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AMERICA IS IN THE HEART. First published in 1946, this autobiography of the well known Filipino poet describes his boyhood in the Philippines, his voyage to America, and his years of hardship and despair as an itinerant laborer following the harvest trail in the rural West. Bulosan does not spare the reader any of the horrors tha accompanied the migrant's life; but his qui AMERICA IS IN THE HEART. First published in 1946, this autobiography of the well known Filipino poet describes his boyhood in the Philippines, his voyage to America, and his years of hardship and despair as an itinerant laborer following the harvest trail in the rural West. Bulosan does not spare the reader any of the horrors tha accompanied the migrant's life; but his quiet, stoic voice is the most convincing witness to the terrible events he witnessed.


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AMERICA IS IN THE HEART. First published in 1946, this autobiography of the well known Filipino poet describes his boyhood in the Philippines, his voyage to America, and his years of hardship and despair as an itinerant laborer following the harvest trail in the rural West. Bulosan does not spare the reader any of the horrors tha accompanied the migrant's life; but his qui AMERICA IS IN THE HEART. First published in 1946, this autobiography of the well known Filipino poet describes his boyhood in the Philippines, his voyage to America, and his years of hardship and despair as an itinerant laborer following the harvest trail in the rural West. Bulosan does not spare the reader any of the horrors tha accompanied the migrant's life; but his quiet, stoic voice is the most convincing witness to the terrible events he witnessed.

30 review for America Is in the Heart: A Personal History

  1. 4 out of 5

    Jr Bacdayan

    "It is but fair to say that America is not a land of one race or one class of men. We are all Americans that have toiled and suffered and known oppression and defeat, from the first Indian that offered peace to the last Filipino pea pickers. America is not bound by geograpahical latitudes. America is not merely a land or an institution. America is in the hearts of men..." Carlos Bulosan's semi-autobiographical novel starts out with his early life born from a lowly peasant family in the Philippine "It is but fair to say that America is not a land of one race or one class of men. We are all Americans that have toiled and suffered and known oppression and defeat, from the first Indian that offered peace to the last Filipino pea pickers. America is not bound by geograpahical latitudes. America is not merely a land or an institution. America is in the hearts of men..." Carlos Bulosan's semi-autobiographical novel starts out with his early life born from a lowly peasant family in the Philippines. His father is a poor farmer attending to a small plot of land which they eventually lose as collateral after missing a single loan payment taken so that they could give a proper education to one of his elder brothers. Consequently his family is left to the mercies of farming for wealthy landowners who take almost everything they raise. Slowly the systematic oppression against poor farmers in his native country dawns on the young Bulosan, and disillusioned by the hopelessness of his nation he blindly takes a ship to America in search of greener pastures. The United States of America is a nation composed predominantly of immigrants. From the first Pilgrims who travelled from Europe to the Newfoundland, to the next waves of Irish, Polish, Italians, to the Africans who were first brought as slaves, the Chinese, Japanese, Koreans, Vietnamese all under the umbrella term orientals, the Mexicans who travelled north as laborers, and finally the provincial Filipinos only seeking a humble place to call their own, all came to America in search of a better life. Ironically, once the earliest immigrants had taken root, their offsprings entitled to the usurped land, somehow developed a sense of superiority towards people of different ethnicity immigrating to partake of this enchanting American dream that their great nation presented. Thus the nightmare of racism, slavery, bigotry, became a challenge that each new immigrant had to face. From the class oppression he faced in the Philippines, Bulosan was unprepared to face the bitter reality of racial oppression that he was about to experience. Not realising he had naively traded the frying pan for the scorching flames, young Carlos is welcomed to West Coast America just in time for the Great Depression. Destitute, innocent, uneducated, and most importantly brown-skinned, he is exploited and victimised by almost everyone he comes in contact with. Despite everything he worked hard uncomplainingly doing manual labor wherever the opportunity arose. From factories, farms, to different establishments he tried his calloused hand at, but nothing seemed to improve and racial abuse always hounded him. He was often branded a monkey, a sub-human, and surprisingly a criminal with his only crime being born with a darker pigmentation of skin. There are different episodes in the book where police forces prey on minorities for sport, killing or torturing them unprovoked merely for their fancy. Rebelling against this vile animalistic hate, Bulosan's intellectual awakening was first fostered by his exposure to activism. Finding solace in their shared misery, his fellow working-class Filipinos congregated and started to organize small groups asking for better working conditions and fair pay from their exploitive employers. Thus he found himself involved in fighting for unionism and the alien rights of underrepresented Filipinos in California. Bulosan became an instigator, but he knew he couldn't do what was expected of him if he did not educate himself by reading and trying his hand at writing. Slowly he fell in love with literature, and through time and under intense hardships his writing developed from simple opinion pieces, to political articles, then poetry, and even fiction. We trace his journey moving from one place to another addressing the two-headed monster of labor injustice and racial persecution. His mind filled with thoughts of progressive ideologies, his hands stained by ink marks, Bulosan struggled with all his might convinced that his sincerity for America will one day be rewarded. America Is in the Heart is a universally relevant tale of resilience in the face of hatred, inequality, and extreme poverty told through the lense of Filipino-American immigrants in the 1930s-1940s. In its pages abound an intensely savage love cultivated from a person born of a different motherland for the unrealized dream of America where freedom and justice is finally for all. Nine decades later and I find myself wondering whether this dream has come to fruition... I leave that for you to decide.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Andrew

    At present moment, especially in my own Seattle, Filipinos are a pretty wealthy, pretty widely respected group highly represented in business and political leadership. Hard to believe that a mere 70 years ago they were beaten for sport by shitheel Oregonian cops. There isn't as much self-criticism and irony in America Is in the Heart as I normally like in my memoirs. But when the surrounding circumstances are so brutal (racism, murder, diseases of poverty, oppression of paisano populations), I do At present moment, especially in my own Seattle, Filipinos are a pretty wealthy, pretty widely respected group highly represented in business and political leadership. Hard to believe that a mere 70 years ago they were beaten for sport by shitheel Oregonian cops. There isn't as much self-criticism and irony in America Is in the Heart as I normally like in my memoirs. But when the surrounding circumstances are so brutal (racism, murder, diseases of poverty, oppression of paisano populations), I don't feel like self-criticism is all that necessary. Bulosan doesn't come off as a martyr, but rather as a human doing his best given the circumstances. There's this tradition in American writing where members of an oppressed group face their situation with some modicum of hope and a belief that there was some power in the sheer force of love. Richard Wright and James Baldwin are too notable examples, and Carlos Bulosan falls firmly within that tradition. He's buried here. Maybe I should go visit his grave. I feel that if there is some patron saint of the West Coast, it might be him.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Frank Eldritch

