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4 new books by Filipino authors to read this spring : NPR

Meghan Collins Sullivan/NPR

4 new books by Filipino authors to read this spring : NPR

Meghan Collins Sullivan/NPR

A baking book with a recipe for adobo flavored chocolate chip cookies. An exciting graphic novel inspired by film noir. An animated children’s book about a little Filipina girl who waits for her father to join her in the United States.

This season’s new books by Filipino authors offer something for every type of reader. And they address a wide range of issues concerning Filipinos and the diaspora, from adapting to a new country to dealing with the colonial history of the Philippines.

A delicious baking book that mixes tropical and American flavors

Mayumu: remixed Filipino American desserts looks like what an Alice in Wonderland tea party would look like if a Filipino hosted it. The cookbook contains superb recipes for caramelized banana and jackfruit jam, ube macapuno melted lava cakes, mango float cream puffs, and an intriguing adobo-flavored chocolate chip cookie.

These concoctions come from the magical mind of Abi Balingit, a Filipino American baker and blogger who, in 2020, began stepping up her dessert-making game to pass the time during the pandemic. Blend island ingredients like coconut, jackfruit, mango and kalamansior native lime, with American flavors like red velvet, marshmallow and poppy seed in its recipes, this cookbook is not to be missed.

A cute children’s book about a girl waiting for her father to join her in the United States

Michelle Sterling’s latest children’s book Maribel’s year tells the story of a little girl who has just moved from the Philippines with her mother to the United States – and has to wait a full year until her father can join them from Manila. Month after month, the young girl settles in her new country while remembering her life in the Philippines.

Sterling’s descriptive writing uses all five senses to evoke American and Filipino culture, from the flavors of saltwater taffy and shrimp paste to the feel of “pumpkin porridge” on Halloween and “crinkly yellow paper ” from a package from his father. Paired with lavish illustrations of the changing seasons and family life by Filipino-Canadian artist Sarah Gonzalez, these feelings come to life on every page.

A page-turner of a graphic novel set in Depression-era California

The thrilling, fast-paced graphic novel by cartoonist Rina Ayuyang The man in the McIntosh suit travels back in time to California in the late 1920s, when Filipinos arrived in the United States hoping to become wealthy – but faced the harsh reality of racial discrimination and restrictions on everything from jobs to property rights.

In this setting, readers follow Bobot, a Filipino immigrant with a law degree (now relegated to menial agricultural work) as he searches for his estranged wife Elysia. Warned by a mysterious letter, Bobot travels from rural California to San Francisco to find his beloved – but ends up on a wild goose chase involving gangsters and a famous singer named Estrella. Ayuyang’s illustrations, drawn in quick, sketchy strokes and colored in soft shades of inky blue, pay homage to film noir and highlight the secrets that lurk in the dark.

A cerebral novel about a woman searching for a place that may or may not exist

Gina Apostol, whose books have won a PEN/Open America Award and a Philippine National Book Award, has come out with her latest novel since insurrection in 2018: The Tercera. It tells the story of Rosario, a Filipino writer from New York, as she embarks on a mission to find a place called La Tercera after her mother dies. The Tercera is her mother’s supposed heirloom – but as Rosario investigates, she only uncovers more questions about her family’s heritage and inheritance.

Packed with pop culture and literary references from Saturday night fever to Alfred Lord Tennyson, and untranslated words and phrases in Tagalog, Spanish and Waray, a regional language of the Philippines, the heavy prose compels the reader to confront the country’s legacy of Spanish colonialism, US imperialism and suppression of indigenous culture. It also highlights the difficulty Rosario faces in piecing together her family’s fragmented past. This book is a must read for lovers of literature, history and languages.


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