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2019 TOB Shortlist Books > America is Not the Heart

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message 1: by [deleted user] (new)

Play-in round.


message 2: by Gwendolyn (new)

Gwendolyn | 159 comments I’m listening to this one on audio, and it’s a bit confusing in that format. I feel lost when the story jumps around in time. In particular, I’m having a hard time following Hero’s narrative and the time she spent with the group of fighters. Maybe I don’t know enough of the history to know what she was fighting for. Perhaps this would make more sense in print?


message 3: by lark (new)

lark benobi (larkbenobi) | 100 comments my husband grabbed this one from my TOB shelf and reports that he loves it, which is saying a lot, because he is a nonfiction/'I'd rather be playing GO' kind of guy.


message 4: by Caroline (new)

Caroline   | 150 comments I'm glad I'm reading this in print so I can go back and pick up on stuff I missed.

I really like it but the author definitely is not spoon-feeding for an American audience. (Not a bad thing but takes some getting used to.)


message 5: by Emily (new)

Emily | 2 comments This one is my favorite so far. Just finished and wanted it to keep going longer. 100% won my zombie vote.


message 6: by Drew (new)

Drew (drewlynn) | 416 comments After I finished this book, I would randomly start wondering what the characters were up to. I really felt like I’d been a part of the community for a while.


message 7: by Joe Sherry (new)

Joe Sherry | 35 comments This was a lovely novel that I think would match up very well with an interesting conversation and counterpoint to The House of Broken Angels.


message 8: by Janet (new)

Janet (justjanet) | 634 comments I'm struggling with this book probably because I'm the type of reader who has to look up every unfamiliar word. It wouldn't be so bad if it was a more common language ( I did the same thing with The House of Broken Angels) but I haven't found a good translation source for Ilocano.


message 9: by Gwendolyn (new)

Gwendolyn | 159 comments Janet, I understand what you mean. I have the same problem except that I’m listening to this one as an audiobook, so I’m forced to just go with the flow. I think this is working well, actually. I’ve been confused a few times, but I just keep going, and it all seems to work itself out eventually. Perhaps I’m getting a more superficial understanding of the day-to-day conversations in the story, it I do feel like I’m getting the relationship dynamics and noticing the deeper themes.


message 10: by Janet (new)

Janet (justjanet) | 634 comments Gwendolyn wrote: "Janet, I understand what you mean. I have the same problem except that I’m listening to this one as an audiobook, so I’m forced to just go with the flow. I think this is working well, actually. I’v..."

I have both and I'm about to abandon the print although it is helpful with some words. When I first started listening I wasn't sure if "insert word here" was a person, place or thing. It would be interesting (once I've finished) to talk to someone from the Philippines who has read it. Maybe we'll get lucky with the commentariat.


message 11: by Jennifer (aka EM) (last edited Jan 13, 2019 08:27AM) (new)

Jennifer (aka EM) | 24 comments hi everyone, I am also listening to this (not reading it on the page) and struggling a bit with the interjection of the Ilocano and other Fililpino words, rituals, foods, etc.

I actually came here to see if the book provided translations that just weren't on the audio, but I guess not.

So that tells me something about what Castillo is doing here: it seems she is creating for the reader the same sense of "outsiderness" that Filipino (and all?) immigrants feel, as a whole, and that Filipinos feel even within their own community given the sub-cultural language and class barriers.

I'm having some ups-and-downs with the book overall (I do not love the switch between third and second - second! - person), but this theme of community building is really powerful and I love how Castillo is dealing with it on so many levels.


Jennifer (aka EM) | 24 comments On second thought, that switch to second person is another way to directly involve the reader in this feeling of being outside/trying to be inside the community. Maybe?


message 13: by Caroline (new)

Caroline   | 150 comments This is going to be this year's book that I loved so much that I will be heartbroken when people don't love it as much as I do, and strive to keep myself objective, but dang. I totally relate to DrewLynn's comment about wondering what the characters are up to now. Hero particularly was such a fascinating POV-character, and Roni was an incredibly well-written child character, which is very hard to pull off. I was so worried i wasn't going to like the way the main love story resolved, but I was not let down.


message 14: by Jennifer (aka EM) (last edited Jan 13, 2019 04:45PM) (new)

Jennifer (aka EM) | 24 comments Caroline, I am almost finished! I'm trying to avoid spoilers right now, but I promise to come back and hear more from you and others alllllll the reasons you loved it!

