Reading Women: What to Read for Asian Pacific
Sachi Argabright and Kendra Winchester with Special
Guest Fran del Rosario
On this latest episode of Reading Women, Sachi, Kendra, and special guest Fran del Rosario discuss books for Asian Pacific Islander Heritage Month.
Kendra Winchester: Insurrecto is about two women, a white filmmaker who comes over from America wanting to make this epic war movie set in the Philippines, and you have this translator who’s working with her, Chiara to translate things and taking her around the Philippines and going out in the bush and doing these different things. There’s a lot of really complicated narrative structures in this book. There’s this line that read “parallel chapters happening in a universal void.” This is really what we’d call capital-L literature. That’s what Gina Apostol is going for. She’s writing at a high level of difficulty. So there’s two stories, the story of Chiara’s parents and the first original movie that Chiara’s dad who’s also a filmmaker was working on, and then also you have Magsalin and Chiara’s story, and it’s numbered. So you have 2 and 1, and then you start with chapter 20 with the storyline in the past. You have to really pay close attention. It’s so complex, and I was very impressed with the way Gina Apostol wrote this novel, her debut.
Fran del Rosario: Wow, that’s insane.
KW: Yeah, it’s definitely one I would recommend reading in print. I found it very hard to follow along with the audiobook because there’s the play on the page. She’s being very playful with her prose and the way she’s telling the story, and also in the audiobook, the narrator was not an own voices narrator–she’s very talented, but–she didn’t get the accents right, and didn’t get the language right, and I felt it would be better overall in print. It’s really a fascinating book and I’m looking forward to what Gina Apostol will do next.
FdR: I’m glad you picked this! It’s been on my TBR, and it created quite a buzz in the Filipino community when it first came out. I’m going to have to bump this up.
KW: I look forward to getting your perspective, because this is such an own voices story, such a Filipino story, and I haven’t seen many own voices reviews on this!
FdR: I Was Their American Dream by Malaka Gharib just came out yesterday, so I’m super excited for this book. It’s a little different in that it’s a graphic memoir about Malaka’s upbringing as a child of immigrants, specifically a Filipino mother and an Egyptian father. Malaka grew up in the US with her Filipino mother, so she was surrounded by Filipinos growing up, but she spent summers in Egypt with her dad. So not only did she have to move between an immigrant culture and an American culture, she also had to move between her parents’ two cultures, and her parents come from two drastically different cultures.
What i loved about this book was that Malaka does a great job of illuminating her struggle as a biracial, bicultural child of immigrants in a way that was insightful and very funny. This book is hilarious. I’m new to graphic novels, and as a personal preference I tend to enjoy graphic novels more if the content is humorous, as these mirror more of the comic strip style that I’m familiar with that pack a punch with humor, which is exactly what this book does. I think it’s great when we can look back at our experience and laugh at it. There are many moments when you move between cultures especially when the cultures are so different they lend themselves to mistakes. I was cautiously optimistic going in, but was blown away after I read it. For me, this book kind of checked my own perception of identity and stereotypes which is important as the world becomes increasingly diverse in our children, the next generation, and more and more of them becoming biracial or mixed heritage. Malaka really nails what it’s like to move between two worlds.