was small. The curse of the small world was that it was small.”

📖 A multigenerational family saga // So much to admire about this sprawling, multigenerational story encompassing life in Phillipines around a period of communist uprising in the country and onwards to Filipino American immigrant life in American suburbia. It all comes out via a handful of central characters; two separate Filipino immigrant families living in America, and a young female relati
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Megan
I liked this so very much.

This is a slow-moving, character-driven story. At its core are three prickly, difficult women (and a prickly, difficult, wonderful little girl), but the story belongs to Hero. After a decade as a field doctor with the New People's Army and then two years being tortured in a prison camp, Hero is adrift in America in the early 1990s, living with her uncle, his wife, and their seven-year-old daughter, Roni. Their family is complicated, and Hero's own history is complicated
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Trish
May 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2018, pilipinx
Personally, this book has qualities that make this an intimidating read:
- It’s been described as an “epic family saga” (too many characters)
- It’s 400+ pages (too many words)
- There are shifts in time periods and POVs (too confusing)

None of this mattered to me when I found this title floating around on bookstagram.

It didn’t take long to become absorbed into the lives of these fully-realized characters in Castillo’s impressive debut novel. They live in a world I’m familiar with (the languages, t
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Adam
Apr 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book! What a triumph. It was a bit too long but I never wanted it to end. The prologue, Ga-li-la, is exceptionally powerful...it makes you want to stay with Paz, but we spend most of the novel with Hero, who is a little inscrutable....Roni, however, is the most lively, realistic child in fiction I've read in a while. Rosalyn is sparkling and endearing...other characters, like Jaime, or Pol, or Adela, leap off the page. This is a huge, big-hearted epic novel with a scope and size to parallel ...more
Chaitra
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
H.A. Leuschel
May 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was a fascinating book where I learned so much ... about the Philippines, its many languages, its complicated history, the people who are portrayed in such an endearing and complex way, their difficult or traumatic past, their amazing cuisine (which I'd love to get a taste of now!!), the strong family and community bonds, living with bisexuality and how difficult it is to emigrate, miss home as much as learn to find a new one.

The author's writing style was rich and multilayered because som
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Eric Anderson
Mar 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
There have been many excellent novels about the immigrant experience in America. But I feel like the richly detailed and engrossing story of “America Is Not the Heart” by Elaine Castillo shows a really unique point of view I've not read about before. The story primarily revolves around Geronima De Vera who is nicknamed Hero when she arrives in America from the Philippines. She goes to live with her aunt, uncle and feisty young cousin Roni in Milpitas (a suburb outside San Jose, California) where ...more
Andy Lillich
Apr 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I want to admit, right up-front, that it took me awhile to really connect with this story. After all, what did I know about the Philipines? Absolutely nothing. Which meant that much of what I read in the beautifully told prologue and even the first several sections of Hero's story, felt like it went right by me. I had no knowledge of the places, customs - and especially the many passages in Filipino dialects (of which there many) and had trouble connecting with the story.

Once the story shifted t
...more
Lisa
Dec 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is a beautifully written novel with compelling characters. I found myself pausing as I neared the end because I didn't want to finish with these people. I'm ashamed by how little I knew about the Philippines before reading this novel.
Imi
You already know that the first thing that makes you foreign to a place is to be born poor in it; you don't need to emigrate to America to feel what you already felt when you were ten, looking up at the rickety concrete roof above your head [...] You've been foreign all your life. When you finally leave, all you're hoping for is a more bearable kind of foreignness.
3.5 stars rounded up? Stunning beginning and end, but the middle dragged a little for me; there was just a little too much sex an
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Jessica
There are many descriptors one could use for this expansive novel; not all of them would entice a reader, but Castillo's debut was so blindingly beautiful and dauntless, that I would encourage you to read it even though it may at times be slow to read, use sporadic second person, or be structurally uneven. I loved all these qualities about it, especially in tandem with the elements of its character depth, subtly interwoven historical commentary, discerning cultural perspective, and all-encompass ...more
Jan
Jan 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
Castillo immerses readers in her story of a Filipino family living in Milpitas, California in the 1990s, with reachback to the Philippines. She makes some risky choices, including leaving lots of phrases untranslated, but on the whole, it works, partly because of the confidence and energy of her prose. I love these characters, their relationships and backstories, and enjoyed the time I spent with them.
Candace
Mar 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
Set in the unglamorous cities of San Francisco's East Bay, "America Is Not The Heart" follows Filipino immigrants as they dig in and take their place in their new country. It's the 1980s, and Paz uses her training as a nurse to leverage an escape from the poor rural Philippines. Her surgeon husband comes from a rich, corrupt family, but when he joins her in Milpitas, he becomes a security guard. They offer sanctuary to his niece, Hero, who has been rejected by her family after joining a revoluti ...more
Judy
I read this debut novel because it was a contender in the 2019 Tournament of Books. It did not win though another debut novel I read did: My Sister the Serial Killer.

While I ended up liking the novel, I felt it suffered a bit as far as structure went. It jumps back and forth in time quite frequently. I could tell that the author was relating the main character's present life to incidents from her past but it was somewhat awkwardly done. I often felt like I needed more information sooner than I
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Michelle
3.5 stars
Review to come.
Tournament of Books Play-in Round
Kevin Hu
AINTH takes you down a narrative course that is subversive at every corner.

In Geronimo's young life, she has already seen life in the Philippines from the countryside of Pangasinan, from the mountains of Baguio where she was slowly radicalized and inducted in the New People's Army during her years in college before dropping out, as a political recalcitrant serving as a medic, as a political prisoner for 2 years narrowly escaping death after a series of tortures, and having been estranged from h
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Subashini
"Castillo spends a lot of time showing how Filipinos, like many Asians, show their love and care for each other through food. The book is rich with descriptions of dishes like pancit, pinakbet, longanisa, and lechon, and multiple references to delicious-sounding barbecued pork and rice served up at Rosalyn’s grandparents’ restaurant.

The dialogue is left unemphasised without quotation marks, and words in Tagalog, Ilocano or Pangasinan are not italicised or explained. Sometimes Castillo weaves in
...more
Matthew
Mar 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Fantastic novel about a family of Filipino Americans living in Milpitas, CA. I didn't want my time with these characters to end. Loved the second person pov spotlight chapters of supporting (but very compelling) characters; loved the use of various Philippine language slang words sprinkled throughout the dialogue. I knew very little about the culture and history of the Philippines before reading this and so I enjoyed learning more about it. Grateful to the Tournament of Books for putting this bo ...more
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Goodreads Librari...: 'America is not the heart', please add page number 5 253 Jan 03, 2020 05:00PM  
Goodreads Librari...: Please correct page count - America is Not the Heart 2 13 Sep 11, 2019 05:59PM  
Additional publication edition 1 2 Aug 26, 2018 04:54PM  
ACPL Online Book ...: American dreams 1 9 Apr 04, 2018 08:12AM  

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Elaine Castillo was born in the San Francisco Bay Area. She is a graduate of the University of California – Berkeley. America Is Not the Heart is her first novel.

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“This was--small talk, Hero thought to herself. Though why people called it small, she didn't know. The effort it scraped out of her felt immense, exhausting, like she should have studied for days beforehand just to be ready for it, like she'd need to sleep a dreamless sleep all night just to recover from it.” 6 likes
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