Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “American Son” as Want to Read:
American Son
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

American Son

3.38  ·  Rating details ·  404 Ratings  ·  40 Reviews
A powerful novel about ethnically fluid California, and the corrosive relationship between two Filipino brothers.

"American Son is the story of two Filipino brothers adrift in contemporary California. The older brother, Tomas, fashions himself into a Mexican gangster and breeds pricey attack dogs, which he trains in German and sells to Hollywood celebrities. The narrator is
Paperback, 256 pages
Published May 17th 2001 by W. W. Norton Company (first published March 17th 2001)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about American Son, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about American Son

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
Rating details
Sort: Default
Rachelle Ayala
Mar 22, 2013 rated it really liked it
Realistic and edgy portrayal. I know exactly what the two brother, Tomas and Gabe feel, and had I been a boy, I would have run with the tough guys and gotten into the trouble that boys without fathers have. I grew up in the same streets, okay, south of Watts/Compton, not Santa Monica and the nicer areas on the west side, but Harbor area, Carson, and my family did not fit in with the surrounding culture. We were the foreign ones with the weird clothes and our mother was very much like Tomas and G ...more
Jul 02, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: pinoy, effed-up
[Review written by my high school self]
Brian Ascalon Roley’s novel, American Son, is a gritty and disturbing picture of what amounts to failed assimilations of different extremes, with sons Gabe and Tomas struggling with their identities as much as their mother did in her generation.

Published in 2001, the story centers around a struggling Filipino immigrant family in California. The two brothers and their mother do not often get along, and their various conflicts and difficult attempts to unde
Jul 29, 2011 rated it did not like it
I actually regret reading this book. It's that bad.

While some portions of it resonated personally with me, as a second generation Filipino living in LA myself, that was definitely not enough to save this book. The prose itself was poorly written and the characters that Roley creates are absolutely flat. Filipino culture lends itself to gestures and a willingly false surface life. The author failed to skillfully develop or expose any of the tensions that lay beneath the surface of the tenuous rel
Apr 07, 2013 rated it liked it
Required reading for California Ethnic literature, Spring 2010
Oct 05, 2017 rated it liked it
This is a book that spares no one. Every character has issues. It tells of a Filipino women who left her homeland to come to the USA hoping for a better life for her children. Her American husband divorces her and she works two jobs to make ends meet.

The elder son turns into nasty piece of work , violent and vindictive. He trains guard dogs and seems to have a good relationship with the dogs , it's just humans he is violent towards. He is a gang member without a gang.

The younger son there is mor
Garth Mailman
May 22, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Two Puerto Rican boys live in a bad part of town with their ex-pat mother who works two dead-end jobs trying to make a better life for her boys.

I come from an entirely different world but I have some resonance with these characters. I’ve been the 6-foot 200-pound son brought along to stand beside my mum so she’d get attention at the counter of a department store. I’ve camped at Dockweiler Beach beside the highway below LAX and drove the PCH through Marina Del Ray and Venice Beach. I’ve ridden t
Heather Holmes
Oct 22, 2017 rated it it was ok
While I appreciate how this text reveals sad truths about Filipino culture and gang violence. I found it lacking in plot and character development.
Aug 05, 2016 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
AMERICAN SON definitely captures a unique perspective on the Filipino immigrant story and one that is real, intense, and ambiguous.

As a full-blooded Fil-Am, I could relate to a lot of the sentiments and quirks of growing up with immigrant relatives, as well as the problems that can arise from that. If you've ever seen "The Debut" with Dante Basco, you'd see the parallels. It also allowed me to see it from a mixed-race POV, which you don't normally get in other stories.