    "The old world is dying, but a new world is being born. It generates inspiration from the chaos that beats upon us all. The false grandeur and security, the unfulfilled promises and illusory power, the number of the dead and those about to die, will charge the forces of our courage and determination. The old world will die so that the new world [will have] less sacrifice and agony on the living." Carlos Bulosan is a Filipino author who is considered both a socialist writer and a labor "The old world is dying, but a new world is being born. It generates inspiration from the chaos that beats upon us all. The false grandeur and security, the unfulfilled promises and illusory power, the number of the dead and those about to die, will charge the forces of our courage and determination. The old world will die so that the new world [will have] less sacrifice and agony on the living." Carlos Bulosan is a Filipino author who is considered both a socialist writer and a labor organizer. His writings have a lot of impact for many Asian immigrants who can relate to his chronicles of hardship, sickness and despair as he tried to make a living in America. This work of non-fiction is semi-autobiographical, depicting his early childhood steeped in poverty back in his hometown Pangasinan, which then carried on to discuss about his misadventures during his immigration to the United States (particularly in Seattle and California). Here in this places is where he encountered several instances and increasingly violent displays and sentiments of racism against Filipinos during the Great Depression. This was a very disconcerting read and something I was not prepared to experience at all as one of the only two books I scheduled to read for this month. But if I must pick between this harrowing tale of hopelessness and abuse, and the Victorian facebook-ing narrative that was ultimately Jane Austen's Emma in a nutshell, then there is no question in my mind that America is in the Heart is the more stimulating and emotionally stirring book. Divided into three meaningful aspects of Bulosan's life, this book is a very satisfying slow burn that was painstakingly delivered with one of the most earnest literary voices I have read in a while. But, then again, being a Filipino I might only be showing certain biases, especially since I have made it to a point since I started reviewing novels to always have a Filipino story included in the schedule because although my taste and sensibilities as a reader have more or less been Westernized, there are tons of amazing works of fiction written by my own fellowmen that must be explored. Carlos Bulosan's autobiography is definitely one of those and I don't think I have any regrets. I say this because there are just so many passages in the later second and third parts of the book that are just so upsetting and depressing since they paint a cruel portrait of discrimination and loneliness as one is stuck in a foreign land that supposedly promises opportunities for equality and autonomy but to a barely educated immigrant like Bulosan, nothing could be farther from the truth. What was singularly engaging about this book is its honesty in chronicling even the smallest moments of cruelty--and compassion. Bulosan would often express the paradox of the white men and women and their treatment of Filipinos. On one hand, they are violent and abusive; on the other they are sympathetic and willing to assist a broken stranger. It's worth noting that this book's setting is majorly in the Depression era so certain economic strains and struggles that American citizens have experienced then seem to only contribute to the way they blame the Asian immigrants for almost every ills the American public then perceives are their doing. But this cycle of racism and hate crime are not only committed against the Filipinos but also on the Chinese with their opium dens and gambling establishments. Still, Bulosan's story made a strong argument that perhaps Filipinos would frequently receive some of the worse maltreatment than other Asian immigrants during that time. For example: a few of the American police would either beat up, arrest or plain gun down innocent Filipinos who are just there at the wrong place during the wrong time, and they would either do these things for their sick enjoyment or misplaced rage. There was even a legal situation where they want to pass down a law that would prohibit Filipino men to marry Caucasian women by equating Filipinos to Mongolians which they consider a dirty race. When anthropologists stress that Filipinos belong to the Malayan race, they were quick to jump on that and use it to further exercise their ignorance and blatant racism. Racial slurs such as the use of the term 'brown monkeys' to describe Filipinos are also in Bulosan's passages. Filipinos cannot get any kind of stable livelihood considering it's the Depression, but some of them would stick to groups to make it through, until the next raid or hate crime occurs and Bulosan himself had to run away from a few in order to survive. Essentially, this book is not easy to swallow especially now that we belong to a time where racism and discrimination are being slowly abolished in our humane societies. Books like America is in the Heart remind each and one of us just how far we have come--and how far we still have to go. "We in America understand the many imperfections of democracy and the malignant disease corroding its very heart. We must be united in the effort to make an America in which our people can find happiness. It is a great wrong that anyone in America, whether he be brown or white, should be illiterate or hungry or miserable." The first part of this autobiography was bittersweet, describing the life of poverty that Bulosan experienced when he was just a boy named Allos, the youngest son of a farmer and his wife. He had three older brothers he looked up to; the eldest Luciano was a soldier stationed in America who came home and became a politician, the second eldest Julio has also migrated to the States whom he tragically met up again with later encountered as a reinforcer for pimps and gangsters, and the last one, Macario, is a teacher whom his parents have pinned all their hopes and dreams to, as well as all their savings just to give him a proper education. Even as a boy, Allos wanted to learn and he has a passion for books and eventually for writing. He was close to all his brothers particularly with Luciano who taught him how catch birds and get involved in native politics, and Macario who filled his head with stories and imagination. Equipped by his parents' tenacity and values of hard work and humility, as well as his older brothers' lessons for manhood, Allos ventured on at a tender age of fourteen to America and his multiple struggles and failures to cope and succeed have only made him miss home. But in the end, he never went back to the Philippines. Instead, he strove to write all the injustices he and his fellow immigrants have experienced. Since realizing he can never be silenced anymore and he can now use words and the printed word as a weapon, Bulosan has became a part of a publication that targets the rampant racism in Seattle. He also joined trade unions to fight for the rights of workers and their wage. As a boy, Bulosan is more than acquainted with the unfair salary and treatment that hard workers like his father had faced--his father who plowed rice fields that never belonged to him but to the corrupt upper class of mestizo family clans in the Philippines, and had therefore died sick and penniless. Bulosan has a lot of fire and righteous rage to spare, and he poured all of these feelings to his writings and social activism. "Nothing is better than life, even a hard life, a broken-down gambler's life--and I wanted to live!" America is in the Heart contains Bulosan's life and legacy and his contributions to the good fight for the immigrants in that era of American society. This is an important book and even though Bulosan has clearly lived a life of impoverished state and abuse, he had also learned to rise above that and become greater than his suffering. Through writing, he had utilized his pain and talents to capture a searing landscape of tolerance, justice and unwavering dreams. RECOMMENDED: 8/10 DO READ MY REVIEWS AT

  4. 4 out of 5

    Lauren

    AMERICA IS IN THE HEART by Carlos Bulosan, original 1946, this edition 1973. Some quotes from this semi-autobiographical work, a classic of Filipino/American literature: ▪️"We must destroy that which is dying, because it does not die by itself... The old world is dying, but a new world is being born... The false grandeur and security, the unfulfilled promises and illusory power...the old world will die so that the new world will be born." ▪️"I died many deaths in these surroundings, where man was i AMERICA IS IN THE HEART by Carlos Bulosan, original 1946, this edition 1973. Some quotes from this semi-autobiographical work, a classic of Filipino/American literature: ▪️"We must destroy that which is dying, because it does not die by itself... The old world is dying, but a new world is being born... The false grandeur and security, the unfulfilled promises and illusory power...the old world will die so that the new world will be born." ▪️"I died many deaths in these surroundings, where man was indistinguishable from beast." ▪️"Why was America so kind and yet so cruel? Was there no way of simplifying things in this continent so that suffering would be minimized? ... I was angry and confused and wondered if I would ever understand this paradox." We follow Allos from Binalonan on his journey to the US, his evolution into Carlos, his self-education through reading (and the many people who helped him get access to books), his hospitalisations for the tuberculosis illness that eventually took his life at age 42, and his early successes as a poet in the US. Another reader questioned in her review why this book isn't read by a wider American audience, specifically in the classroom. Pondered that question myself after reading in entirety. In many ways, I wonder if that reticence to teach it comes not from from the stories of racist violence and brutality (in many 'canon' books), but from Bulosan's strong socialist sentiments and calls for uprising throughout the book, and his later 'blacklisting' by the FBI. Or perhaps it is simply because it is just not known at the same level, or there is regionalism at play, since this book is a west coast narrative, and many American canon books are east-coast centric. Whatever it is, this book undoubtedly deserves a larger audience. I learned so much from this reading. Highly recommended.