(I know that horrible feeling when people don't love a book as much as you do!)

Also, I had a conversation offline with a friend and we have been discussing some of what Castillo is doing which seems to line up with Gloria Anzaldúa's Borderlands. So far, I haven't seen the direct comparison made anywhere ... although this review from The Rumpus comes close.


message 15: by Caroline (new)

Caroline   | 150 comments about the language differences, it took a while for me to get it straight but I *think* as the book went on, most of the dialogue was translated. It would go from the person saying something in their own language and then afterwards translate it in English. It was a little hard to tell without quotation marks (i know i know but I liked the effect here) and i'm not sure it would have come across at all in audio.


message 16: by Kaion (last edited Jan 14, 2019 02:25PM) (new)

Kaion (kaionvin) | 27 comments The title must be a reference to Bulosan's America Is in the Heart, no?


message 17: by Caroline (new)

Caroline   | 150 comments Oh, good catch! I was perplexed by the title.


message 18: by Jan (new)

Jan (janrowell) | 1057 comments Kaion wrote: "The title must be a reference to Bulosan's America Is in the Heart, no?"

https://www.americamagazine.org/arts-...


Jennifer (aka EM) | 24 comments This book has a hold on me for some reason. I finished 3 or 4 days ago, and keep thinking about it.

Could someone remind me the play-in theme? (is that the part of the ToB that has a theme?)


message 20: by [deleted user] (new)

Jennifer (aka EM) wrote: "Could someone remind me the play-in theme? (is that the part of the ToB that has a theme?)"

The play-in theme is “A Question of (National) Identity.”


Jennifer (aka EM) | 24 comments thank you!


message 22: by [deleted user] (new)

Jennifer (aka EM) wrote: "thank you!"

You're welcome!


message 23: by Bretnie (new)

Bretnie | 441 comments I just finished and felt a lot of different things reading it. Loving hearing the Filipino voice and perspective. Annoyed by the second person parts. Loving the characters. Annoyed by some parts that dragged on for me. Loving the overall story and thought-provoking issues.


message 24: by Dianah (new)

Dianah (fig2) | 255 comments Jennifer (aka EM) wrote: "hi everyone, I am also listening to this (not reading it on the page) and struggling a bit with the interjection of the Ilocano and other Fililpino words, rituals, foods, etc.

Thanks for your comments, Jennifer. I think your idea of Castillo forcing us to feel the "otherness" that immigrants feel is right on! The confusion, the misunderstanding, the frustration at the confusion and misunderstanding... something Americans rarely feel.



message 25: by Dianah (new)

Dianah (fig2) | 255 comments Bretnie wrote: "I just finished and felt a lot of different things reading it. Loving hearing the Filipino voice and perspective. Annoyed by the second person parts. Loving the characters. Annoyed by some parts th..."

Haha, I'm finding that I *love* the second person viewpoint! Not sure why, I guess the sense of viewing from the future looking back at the past, having a talk with yourself? I find it really interesting.


message 26: by Rachelnyc (new)

Rachelnyc | 61 comments I just finished this and loved so much about it but I would have liked to have some of Paz's POV, especially towards the end. The author did an incredible job of developing her in the prologue so I was disappointed that she was then relegated to the background.

I had a difficult time with the Ilocano and other languages as well but decided to go with the flow and, as mentioned, the words were often translated or put into context so I never felt I was missing too much. I did keep looking up the foods mentioned when I was unfamiliar with them and now I am craving Filipino cuisine! I must remember to eat pancit on my birthday.


message 27: by Jan (new)

Jan (janrowell) | 1057 comments Rachelnyc wrote: "... I did keep looking up the foods mentioned when I was unfamiliar with them and now I am craving Filipino cuisine! I must remember to eat pancit on my birthday. .."

LOL, Rachel. I was so intrigued by all the food in this book that the day I finished it, I took my husband to one of Portland's Filipino restaurants for lunch. Sadly, they were in the midst of a two-week shutdown, so we'll have to try back in February. :-)


message 28: by Rachelnyc (new)

Rachelnyc | 61 comments Jan wrote: "Rachelnyc wrote: "... I did keep looking up the foods mentioned when I was unfamiliar with them and now I am craving Filipino cuisine! I must remember to eat pancit on my birthday. .."