On the other hand, the stor
Oct 21, 2007 rated it liked it
Shelves: library-book, novels
This gets a three out of five, mostly because what Roley did with the narrative structure didn't work for me. Everything else seemed to work, especially the characterizations. Yes, I've heard the criticisms of Roley and other writers who "dare" to show Filipinos in a "bad light." That just isn't the case here. One may not particularly like the picture Roley paints of the Filpinos in the novel, but that's the key. He's writing about these particular Filipinos, characters with a specific backstory ...more
Jennifer Lesnick
Feb 07, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: own
I found this book to be deeply disturbing. But I still had a difficult time putting it down. This book isn't exactly what I would consider suspenseful but there was something about the protagonist, Gabe, that made me want to keep reading. I was hopeful for him, rooting for him even though I didn't particularly like him. I wanted to believe that he could escape his current circumstances and create his own path instead of following in his brother's footsteps. In many ways, this was a predictable s ...more
Sep 28, 2014 rated it really liked it
American Son is a good story and an easy read, what more can one ask for? This isn't a feel good story but it is a look at the life of two young men in a large American city with a single mother from another country that wants more for her children in the land of better opportunity. Some reviewer's seem to be upset that the two brothers continued on the path they chose instead of doing what is expected of them from members of their family. No Hollywood happy ending here but more of an Indie real ...more
Mar 14, 2012 rated it really liked it
This book highlights the difficult cultural experiences Filipinos and Filipino-Americans experience in the U.S. I think this book would hit home not only for my Filipino students but also for other Asian American students whose racial/cultural identity can sometimes confuse their classmates. While I'm not sure that I'd use the book in its entirety, there are some excerpts that would certainly be thought-provoking.
Chris Van
Jan 23, 2017 rated it liked it
The book was exceptionally good because in the middle of the book, i was a little bit lost of who was who and it got to the point where i didn't really care anymore, but my attention came back at the end of the story when something intriguing occurred during the incident with Ben, Tomas, and Gabe where Ben, the little boy,was being threatened by Tomas and Gabe, knowing that Gabe isn't really the type of person to become violent all of a sudden.
Mar 09, 2009 rated it really liked it
Without a doubt shocking and emotionally wrenching account of the brutal life experience of a young working class Fil-Am mestizo and his broken family in Los Angeles. I had the privilege of attending a reading and book signing of Ascalon Roley and with how humble and soft spoken he is you would never guess that this book would be such a punch in the gut. After finishing the novel I felt like I needed to wake up from a bad dream. Awesome.
Feb 12, 2016 rated it really liked it
I really liked this novel. Although I am not Filipina, I felt that I was able to relate to a lot of what Tomas and Gabe were feeling, especially as it relates to feelings of shame, especially about their immigrant mother. Looking back now, I feel ashamed for having ever felt embarrassed or not proud of my mother and who she is just because others treated her poorly because of her status in this society. I'm grateful that I know I have come a long way from that, but I still have room to grow.
Mar 06, 2009 rated it liked it
It was a good book, not a great book, but a step above mediocre. The characters were interesting enough for me to follow the story to its end, but it lacked a certain climactic punch that I was hoping for given the nature of the characters. Worth reading to pass time, not a life altering book a far as I am concerned.
Dec 24, 2016 rated it really liked it
Really solid novel about first generation Filipinos in LA. Writing style is spare and direct--only a few scenes in the book but each is acutely rendered and incredibly tense and riveting. No detail is wasted, no chance for drama ignored. Highly recommended. Didn't give it 5 stars because I only give, like, Anna Karenina, Moby Dick, or Middlemarch 5 stars.
Oct 10, 2008 rated it liked it
Very interesting book. It was a nice view into the world of those who have immigrated here from the Philippines. The book had value for me in this respect. I will admit though that the story didn't quite work for me as a whole. It was lacking in a substantial plot. It didn't seem to go anywhere.
Jun 01, 2008 rated it really liked it
I thought it was a fun foray into Filipino-American literature. I liked the perspective from which the story was told (the younger brother's). Instead of highlighting the struggle of growing up mestizo on a first-hand basis, it really highlighted the struggle of trying to fit in and identity, which would make this book a great read for adolescents.
Erwin Magbanua
Mar 23, 2011 rated it liked it
Why must all Filipino American lit be so depressing? Last time I checked, the majority of us Fil-Ams are Pacquiao-lovin', pop-star obsessed, hip-hoppin, fun-seeking comedians. Where are those books??? At any rate, this was pretty good. The gut-wrenching shame of being shameful of your ethnicity is what got me the most.
Nov 28, 2012 rated it really liked it
American Son was a great, fast read. I enjoyed getting a view into Filipino culture and their American experience, a view I was previously lacking. Although the book doesn't end all neatly tied up in a little bundle, I think it reflects more accurately real life and it's vagaries.
Nov 12, 2007 rated it did not like it
In my "Manliness in American Literature" class, we were all a little disappointed that this book didn't delve into homosexual rape or road trip philandering. Does that make us sick? Or does that make the book disappointing? I'm not too sure.
Jan 07, 2008 rated it it was ok
Compared to other vernacular narratives or immagrant narratives, American Son is not the best example. The plot is riddled with holes, the characters are inherently uninteresting, but for the most part, this would make good airplane reading.
Mar 06, 2013 rated it it was ok
So, American Son was not, by any means, a painful read. As some others have mentioned, it is repetitive, the characters are a bit hard to become connected to, and the plot and climax are a bit on the strange, unsatisfactory side.
Natasha North
May 06, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: teen-fiction
I felt like the book was honest and generally well-crafted. I wanted to enjoy it more, but I guess it just didn't suite my tastes at the moment.
Art Tad-y
Apr 04, 2012 rated it really liked it
Very solid literature. Presents a great example of identity crisis found in many Filipino Americans where there is a clash of cultures
Sep 29, 2012 rated it it was ok
I wish more had happened. It's kind of a repetitive read, and the awkwardness of the main character and his mom was just kind of painful to read.
Nov 21, 2008 rated it liked it
Nice but not that memorable.
Feb 04, 2016 added it
Shelves: gangs
A depressing story about a younger brother trying to avoid the sway of his older brother's gang lifestyle. Their timid mother is unable to confront her boys about their changing ways.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • America Is in the Heart: A Personal History
  • We Should Never Meet: Stories
  • When the Rainbow Goddess Wept
  • Fixer Chao
  • Rolling the R's
  • Gun Dealers' Daughter
  • Yellow
  • Dream Jungle
  • The Umbrella Country
  • All I Asking for Is My Body
  • Blu's Hanging
  • Bone
  • A Feather on the Breath of God
  • Dance Dance Revolution
  • Her Wild American Self
  • King Arthur's Death: The Middle English Stanzaic Morte Arthur and Alliterative Morte Arthure
  • The Gangster We Are All Looking For
  • The Lunatic at Large

No trivia or quizzes yet. Add some now »