  5. 5 out of 5

    K.D. Absolutely

    Carlos Bulosan (1913-1956) was the first Pilipino who published a novel in English while in the US. This was in 1946 when he was 33 years old. He was a native of Binalonan, Pangasinan and went to the US at the age of 17 landing in Seattle in 1930. This book amazed me in many ways but it also raised several questions in my mind. Reading this brings back John Steinbeck’s 1939 magnum opus The Grapes of Wrath. The only difference is that the white Joad family – the main characters in Grapes - becomes Carlos Bulosan (1913-1956) was the first Pilipino who published a novel in English while in the US. This was in 1946 when he was 33 years old. He was a native of Binalonan, Pangasinan and went to the US at the age of 17 landing in Seattle in 1930. This book amazed me in many ways but it also raised several questions in my mind. Reading this brings back John Steinbeck’s 1939 magnum opus The Grapes of Wrath. The only difference is that the white Joad family – the main characters in Grapes - becomes brown Bulosan brothers. Both novels are set in California during the height of Great Depression in the 30’s. It was also the time when building notices like ”Filipinos and Dogs are Not Allowed” are visibly displayed in the US. But this was before the WWII. The heroism exhibited by Filipino soldiers fighting side-by-side with their American compatriots changed the impression of Americans with regard to their brown brothers in the Far East. Since one of my favorite novels is Grapes, I thought that all copy-cats will surely fall below my expectations. This did not. Bulosan’s first person narration gave a very personal touch and believable. However, Wiki says that one of the characters in the book said in the interview that this book is only: "30% autobiography, 40% case history of Pinoy (Filipino immigrant) life in America, and 30% fiction." Again, Bulosan is entitled to use poetic license but he also had a plagiarism case so everything leaves a questionable after thought when I finally closed this book. Nevertheless, a remarkable must read that all Filipinos especially those who are planning to migrate to foreign countries. Definitely not to learn about the then extreme racism against Asians in the US but to learn from how Bulosan persevered in his dreams (to become a writer and contribute in making a difference turning America a better place) despite all odds. Bulosan did not achieve his dream of returning back to the Philippines but he left us this book for generations of Filipinos to learn from and to cherish.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Ayban Gabriyel

    America is in the Heart, in pursuit of his “American Dream” America is in the Heart was an autobiography of Carlos Bulosan(1913-1956) a native of Binalonan, Pangasinan who went to California for greener pastures during the great depression in the US. The book was first published in 1946 in the US and was only given an attention in the country during the First Quarter Storm (1972), its great relevance during those times gave this biography the attention it needs. In the book he gave his 3 brothe America is in the Heart, in pursuit of his “American Dream” America is in the Heart was an autobiography of Carlos Bulosan(1913-1956) a native of Binalonan, Pangasinan who went to California for greener pastures during the great depression in the US. The book was first published in 1946 in the US and was only given an attention in the country during the First Quarter Storm (1972), its great relevance during those times gave this biography the attention it needs. In the book he gave his 3 brothers fictive names and the book was divided into 4 parts, the first part was about his childhood memory, his family in Pangasinan at the flight of his brothers. The first part was may favorite, its rural setting and his poignant writing gripped me. This was the most emotional part for me, sharing your family stories and tragedies while growing up, unable to fully understand things that are happening around you, accepting blows hoping to understand it someday, in time. The second part was about his flight, his adventures in foreign land and realizing his American Dream and illusions of it. He went to America when he was just 17 years old, sold as slave and worked from one plantation to another. He later found his brother or rather his brother found him. This part was about his hardships and realizations. Hardship of being a Filipino worker in America in those dark times, when there was no available jobs and being a Filipino is like being a dog; discrimination of other races filled the American air. The two latter parts was about his involvement in the labor unions and the movement. He organized labor movements for better working conditions. And it is also the part where he writes his poems and short stories and got published. He was bedridden for 2 years and this was his productive years. The book ends during the first year of WWII when one of his brothers volunteered to fight for his motherland. Allos(Carlos), also intends to come back to the Philippine but it didn’t happen, he died in 1956. On halfway reading this book, I can’t help but to think if this is really a biography or a work of fiction, asking myself was it really possible, is he being truthful to me? Did he manage to take all the blows? I think not. He may not experience it all but I believed he wrote for those Filipinos who do. But none the less this book was a great work, Bulosan’s magnum opus. I first read him way back in high school, his short story “The Tree of my father” was included in our Philippine Literature class, again in college with his story “My Father goes to Court”. Carlos Bulosan was one our great writers that I believe to be underrated, this book still rings its relevance today, this book showed me tragedies and hardships of the past that we need not to ignore. I recommend this book to every Filipino, especially to those who have family members who left in search of a greener pasture working to support us, let us not forget their hardships. I’m planning to read his novel “All the Conspirators” this month.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Joshie

    Hmm I am personally conflicted about America Is in the Heart. Although a semi-autobiography that never undermines the impact of violence, self-inflicted or otherwise, ugly and unclothed, its apparent one-dimensional portrayal of women as seemingly damsels in distress is difficult to ignore. Despite this weak spot, its most riveting and tearing moments are tightly fastened to its narrator’s struggles to attain education and freedom whilst his native country uncertainly wades the murky waters and Hmm I am personally conflicted about America Is in the Heart. Although a semi-autobiography that never undermines the impact of violence, self-inflicted or otherwise, ugly and unclothed, its apparent one-dimensional portrayal of women as seemingly damsels in distress is difficult to ignore. Despite this weak spot, its most riveting and tearing moments are tightly fastened to its narrator’s struggles to attain education and freedom whilst his native country uncertainly wades the murky waters and waves of post-colonialism. As these waves splash, soft yet insistent with its gift of fresh-from-the-oven independence, its own version of the “American Dream” materialises along the crippling poverty and evident social class divide in the Philippines. And with the phrase’s notion of a better life it turns its promises into a nightmare of (police) brutality and (racial) discrimination. It shatters into a broken dream. Bulosan further complicates these acts of aggression with his contradicting characterisation of Americans his narrator, Carl, encounter. Amidst this despairing narrative it clings onto hope in its rare visits through far and between gentleness and kindness. Somehow there is an implicit sentiment that still believes in the innate goodness of people; and an explicit belief on the strength and inspiration literature gives. As it jumps from state to state, from one work to another, from person to person, America Is in the Heart at its core desires belongingness and acceptance. Under Spain for more than three hundred years, more than three decades under the U.S., the Philippines of today still looks up to its colonisers like a child needing parental guidance, at times a teen in rebellion. I don’t think any good parent would have done nor do what it’s doing at all—most particularly the U.S. I am starting to think of it as a wild case of Stockholm Syndrome instead. “Why was America kind yet so cruel? Was there no way to simplifying things in this continent so that suffering would be minimized? Was there no common denominator on which we could all meet?” As a Filipino myself I wonder if I am too harsh and critical of my own country. I may even be a hypocrite since I left the Philippines two years ago for a “more promising” job in another and plan to leave this one again in a year or so. I am also looking for belongingness and acceptance. I haven’t felt I belong anywhere nor is there anyone / anything there / here for me. It makes me ask, is this a reflection of my own country’s confusion with its own identity? Perhaps, perhaps... Personal mulling aside, America Is in the Heart is an essential story not only of the Filipino migrant experience but also of marginalised people and their constant fight for equality and respect. A book that will benefit from a better editor, it is an undeniable horrific and heartrending story.

