“I think we are stuck in someone else’s movie,” says co-protagonist Chiara Brasi early on in Insurrecto, telegraphing the framing device for Gina Apostol’s new novel. Chiara, filmmaker, daughter of an artsy filmmaker, daughter of an heiress, golden-haired devotee of Hermès bags and sunglasses, has come to the Philippines to research a movie. She needs help, and finds Magsalin, a returned-expat Filipina writer and teacher.
“I saw my first dead body on November 9, 2013. He was five. He was lying in the rubble of a demolished church that had entombed eight of its faithful in Tacloban City, the ville-martyr of this impoverished region in the Philippines where a violent typhoon had hit only a day before.”
Since the Chinese President Xi Jinping first proposed to revive the Silk Road in 2013, the term have become almost ubiquitous, whether used in a celebratory or derogative way. The topics range from trade agreements, financial loans, military bases, soft-power expansion, and cultural exchanges in the age of globalization.
There is much more than the average “Asian expatriate in the US” story to be found in the debut novel by Elaine Castillo. America Is Not the Heart offers some genuine insights into love, life and what constitutes a home as well as an absorbing family saga set between the Philippines and the Bay area of San Francisco.
Canada’s answer to—whom? Jason Bourne?—is a lesbian forensic accountant of Chinese extraction by the name of Ava Lee. But in The Imam of Tawi-Tawi, her tenth outing, Ava isn’t this time tracking down missing millions but has instead been sucked into the global “War on Terror”.
Is poetry a potent enough protest to move the political needle? In other cultures—the Middle East comes to mind—poetry is fundamental. In a recent article in the BBC, somewhat controversially entitled “Why I became a jihadist poetry critic”, Elisabeth Kendall is quoted as “Anybody who’s spent time in the Middle East knows how important poetry is. Any tin-pot taxi driver in Cairo can recite poetry.” But in English, or in East Asia?
MacArthur hardly appears. The spies were rank amateurs. But once you get past the misleading title, MacArthur’s Spies is a well-written piece of work with a lot to say about life in occupied Manila during World War II.