This Filipino-American History Month, I dug out my Asian American Studies 101 class’s syllabus and re-read some of the most important and influential texts that transformed my understanding of Filipino history and Asian America. The Filipino-American history is a story of the struggle against imperialism, immigration, family, justice, and belonging. Although I’m not Filipino-American, educating myself on these stories made me realize the shared experience between Southeast Asians and our struggle against imperialism, as well as our interconnectedness to a community far from home. Likewise, I’m sharing the class’ syllabus with you in hopes that you’ll join me!
💫 Little Manila is in The Heart – Dawn Bulohano Mabalon
This academic book is a great beginners’ guide into the history of the Philippines, imperialism, and the experiences of immigration. The book offers critical insights into the Filipino-American community, Little Manila, in the U.S, along with their relationships with the law, white Americans, and themselves.
💫 Creating Masculinity in Los Angeles’s Little Manila: Working-Class Filipinos and Popular Culture, 1920s-1950s (Popular Cultures, Everyday Lives) España-Maram
“In forging a collective sense of ethnicity and building a viable community, Filipino immigrants challenged the host society over the nature of ‘American’ values. By displaying so-called improper behavior, they struggled to carve niches of autonomy, fought against imposed restrictions on space, and sought to expand the boundaries of alternative expressions”
(España-Maram, 2006, p. 110)
This text, although more academic, explores the crucial themes of gender, sexuality, and particularly masculinity and how Filipino men were often emasculated and viewed as inferior. This is a story of subtle rebellion, rule-breaking, and reinvention of the concept of space— who shares these spaces, who belongs in these spaces, and who holds the power?
💫 DELANO MANONGS: FORGOTTEN HEROES OF THE UNITED FARM WORKERS MOVEMENT (Film)
I HIGHLY recommend this film! This film is an act of remembrance. The film explains how Filipino-Americans contributed greatly to the United Farm Workers movement at the cost of their own livelihoods, an forgotten story from history books. The short documentary explores the life of Larry Itliong, his rebellion towards whiteness, and the impact he made along with Caesar Chavez and Dolores Huertes. Again, highly recommend!
💫 America is in The Heart – Carlos Bulosan
“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”
And finally, America is in the Heart is a heartbreaking story which resonates with every immigrant, not just Filipino Americans. The first third of the book is narrated as a memoir from Allos to his homeland, the Philippines. Allos writes as if he’s reliving his memories, no matter how bittersweet they were, in order to not forget the family he left behind. Allos described his years in America as dangerous and lonesome and how he often cried, but his “remembrance gave [him] a strange courage and a vision of a better life” (Bulosan). Memory and remembrance, therefore, has been a main theme throughout the book. By reclaiming history and confronting erasure, we can empower ourselves through our memories and the memories of those who have come before us. The final two thirds of America is in the Heart describes Allos’ story in America and more specifically, his racialized experience and the factors which radicalized him. Throughout his journey in the United States, Allos learned of the prejudice and discrimination against Filipinos, recognizing the violence from the police and Americans who hunt Filipino farm workers with shotguns. These experiences prompted Allos to question America as a whole, and “why was America so kind and yet so cruel?” (Bulosan). For Allos, these two contrasting moments embody the simultaneous cruelty and kindness that characterize America in his experience. He spends much of the novel trying to understand this paradox, as he gears his self-education towards learning to reconcile America’s ideals with the practices of its citizens who hypocritically advocate for these same ideas. As a result, America is in the Heart is a beautiful immigrant novel that explores the important themes of memory, stories, and remembrance.