  8. 5 out of 5

    sdw

    This is not an autobiography. This is fiction or a composite of many different experiences. For example, Bulosan did not work in the canneries in Alaska. I’m not sure why this book is continually introduced as an autobiography, rather than a piece of literature that falsely presents itself as autobiography. Doing so contributes to the tendency to read certain forms of literature as historical fact, and also I think downplays the particular literary merits of this piece. This book tells the journ This is not an autobiography. This is fiction or a composite of many different experiences. For example, Bulosan did not work in the canneries in Alaska. I’m not sure why this book is continually introduced as an autobiography, rather than a piece of literature that falsely presents itself as autobiography. Doing so contributes to the tendency to read certain forms of literature as historical fact, and also I think downplays the particular literary merits of this piece. This book tells the journey of Allos from the Philippines to the United States (where he becomes Carlos) where he suffers from violent economic and racial exploitation running in fear from the savagery of the life he faces until he discovers socialism and communism and labor unions and intellectual white women and he becomes Carl the author while recovering from tuberculosis. This is a popular front novel, and in moments as Michael Denning points out, sounds like a “Left wing fourth of july oratory.” How to take this is under debate, but I tend to agree with the idea that we can recognize an intellectual distance between the narrator and the author. (“How could anyone think a Filipino wouldn’t have a chance in America?” um….well you just spent 300 pages telling us how a Filipino doesn’t have a chance in America…) In real life Bulosan got very popular during WWII and right after the war and then got caught up in the red scare and a plagiarism scandal (which may have been him playing off another story rather than stealing it) and died lonely and miserable at a comparatively young age probably from exposure.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Joey

    In the midst of reading or right after you have read it, you may conclude that Carlos Bulosan ‘s personal accounts of his childhood experiences as well as his abject misery in America appear to be OVER EXAGERRATED , or far from the reality. I thought so, for I was not aware of the real situations among OFW’s. But you may come to the deeper realization that Carlos Bulosan must have had personal reasons: This book could serve as an eye-opener not only to the Filipino immigrants but also to the oth In the midst of reading or right after you have read it, you may conclude that Carlos Bulosan ‘s personal accounts of his childhood experiences as well as his abject misery in America appear to be OVER EXAGERRATED , or far from the reality. I thought so, for I was not aware of the real situations among OFW’s. But you may come to the deeper realization that Carlos Bulosan must have had personal reasons: This book could serve as an eye-opener not only to the Filipino immigrants but also to the others elsewhere as well. It almost pulled at my heartstrings. Poor Allos! If his autobiographies as well as his other works had been published while he was going through the grinding poverty, teeth-gnashing cruelty and stoical discrimination in America, I might have said, “ I didn’t know.” I wish the government of the Philippines had said it herself, or so did America. However, they turned their backs on or deaf to the reality, for I guess they must have been busy preparing for the WWII. Carlos Bulosan bears a little resemblance to Richard Wright, one of my favorite authors. Like R. Wright, Carlos Bulosan also dreamed of freedom from the unjust socio-political system. H e also dreamed of being educated by reading omnivorously since his parents bent on sending him to school. He also went through difficulties in surviving the fittest. However, unlike R. Wright who had a chance to be known among the literati, Carlos Bulosan never did. Poor Carlos! If it had not been the poverty, he could have been educated as well as gained a name in the Philippine literature. He could have become a doctor as what he wanted to be when he was still young. He would not have held onto the edge of a knife by leaving the Philippines for the “American dream.” Alas, he ended up as poor and TB-stricken. Honestly, after having read it, I became more nationalistic and chauvinistic; I love my native land more. When I got into the deeper part of the story, I can’t deny the fact that I was furious at Americans, felt like putting the blame on them why my countrymen as well as other Asians suffered a lot, not even before but until now. Well, I can’t blame them, for they may be the avatars and archetypes of stereotypes. Their history fashioned their hegemonic attitude. After all, I thought – since I am not much well-read about the world history- that Black Americans were not the only center of cruelty and discrimination. There are such things elsewhere after all. I remembered two things while I was reading it: (a) My childhood. I also lived in a province. I knew how it is like to live in a remote rural place. I have experienced what Carlos Bulosan did: toiling land with a carabao, selling vegetables and fish, walking to a far distance, bar exchange, and so on. (b) My parents. My parents both lived in their own provinces; their attitudes are provincial. Although they are not educated, they use their common sense to live with dignity, to sacrifice for our sakes. ^^ I think this book should be highly recommended not only to OFW’s, but also to students.This book should never be forgotten, for it refelcts in the dark society in the past.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Janica Vinas

    America is in the Heart tells the story of Carlos Bulosan, a strongly inspired Filipino peasant who strives to leave his life of poverty behind to fulfill his American dream. The book is set in small towns throughout the Philippines to different states and cities in the United States during the 1920’s through the 1940’s, a time when being an immigrant in America was harsh. Wanting nothing more than to live a decent life, Bulosan must endure the struggles of being a poor Filipino in America and c America is in the Heart tells the story of Carlos Bulosan, a strongly inspired Filipino peasant who strives to leave his life of poverty behind to fulfill his American dream. The book is set in small towns throughout the Philippines to different states and cities in the United States during the 1920’s through the 1940’s, a time when being an immigrant in America was harsh. Wanting nothing more than to live a decent life, Bulosan must endure the struggles of being a poor Filipino in America and continue to remain strong to reach his dream. Bulosan does everything to escape his life as being a peasant, leaving his unfortunate family behind, accepting harsh, low-paying jobs, and taking off to America wishing to become more than just a peasant from a small town in the Philippines. The book presents the severity of Bulosan’s life in the Philippines and America which makes us realize the racial and class issues that occurred in the first half of the twentieth century, encouraging us to treat everyone equally no matter what color, class, or gender they are. To me, the most memorable moment in my book was when Amado, an older, male sibling of Bulosan’s abuses a carabao (water buffalo) right in front of his father and brother, beating the poor animal so violently. While beating the carabao, his father comes toward him and asks him why he is beating the animal- Amado has no response. All of a sudden, he starts to run away from the farm without coming back. While running away, Amado shouts and says goodbye to Bulosan. Bulosan comes into realization that the reason why Amado had run away was because he was tired of living in poverty. This moment shows how deeply Amado hated their hard, peasant life, so he runs away from his problems as if it would help. Throughout the book, Bulosan never describes Amado’s success because he never reached it. Amado rebelled, ignored, and ran away from his problems, making his life become anything but better. Ultimately, the story of Carlos Bulosan’s triumphant life is a story of Filipinos struggling to find decency in their lives, sacrificing themselves for money, facing poverty, and enduring all the discrimination, pain, and brutality caused by people who believed to be more superior than them. It all adds up to a tale of endurance, an example of all ages which encourages us to believe that we must rise above all and to never give up, no matter how much people try to bring us down. America is in the Heart tells that story very powerfully, reminding us that life in America will not always be easy, but we must always remember our rights. America is in the Heart is an honest book that includes every detail of unjust cruelty faced or witnessed by a Filipino. I would recommend this book to readers who are into autobiographical stories that really dig deep into one’s real, personal life or to those who want to understand what it was like to be an immigrant, particularly that of a Filipino in America half a century ago. I personally enjoyed reading this book because Bulosan was a Filipino man who grew up in the exact same town in the Philippines where my parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents grew up in, so I could feel some sort of connection with the author. Some of the ideas of the Filipino culture mentioned by Bulosan in this book are some of what my grandparents have told me when I was younger. I’m glad I read this book because I could easily understand the author’s story. Bulosan’s book was well-written and has become memorable for me.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Kate