LOL, Rachel..."


I have been looking into some places here and hope to go this week or weekend. I hope you enjoy when it re-opens!


message 29: by Lauren (last edited Feb 04, 2019 04:39PM) (new)

Lauren Oertel | 832 comments I enjoyed the book for some of the reasons mentioned here, including what I learned about Filipino culture. It's really interesting how it intersects with Latin American history and culture in some ways. I would have liked more on the rebel group situation, to fully understand what was going on there, within the context of broader Filipino history.

I wasn't wild about the second-person parts, and I have a low tolerance for sex scenes in books, so those parts were annoying for me (and were more frequent than expected - I wasn't sure what they added), but other than that it was worth reading. I counted it as "a book that should be made into a movie" for the Popsugar Reading Challenge since I'd be interested in a screen adaptation of this (especially with more focus on the rebel group stuff).

Thanks for sharing that great article above, Jan, which explains the connection to "America Is in the Heart"!


message 30: by Nadine (last edited Feb 04, 2019 09:37AM) (new)

Nadine (nadinekc) | 544 comments I liked the second person parts - for me, it added more of a political spark to a story that could have otherwise been mostly character-driven melodrama. It felt like a poke to the reader not to get too comfortable.


message 31: by Jan (new)

Jan (janrowell) | 1057 comments Lauren wrote: "Thanks for sharing that great article above, Jan, which explains the connection to "America Is in the Heart"! ..."

You're welcome, Lauren. And in a FWIW/TMI aside, I'm not gay, but I actually liked the sex scenes in this book, which normally I can take or leave. Maybe those scenes were part of Castillo's approach to immersing us in her characters' lives, kinda like the way she immersed us in the food, language phrases, etc.


message 32: by Lauren (last edited Feb 04, 2019 04:53PM) (new)

Lauren Oertel | 832 comments Jan wrote: "Lauren wrote: "Thanks for sharing that great article above, Jan, which explains the connection to "America Is in the Heart"! ..."

You're welcome, Lauren. And in a FWIW/TMI aside, I'm not gay, but ..."


True, and I should clarify that it definitely wasn't the gay part that bothered me. I have a slightly higher tolerance for homosexual scenes in books compared to heterosexual - I avoid traditional romance novels like the plague, haha. The book Call Me By Your Name was beyond my limits though. ;)

I totally recognize that those scenes wouldn't bother other readers though, so it's just my own personal hangups. I might revisit this one down the road, and now I'm also interested in "America Is in the Heart."


message 33: by Cassidy (new)

Cassidy | 11 comments I loved the perspective of this book - a great window into a culture & history I don't know a lot about. But man, I felt like it was 75 pages too long.

I agree with what Jennifer said about the untranslated language possibly being intended to make you feel a bit like an outsider. Totally felt like that!

I would have liked to see this in a matchup with House of Broken Angels , but I have to say, I'm halfway thorough House and I'm liking it much more than America is Not the Heart. It's more fun of a read I guess.


message 34: by Mike (new)

Mike | 16 comments hella good


message 35: by Nadine (new)

Nadine (nadinekc) | 544 comments Cassidy wrote: "I loved the perspective of this book - a great window into a culture & history I don't know a lot about. But man, I felt like it was 75 pages too long."

I agree with you there - I really liked this book, but I think it could have been tightened up in the scenes at the restaurant and at the garage parties.


message 36: by Gwendolyn (new)

Gwendolyn | 159 comments Lauren, thanks for the reference to Call Me by your Name. I loved that one, but the scene with the peach was over the top! (Remember that one?)


message 37: by Lauren (new)

Lauren Oertel | 832 comments Gwendolyn wrote: "Lauren, thanks for the reference to Call Me by your Name. I loved that one, but the scene with the peach was over the top! (Remember that one?)"

Haha, yes! Too much for me for sure... Was the movie similar? I heard good things about it but after reading the book didn't think I would enjoy it.


message 38: by Gwendolyn (new)

Gwendolyn | 159 comments Lauren, yes the movie was similar. Very well done, and I enjoyed it, but it didn’t shy away from some of the more explicit scenes. The book was better, though.


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