Carlos Bulosan caught my interest when I found out his autobiography, America is in the Heart, in a National Book Store branch. This book won the National Book Award in the Philippines. It was deserving of the award because it is a novel that the Philippines should treasure until the next generations. It is the epitome of the revolutionary books that made a big difference in society such as Richard Wright’s Native Son, To Kill a Mocking Bird by Harper Lee, Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher. It is pregnant with heart-breaking stories to which you might relate starting from his early childhood until how he managed to survive in America. Besides, Bulosan’s writing skills especially in such a novel is an example of the cliché a diamond in the rough that you would make yourself stare into the space and finally ask how he did it ! He had never been educated before he went to America at his early teens. He was the archetype of a person who had changed a great deal out of self-discipline and dogged determination , his willingness to transform himself into someone new. He could not have done it without his bitter, heart-breaking, abominable, gruesome , and miserable life in the USA as an immigrant who had also dreamed of American life. Thereafter, in awe, with my jaws dropped as though I had wanted to do a somersault , bursting with excitement that I was eager to share it with my acquaintances ( but alas, most of my friends do not have the same batty interest except my friends on Goodreads.), I said in a whisper that I would doubtless rate it 5 out of 5 stars. 5 stars is equivalent to 100 %. In adjectives, amazing, excellent, superb, and impressive.
Automatically, I included his other works on my list that I would love to read more. Fortunately, I got the chance to buy it at a reduced price ( 10 pesos ) when the National Book Store near my house was selling some local books on sale . In the end, it did not let me down. In fact, after reading in this book his some short stories, poems, essays, and correspondence, I admire Mr. Bulosan more- he was an exceptional writer. I wish he had been brought into the world later than in the 1950’s; he could be paralleled with the apogees of the contemporary writers such as F. Sionil Jose , Nick Joaquin, Bienvenido Lumbera, Virgilio Almario, et al. Then, I would be a Bulosonian. (laughs)
E. San Juan, Jr. , the director of the Philippines Cultural Studies Center, compiled the selections of Bulosan’s stories, poems, essays, and correspondence. He may be an avid Bulosonian too. ^^
Most of Bulosan’s selections are the reflections on his pent-up anger and frustration for the hellish life not only did he lead but also among his countrymen in the Philippines and abroad notably in the USA under the American colonialism. In his some short stories , the themes have something to do with how to make life better in America. In Be American, for example, Consorcio , uneducated , made a lot of effort to achieve his aspirations by working his butt off at any cost. He even desired to educate himself. Likewise, in The Romance of Magno Rubio, Magno , the protagonist , symbolizes himself as how he is enamored of his white correspondent believing that she loves him and no sooner will marry him than he gives her all things she needs . However, in the long run, both the main protagonists would realize that to be an “ Americano” as Consorcio put it is a matter of ‘survival of the fittest’. In fact, in The Times of Our Lives paints the portrait of how the Filipino community was not united in protecting their labor rights. Some were practical considering that they were intellectuals and influential. ( This part could have been a lampoon at that time. ) In this case , there was an instance that a hard-up Filipino would be at the end of his tether just the like of Cesar Terso in The Thief . In order to finish his medical studies, he stole money ; then, paid it back by helping the destitute Filipino when he became rich , but he was suspicious of being into illegal business .
Bulosan also expressed in his As Long as the Grass Shall Grow his desires to be educated so that he could get ahead of life . Just the same, Filipinos were subject to discrimination, as a matter of course. In Homecoming, on the other hand, the last part among the short stories, is bizarre but heart-breaking. Bulosan expressed how his brother Marciano was so hapless to meet his family back from America after many years that he could not bear with the effect of his downright failure. Gee!
Among the short stories, I won’t forget about the letter his brother had sent to his father which he kept many years because no one in their family then was not able to read nor understand English.
While reading all the short stories, the only voice I could feel was Bulosan’s . I believe that he projected all the pains he had harbored on those characters, much more on the tones of the sentences.
Bulosan’s poems and essays are also impressive .Every line is peppered with anger, pity, hunger, pains, fear, desire- and hopes, love, determination.
His correspondence motivated me to continue my habit before: to write a diary again. I have got an idea of what writing styles I should do. ( I hope so. I wish I had 48 hours a day. )
If you want to read it, I recommend that you first read his America is in the Heart. Eventually, you will understand why most of Bulosan’s stories, poems, and essays are so heart-rending that you might end up finding him a bad-ass “ socialist” and “ idealist”. Bulosan went through a life paralleled with the life of people living in a hell-hole slum such as the modernly filthy scenes in Baseco, Tondo , in Payatas or as the ones you see in some poor places in India, especially the life as an immigrant in America where at that time Filipinos were almost treated like Black Americans. On this account, in the end, Bulosan was like a dormant Krakatau volcano on the brink of exterminating the face of America and its adjacent ally, the Philippines, by letting the lava of his literary pieces wreak havoc on their fields of consciousness. And somehow they did.
Rating: 5/ 5 stars ( It’s amazing.)