    3/5stars I find memoirs and autobiographies very difficult to rate because how does one rate someones life? But, I'm basing this off what i believe the author wanted the reader to get out of his story. And I think, in some areas, he didn't succeed. I think this story could have been INFINITELY better if he had decided to focus on JUST certain parts of his life - rather than trying to put literally every single person, place and thing he ever did from childhood to adulthood. The beginning, focusing 3/5stars I find memoirs and autobiographies very difficult to rate because how does one rate someones life? But, I'm basing this off what i believe the author wanted the reader to get out of his story. And I think, in some areas, he didn't succeed. I think this story could have been INFINITELY better if he had decided to focus on JUST certain parts of his life - rather than trying to put literally every single person, place and thing he ever did from childhood to adulthood. The beginning, focusing on his childhood in the Philippines was very strong and had a LOT of information and a lot of beautiful, horrifying passages. And then the end was also very powerful from his story as a aspiring writer and adult person. But that middle, holy crap, it was SO BORING. Like I said in my update for this book, the middle of this book became "and then i went here... and then i met this person... and then i went here... oh and then i went HERE... and then i met this other person.. and then that person died... and now i met up with this person... and then i went over there... and then they died too... and then i went here... and then.." and it was SO POINTLESS and so difficult to keep up with. There was a lot of incredible commentary on racism in America especially toward Filipinos and Asian Americans. But definitely not something that I ENJOYED reading.

  12. 4 out of 5

    LV

    Incredible. Shame on me for waiting this long to read America Is In The Heart. Carlos Bulosan’s autobiography is a piece of the fabric that makes up the Pilipino diaspora... As a Pilipino, reading AIITH is to have a better understanding of one’s identity, culture, and past. It is to pay respect to our brothers and sisters that suffered and continue to suffer the cruelties of living in poverty in the Philippines. It is to understand what it was like living as a Pilipino in America and especially Incredible. Shame on me for waiting this long to read America Is In The Heart. Carlos Bulosan’s autobiography is a piece of the fabric that makes up the Pilipino diaspora... As a Pilipino, reading AIITH is to have a better understanding of one’s identity, culture, and past. It is to pay respect to our brothers and sisters that suffered and continue to suffer the cruelties of living in poverty in the Philippines. It is to understand what it was like living as a Pilipino in America and especially California, as the labor unions fought for their lives to gain the rights they so deserved. I can’t remember a book bringing me to tears as this one did. It has filled me with rage, sadness, and has made me nauseous from the brutalities our people have faced in an effort to simply survive. Bulosan’s determination and relentless drive to survive will always live with me. Regardless your ethnicity or race, this book is highly recommended. It is the brown man’s The Grapes of Wrath, and should be acclaimed as highly as such. It is a story and reality that needs to be told and heard. It is a heartbreaking masterpiece that is but a thread of the fabric that makes up this idea of the American Dream & the reality of it’s pursuit for people of color such as Pilipinos.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Dream

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. It is not surprising that Carlos Bulosan found an early American inspiration in Abraham Lincoln; the U.S. President, like Carlos, was the son of uneducated farmers and was himself poor and educated only very briefly. Lincoln also was associated in his time and ours as being a symbol for the struggle of national unity, a struggle that Bulosan would take up in his own form in the latter part of his life. His novel/autobiography (a composite of his and his compatriot’s experiences), America is in t It is not surprising that Carlos Bulosan found an early American inspiration in Abraham Lincoln; the U.S. President, like Carlos, was the son of uneducated farmers and was himself poor and educated only very briefly. Lincoln also was associated in his time and ours as being a symbol for the struggle of national unity, a struggle that Bulosan would take up in his own form in the latter part of his life. His novel/autobiography (a composite of his and his compatriot’s experiences), America is in the Heart, characterizes the author’s early experience and the formative years that drove Bulosan towards this cultural and political awakening. It is his childhood experiences as well as his various introductions to American life that stir in him both the brimming ideals and the shattered illusions of equality, and teach him the differences between action and reaction. The idea of America as existing and thriving in the heart is what fuels the constant hope that Carlos holds of unity and acceptance for himself and his fellow countrymen. Bulosan’s initial struggles for survival in the Philippines and his final migration to America create a picture of what early United States immigrants endured against the face of racism, the economy, and the cultural climate that eventually led to Japan’s bombing of Pearl Harbor. As Carey McWilliams describes in the book’s introduction, Bulosan was like many other immigrants “who were attracted to this country by its legendary promises of a better life” (vii). Bulosan’s journey towards America was also equally a move to escape the poverty of his life in the Philippines, the hopelessness of the farming that would always be hindered by the government and absentee landlords. His peasant life in the Philippines is mysterious to him, full of questions. In dire conditions, he watches as his brothers leave, and his father struggles against changing conditions to maintain the dignity of his forefathers: “My father was a farmer, not a hired laborer,” he writes. “It humiliated him to hire himself out to someone. Yet he was willing to swallow his pride and to forget the honor of his ancestors” (29). A later memory of his mother not eating so that Carlos and his brothers would have enough food also haunts this early consciousness of what it meant to be poor and seemingly helpless (280-1). As Carlos and his two brothers struggle to piece together an existence in America, Carlos learns that sometimes more than honor and comfort must be sacrificed when one comes face-to-face with the deception and hardship that accompany American idealism: “Was it possible,” he writes, “that, coming to American with certain illusions of equality, I had slowly succumbed to the hypnotic effects of racial fear?” (164) Bulosan’s rage and cynicism when encountering the constant stigma of being Filipino in America surprises even himself; he soon learns that simply reacting to prejudice with sheer hatred would cause only further discontent and disunity. It is out of this despair and hunger that Carlos discovers the power of the written word, and the complicated possibilities that can stem from human kindnesses. Through the kinship he shares with his countrymen and adopted brothers, the shared experiences of writers like Thomas Mann and Yone Noguchi, and the unexpected and often confusing kindnesses of white people like John Fante, Marian, and Alice and Eileen Odell, Bulosan finds a chance for hope of which he could be the source: “I could follow the path of these poets… and if, at the end of my career, I could arrive at a positive understanding of America, then I could go back to the Philippines with a torch of enlightenment. And perhaps, if given a chance, I could help liberate the peasantry from ignorance and poverty” (228). Even as his conditions and health worsen, his hope expands to encompass first his family, then his village and, maybe, all of the Philippines (236). Before saying goodbye to his family to leave for America, Carlos writes, “I was determined to leave that environment and all its crushing forces, and if I were successful in escaping unscathed, I would go back someday to understand what is meant to be born of the peasantry… I would go back to give significance to all that was starved and thwarted in my life” (62). The fact that Bulosan never gets a chance to go back to the Philippines becomes subjects for his later works – and while he may never have attained a reunion with his parents and sisters as he would have liked, the political consciousness that he attains in the latter chapters of the book show a hope for this understanding of poverty and the possibilities it may spark in others. Bulosan, who initially could not find a name for the listlessness and anxiety that he feels when confronted with racism, eventually finds a way to reach the hearts of men through his writings and teachings, and a way to let them into his vision of an ideal America. “I went from town to town,” he writes, “forming workers’ classes and working in the fields. I knew that I was also educating myself. I was learning from the men. I was rediscovering myself in their eyes… I felt my faith extending toward a future that shone with a new hope” (313). It is this faith and hope that shades Bulosan’s every interpretation of America into one of a country blossoming with possibility, even when it is at its most hateful. Ironically it is in America, and not in his childhood as a farmer’s working son, that Carlos begins to understand his father’s love for “the earth where his parents and their parents before him had lacerated their lives” (76). In the same American pea fields where he toils for his next meal, he finds the reminder of his own home, his father’s land, and “discover[s] with astonishment that the American earth was like a huge heart unfolding warmly to receive me” (326). In his eyes, America becomes a caring and grieving mother – a mother who can be giving and generous if only the right questions are asked. The experiences of some of Bulosan’s comrades leaves them filled with bitterness, hunger driving them to crime and desperation; Carlos manages to overcome the struggle within and finds himself feeling at peace. At a crossroads of social and political awakening, Carlos is able to find a way for the goodness in his heart to most effectively inspire others: “My brother Macario had spoke of America in the hearts of men. Now I understood what he meant, for it was this small yet vast heart of mine that had kept me steering towards the stars” (314). It is through Bulosan’s words and actions that he finally is able to understand and express the optimism of his America, the hopes of his heart.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Charisse

    An Important Read An important read for Filipino-Americans (especially recent immigrants), for anyone who wants to truly understand the state of the nation during the Great Depression, and for anyone interested in the history of civil rights. As a Filipino-American (recently naturalized), even though I have lived in the US for about 17 years, I was completely unaware of this aspect of our history as Filipinos and Filipino-Americans. I was spurred into reading this by my curiosity about a grand-unc An Important Read An important read for Filipino-Americans (especially recent immigrants), for anyone who wants to truly understand the state of the nation during the Great Depression, and for anyone interested in the history of civil rights. As a Filipino-American (recently naturalized), even though I have lived in the US for about 17 years, I was completely unaware of this aspect of our history as Filipinos and Filipino-Americans. I was spurred into reading this by my curiosity about a grand-uncle who, as it turns, out came to the US at the same time under similar circumstances, and likely experienced many of the same things described here. I came to appreciate how lucky I am living at this time in history while realizing that I could have been him or others like him if I had come here just decades earlier. People like them, in their ceaseless struggle, paved the way for minorities like me, to enjoy certain rights and privileges that they could never have enjoyed. It makes one appreciate the arc of history as well as the fragility things. There are some stylistic shortcomings, in my opinion, but when one realizes the circumstances under which Bulosan has written his vast body of works or received his writer's education, one can only marvel at this talented outlier. Also, his poetry is fantastic. I've read those that appeared in Poetry magazine. It may be better than his prose. I'm bothered by the fact that some say this is a 'memoir' and others a 'novel,' even in the same book (the edition I read had both in the description). I know though of authors who have written books on the history of Asian immigration who consider this to be a memoir. If anyone can cite reasons or evidence for either side, I'm all ears. It seems to me to be creative nonfiction, but that is just my opinion. All in all, it is a valuable reference on the life of Asian immigrants, especially Filipinos, at the time from the perspective and first-hand experiences of someone who lived it.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Brian Ferguson

    This panorama of life originating in the Colonial-dominated Philipines and driven by privation and naive-idealism to west-coast America in the thirties and forties is divided like a triptych. Each sub-book deals with the central issue with a respective focus. The first part inhabits the author's sentimental affection for his home. The theme is anything but purely sentimental though as also described in detail in the day-to-day struggle to survive against the rigged game of mass land ownership in This panorama of life originating in the Colonial-dominated Philipines and driven by privation and naive-idealism to west-coast America in the thirties and forties is divided like a triptych. Each sub-book deals with the central issue with a respective focus. The first part inhabits the author's sentimental affection for his home. The theme is anything but purely sentimental though as also described in detail in the day-to-day struggle to survive against the rigged game of mass land ownership incursion by outsiders. The second panel reads like neo-dirty-realism set in depression-era America. The harsh, grimy realities described unsparingly make it worthy of many trail-blazing social-realist/naturalists and later dirty realists (he was reading John Fante) of the time period. The last component is historical documentation of the establishment of social-labor rights on the west coast of the US in the face of organized suppression, violence, and absolute unrelenting racism. It works accessibly on all these levels and thus is the work of an under-recognized genius and non-elitist. The positive upshot, also the ultimate significance of the book is that in spite of years of sustained abuse and neglect the author sees and loves the potential, yet to be realized, in America. The sad note is that the author was not quite given the recognition he deserved in his lifetime. For some reason, the artistic and intellectual community did not see fit to accept him into their ranks. Lucky for us this book is still around for us to immerse ourselves in, should we desire.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Rufus

    The figure of Carlos Bulosan cuts a distinct outline in the history of Philippine-American relations. His account of the exploitation and violence perpetrated upon Filipino farm workers in the United States during the Great Depression, through the War and until the early 1950s when McCarthyist hysteria started gripping the minds of the mainstream American population, provides an incalculable source of a viewpoint that is not much read in mainstream historical works even today. Reading Bulosan is The figure of Carlos Bulosan cuts a distinct outline in the history of Philippine-American relations. His account of the exploitation and violence perpetrated upon Filipino farm workers in the United States during the Great Depression, through the War and until the early 1950s when McCarthyist hysteria started gripping the minds of the mainstream American population, provides an incalculable source of a viewpoint that is not much read in mainstream historical works even today. Reading Bulosan is reading not only the biography of a single Filipino coming to grips with a new world of exploitation, it is the history of the whole uprooted Filipino workers who sought to understand the America that was idealized and the America that was reality. This paper aims to highlight the contradictions in the conception of America in the writings of Bulosan as we will find that the praises he often sings for America, is for an abstract America that is an almost utopian ideal divorced from reality. The paper will attempt to present this seeming contradiction by looking at the works written by Bulosan, works written about Bulosan and of the Asian immigrant in general, and lastly will draw on the author's own interpretation of Bulosan as an artist. http://www.scribd.com/doc/52901549/Am...

  17. 4 out of 5

    Cyndi

    Read for a class I am taking but thoroughly enjoyed. In four parts, the author places himself in events that were the push factor of many Filipinos to leave the Philippines and come to America. When they arrived the pull factors of democracy and freedom taught in their occupied land were not readily available to them. Prejudice, discrimination and xenophobia greeted the immigrants. Occasionally a bit of the American dream would introduce itself and illuminated the disparity of the land and it's Read for a class I am taking but thoroughly enjoyed. In four parts, the author places himself in events that were the push factor of many Filipinos to leave the Philippines and come to America. When they arrived the pull factors of democracy and freedom taught in their occupied land were not readily available to them. Prejudice, discrimination and xenophobia greeted the immigrants. Occasionally a bit of the American dream would introduce itself and illuminated the disparity of the land and it's people. Told in a story format some of the incidents leave you wanting to know a bit more and the internet is an option. The main character got tiresome at the end after committing an act he knew was not right but justifying his actions caused me to reflect how others can justify their actions that he condemned. He lost his moral superiority at that point and had no excuse of innocence. Particularly interesting were the parts that Seattle played in the story as they really happened and I have been to many of the areas they talked about. Taught history but in an interesting way that I wanted to keep reading and find out what happened.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Monica

    This is an autobiography about Carlos Bulosan's life in America. Bulosan was born in the central Philippines in Binalonan. After arriving in America in 1930, at the age of 17, he discovered a new world of violence, racism and oppression. I personally think this is a GREAT text! It is sad of course because it is about the lives of Filipinos in America and their struggles with racist people and even amongst themselves. This is an autobiography about Carlos Bulosan's life in America. Bulosan was born in the central Philippines in Binalonan. After arriving in America in 1930, at the age of 17, he discovered a new world of violence, racism and oppression. I personally think this is a GREAT text! It is sad of course because it is about the lives of Filipinos in America and their struggles with racist people and even amongst themselves.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Jake Bittle

    Peasant from the Philippines moves to America, rides freight trains around the country for like 10 years, and thinks in abstract terms about the development of the agrarian labor movement. Interesting from a strictly documentary perspective, but if there was something else going on here, I missed it.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Gina Isada

    this is a good book showing filipino american history

  21. 4 out of 5

    Vicky Hunt

    Worlds Away It is a geographic fact that all of the continents would fit snugly into the Pacific Ocean, within its current boundaries. Given the great distance many immigrants travel, it is no wonder they feel they've reached a 'new world.' This is the story of one man's life, growing up in the Philippines and immigrating to the US while just in his teens. Since he had been doing hard farm labor since the age of five to help his family survive, while they struggled to send one son to high school Worlds Away It is a geographic fact that all of the continents would fit snugly into the Pacific Ocean, within its current boundaries. Given the great distance many immigrants travel, it is no wonder they feel they've reached a 'new world.' This is the story of one man's life, growing up in the Philippines and immigrating to the US while just in his teens. Since he had been doing hard farm labor since the age of five to help his family survive, while they struggled to send one son to high school, the author was all but a man in responsibility when he left. "But when they started singing Philippine songs their voices were so sad, so full of yesterday and the haunting presence of familiar seas, as if they had reached the end of creation..." From the hills of Binalonan in the North, to Manila, to Oregon, Alaska, California, and beyond in the USA; the reader who follows Bulosan on his journey will experience a lifetime lived in fear and struggle. From start to finish, I read with a huge lump of emotion in my chest. I think that one thing that bothered me most was the fact that the author changed his name from Allos to Carlos on arriving in the US. It was because of prejudice that the Filipino Americans felt safer with Hispanic names than Malayan. "Why was America so kind and yet so cruel?" "I aspired for, a life of goodness and beauty. But I found only violence and hate, living in a corrupt corner of America." "What was the matter with this land? Just a moment ago I was being beaten by white men. But here was another white person, a woman, giving me food and a place to rest." The story is that of an uneducated young man who lived through the American Labor Movement on the West Coast, and participated in the political movement, while writing poetry, newspaper articles and books. He developed Tuberculosis, like others in his peasant family, and spent long periods of time in hospitals, in between struggling on the streets and hopping freight cars around the West. There were those who helped him, and there were the beatings. And, there were his brothers from home bouncing around in and out of California, often crossing his path in their wanderings. Mostly it is the story of a struggle to survive. "America is not bound by geographical latitudes. America is not merely a land or an institution. America is in the hearts of men that died for freedom; it is also in the eyes of men that are building a new world." “America is also the nameless foreigner, the homeless refugee, the hungry boy begging for a job and the black body dangling on a tree. America is the illiterate immigrant who is ashamed that the world of books and intellectual opportunities is closed to him." "We who came to the United States as immigrants are Americans too. All of us were immigrants—all the way down the line." I read this book for my stop in the Philippines on my Journey Around the World in 2019-2020 in Kindle Whisper-sync format. It is very well narrated with a good accent, and I highly suggest this book for anyone interested in immigration, the labor movement, or the Philippines, since it allows you to live through both worlds during the decade of the thirties. My next stop by sea will be Japan. But, this will be one book that, like Grapes of Wrath, will stay with me.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Ben Truong

    America Is in the Heart is a semi-autobiographical novel written by Filipino American immigrant poet, fiction writer, short story teller, and activist, Carlos Bulosan. This book serves as an entry (A book you think they should read in schools) in The 52 Book Challenge 2021. I think this book should be read in schools, because my education was Euro-centric with the exception of February where Black History was taught. Very little or if any of East-Asian culture was taught, which retrospectively wo America Is in the Heart is a semi-autobiographical novel written by Filipino American immigrant poet, fiction writer, short story teller, and activist, Carlos Bulosan. This book serves as an entry (A book you think they should read in schools) in The 52 Book Challenge 2021. I think this book should be read in schools, because my education was Euro-centric with the exception of February where Black History was taught. Very little or if any of East-Asian culture was taught, which retrospectively would have been wonderful if it had been. Carlos Sampayan Bulosan was an English-language Filipino novelist and poet who immigrated to America on July 1, 1930. He never returned to the Philippines and he spent most of his life in the United States. His best-known work today is the semi-autobiographical America Is in the Heart, but he first gained fame for his 1943 essay on The Freedom from Want. Born in 1913, Bulosan recounts his boyhood in the Philippines. The early chapters describe his life as a Filipino farmer "plowing with a carabao". Bulosan was the fourth oldest son of the family. As a young Filipino, he once lived on the farm tended by his father, while his mother was separately living in a barrio in Binalonan, Pangasinan, together with Bulosan's brother and sister. Their hardships included pawning their land and having to sell items in order to finish the schooling of his brother Macario. He had another brother named Leon, a soldier who came back after fighting in Europe. Bulosan's narration about his life in the Philippines was followed by his journey to the United States. He recounted how he immigrated to America in 1930 and retells the struggles, prejudice, and injustice he and other Filipinos had endured in the United States, first while in the Northwestern fisheries then later in California. These included his experiences as a migrant and laborer in the rural West. America Is in the Heart is written rather well. The narrative is an emotionally and esthetically true account of the immigration, spiritual and physical, of the pinoy, the young Filipino with all his village innocence, focused on an America, which, like the white women in his life, always promised more than it was willing to give. It is the quintessential experience of the pinoy migrant worker in fisheries and fields, up and down the western coast of these United States given rough shape by some of the outward facts of Carlos Bulosan's life. All in all, America Is in the Heart is a gripping memoir-novel of a young Filipino immigrant long ago secured its place in Asian American literature.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Nikhil

    1.5/5. This text has value as a document of migrant Filipino (and other Asian) immigrant workers on the West Coast during the early 20th century. It depicts the circumscribed life these migrants had living with the Western States racist laws restricting economic and social activity by Asians, depicts the (often) horrifying working conditions in which these migrants were employed, and describes the nascent labor struggles of these workers to unionize and demand better working conditions. There ar 1.5/5. This text has value as a document of migrant Filipino (and other Asian) immigrant workers on the West Coast during the early 20th century. It depicts the circumscribed life these migrants had living with the Western States racist laws restricting economic and social activity by Asians, depicts the (often) horrifying working conditions in which these migrants were employed, and describes the nascent labor struggles of these workers to unionize and demand better working conditions. There are limited texts by Asian migrant workers from the time period, and as a psuedo-ethnography this text has value (while the author is criticized for combining events from several Filipinos lives into the life of a single character, this does not detract from the text's ethnographic merit). However, as a piece of fiction, this text left much to be desired. Most importantly, the text is too long. While I understand that the lists of character's names and their (seemingly) random appearances through the text mirrors the transience of the main character's life, it makes for difficult reading and goes on for at least 50 pages too long. I also dislike when authors, describing the birth of a revolutionary socialist consciousness in the protagonist who emerged from proletarian misery start listing texts they thought were cool; it is lazy writing and completely unnecessary. The same point holds with name-dropping labor organizers and unions. The text is also fixated with the idea of (poor, non-white) women as devious whores cheating hard-working migrant men of color out of their money, while educated, white women are bastions of purity that provide spiritual sustenance for the migrants and help their labor movement. No mention is given to the fact that sex workers and other poor women have always been at the vanguard of labor movements in the US (or indeed, Western countries in general). Or of the fact that poor women, who also worked for wages, had more in common with poor male workers than educated white women dabbling in poverty tourism, and were heavily involved in organizing labor movements and striking. The author could benefit from decolonizing his mind. Finally, the conclusion of his intellectual journey, with an embrace of American patriotism despite being continuously rejected by the US is naive. One of the ways immigrant groups assimilate to the nation-state, including the United States, is through military service. Rather than understanding this as transactional between the state/society and the migrant group, the author embraces it as part of his deep emotional commitment with the United States. I find it irritating that the author gives no thoughts to the downsides of assimilation via military service, nor thinks of alternate trajectories for immigrants of color than to assimilate to the dominant (white) narrative of the US. It is clear the main character still believes in US exceptionalism at the end of the text. Why, given that the main character/author is repeatedly beaten and vilified by agents of the state, remains a mystery. The main character/author is unable to grasp that the myth of the exceptional US nation-state and white supremacy are interlinked, abolishing one requires abolishing the other. TL;DR: With a good edit, this text could have been a better though problematic 150-200 page novel/novella instead of the tedious and lengthy problematic mess it is.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Dave

    Until my wife recently brought this book to my attention, I knew nothing about it. It is certainly revealing that such an expansive, engaging, beautifully-written memoir about Filipino life in the US in the first half of the 20th century gets, at least from my experience, zero attention. The book moves quickly, especially the first third or so when Bulosan is describing his childhood in the Philippines. I would say the operative words for this book are restlessness and tragedy. Throughout, the s Until my wife recently brought this book to my attention, I knew nothing about it. It is certainly revealing that such an expansive, engaging, beautifully-written memoir about Filipino life in the US in the first half of the 20th century gets, at least from my experience, zero attention. The book moves quickly, especially the first third or so when Bulosan is describing his childhood in the Philippines. I would say the operative words for this book are restlessness and tragedy. Throughout, the story moves with a powerful, almost exhausting, urgency from anecdote to anecdote--at times it reminded me of a more meaningful, less navel-gazing version of Kerouac's On the Road or a number of other Beat Generation tales. At some points this does become distracting, and my biggest complaint is that this constant movement--which at moments seems to border on absurd in scope and scale--can be distracting and results in what felt to me at times a fairly superficial treatment of both events and characters. Even more than restlessness, though, this book is a chronicle of tragedy. I don't think it's a spoiler to say that Bulosan was witness to more violence and death and poverty than any man should ever be. There are many personal tragedies within--illness, injury, and death for a number of family members and friends--but there's also, perhaps even more so, the shameful societal tragedy of the hateful, prejudicial, racist treatment of Filipinos in America in the 1920s/30s/40s (which is the time frame of the text). I knew little to nothing about what Bulosan shares in this book--I of course knew there was discrimination, but had no idea of the extent or the vitriol. For me the book bogs down a bit in the second half when he digs more deeply into his work organizing Filipino labor unions, but on the whole is was an educational, powerful, and meaningful read that I would definitely recommend to anyone--especially anyone interested in American literature or history.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Jen

    I’m glad I read this classic fictionalized autobiographical novel about a Filipino migrant worker during the Great Depression. The novel starts with Allos’ family life in the Philippines, but most of the story centers on his work, and later activism, in America. The book dragged for me after the first third. Bulosan’s accounts of his migrant work reads more like a list than a story. I found a few beautiful passages, but I found more that felt like a long, dry essay on activism. So all in all, an I’m glad I read this classic fictionalized autobiographical novel about a Filipino migrant worker during the Great Depression. The novel starts with Allos’ family life in the Philippines, but most of the story centers on his work, and later activism, in America. The book dragged for me after the first third. Bulosan’s accounts of his migrant work reads more like a list than a story. I found a few beautiful passages, but I found more that felt like a long, dry essay on activism. So all in all, an important book in the landscape of America’s immigrant experience but not necessarily an enjoyable read.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Daniel Siu

    This book was a page turner, quick and fun read. However, I did not like the ending of assimilation in America. I understand that the book is based on Bulosan's personal life, but I didn't like the message. There was so much mistreatment and violence I found myself actually mad reading. It is impressive that Bulosan managed to find hope despite all he suffered, but the abuse endured does not sit well with me. This book was a page turner, quick and fun read. However, I did not like the ending of assimilation in America. I understand that the book is based on Bulosan's personal life, but I didn't like the message. There was so much mistreatment and violence I found myself actually mad reading. It is impressive that Bulosan managed to find hope despite all he suffered, but the abuse endured does not sit well with me.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Liisabet

    The beginning and ending were fascinating, but the middle was a bit too "I went there and did this and then went there and said that". It's still an incredibly important piece of literature though. 3.5 The beginning and ending were fascinating, but the middle was a bit too "I went there and did this and then went there and said that". It's still an incredibly important piece of literature though. 3.5

  28. 4 out of 5

    Ramzzi Fariñas

    “Yes, I will be a writer, and make all of you live in my words.” This novel is HEARTBREAKINGLY BEAUTIFUL. Carlos Bulosan rendered all his shards, from our country wrecked by poverty and colonialism up to America established by racism and fascism, to write a personal history. In four parts, Bulosan braved the literary world through America is in the Heart. The first part, in spite being a novice yet in prose, amateur and lost in tone, had pulled the frozen tears out of my eyes. While the secon “Yes, I will be a writer, and make all of you live in my words.” This novel is HEARTBREAKINGLY BEAUTIFUL. Carlos Bulosan rendered all his shards, from our country wrecked by poverty and colonialism up to America established by racism and fascism, to write a personal history. In four parts, Bulosan braved the literary world through America is in the Heart. The first part, in spite being a novice yet in prose, amateur and lost in tone, had pulled the frozen tears out of my eyes. While the second part is the most thrilling, “novelistic” as National Artist for Literature Bienvenido Lumbrera called it. It chronicled Bulosan everywhere in California and Seattle, weaving experiences so brutal, fast, and painful the style began to develop, and Bulosan would soon had the literary control, in spite his style yearned sentimentally in parts I knew he cried when the words came out his heart. The last two parts were the prelude to his death—his end, and amazingly it was also the start of his intellectual transformation being noticed by Harriet Monroe and other American editors. This gave a new viewpoint how Filipinos were at par with progressive pursuit, an absolute mark to the world, that we, no matter how crushed by fate and fascism—would still carry on to light the great social realist tradition. Bulosan was a heroic novelist and poet, not only in his time, but also to the present. As a prose stylist, he was excessive, less imaginative on how he could compress his experiences into finer art but—that would not make his novel less than what it had achieved. America is in the Heart is a pioneer in Asian American literature, a classic now to a burning world, and a beacon of light when the darkness goes crimson on our humanity. In the pantheon of the oppressed and social realists sensitive for equality and reform: it is both a permanent work of art and a reflection of class and color.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Daeny

    Bulosan: I- Me, already crying: nice Bulosan teaches the best lesson: America may be cruel, but she is also beautiful. His writing is gorgeous. This memoir gave me some On the Road vibes because of the whole constantly moving around thing, but honestly.... this is better than the Beats (sorry Kerouac). Super educational about the Filipino experience in America during the early 1900s, loved it, hard for me to put it down.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Stan

    a touching, tragic book I read for a uni course, but was also just a fantastic read

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