Ten years ago, one of my earliest short stories, "The Feast of All Souls", about a young girl who visits her infant cousin's grave in the Baguio Cemetery, appeared in the inaugural volume of The Masters Review, guest edited by Lauren Groff. Ten years later, I was invited to write a short essay about my long and circuitous path to publishing my debut collection of stories (watch this space for updates!) for their tenth anniversary issue, guest edited this time by Diane Cook. Reading my essay again, I feel glad for sticking around, for persevering throughout the setbacks and disappointments of this brutal business. The Masters Review and I have come a long way. More about their latest anthology here.
After witnessing the overwhelming (and confusing) support from overseas Filipino voters for the return of the Marcoses to power in the Philippines, I wrote an op-ed about Filipino immigrants (particularly Filipino-New Zealanders) choosing fascists to lead the country they left behind while reaping the benefits of living in a liberal democracy like New Zealand. NZ's The Spinoff ran it today, and I'm happy to have been given the opportunity to force Filipino-New Zealanders and many other Filipino immigrants abroad to confront the cynicism that has guided their willful destruction of my homeland. Here's The Spinoff's introduction to my piece:
While they reap the benefits of living in a liberal democracy, what compels those who left behind a country brutalised by the Marcoses to give them another chance? A deep-seated and insidious cynicism, argues Monica Macansantos.
Read the rest of my op-ed here.
It was my honor to have had the chance to review Grace Talusan's The Body Papers (Restless Books, 2019) for Anomaly/Anomalous Press! Here's an excerpt from my review:
In order to heal herself, she must violate an unspoken rule in the culture of her ancestors by speaking her truth, even if it leads to her family’s loss of face. The culture of silence Talusan’s parents were raised under becomes a burden on the entire family as they silently carry their traumas, both lived and inherited, in their bodies, and it is their daughter, Grace, who takes a courageous first step towards truth-telling and healing by writing this memoir.
Immense gratitude to Addie Tsai for selecting my work for AAPI Heritage Month! Read my review here.
"You Better Be Good or the Aswang Will Get You": A Conversation With Melissa Chadburn For Electric Literature
I am happy to share my first byline for Electric Literature, an author conversation with Melissa Chadburn on her debut novel, A Tiny Upward Shove, out this week from Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Among other things, we talked about her use of the Aswang, a malevolent creature of Philippine mythology akin to the western witch, as a vehicle for reexamining societal notions of female rage, vengeance, and justice. Read our conversation here.
I had the pleasure of reviewing Gregory Spatz's What Could Be Saved (Tupelo, 2019), a collection of "bookmatched" novellas and stories about the world of violin makers and dealers, for Colorado Review. Below is an excerpt:
"What Could Be Saved succeeds in demonstrating how art can transform its makers by guiding them towards a reexamination of the self. In the case of the invisible hands who create these violins, the moments of transcendence they facilitate are made possible by their return to the physical and real in their craft. Like meditation, art is rooted in the world we inhabit, enabling us to reach seemingly impossible heights by opening our eyes to what has been with us all along."
Read the rest of the review here.
I'm happy to share that the eighth published excerpt of my novel, People We Trust, is now live on The Bookends Review. Entitled "Appearances", this chapter depicts a pregnant leftist guerrilla during the Marcos years as she returns to her hometown to give birth, and learns to disguise her true identity as a guerrilla in this new world that she inhabits. Many thanks to Jordan Blum for accepting the piece! You can read it here.
Two Poems Anthologized in A Fire To Light Our Tongues: Texas Writers on Spirituality (Texas Christian University Press, 2022)
I have two poems entitled "Homing In" and "Christmas House, Vallejo, California" in A Fire To Light Our Tongues, an anthology of spiritual writing by Texas writers (what an honor to be called one!) forthcoming from Texas Christian University Press in May 2022. I'd like to thank the late Donna Walker-Nixon for reaching out to me to solicit work for this volume (and for generously considering me a Texas writer, even if I left the state in 2013), as well as Dr. Elizabeth Joan Dell of Baylor University for selecting my work for publication. Below is a description of this wonderful anthology:
A Fire to Light Our Tongues: Texas Writers on Spirituality brings together the works of writers in Texas. The title is taken, with permission, from Naomi Shihab Nye’s introduction to Salting the Ocean: 100 Poems by Young Poets, where she states the role of poetry serves as “a fire to light our tongues.” This view describes the role that creative writers, encountering the challenges of this past decade, face as they grapple with shifting views of spirituality. While the project started before COVID-19, given the current worldwide pandemic, a book of creative work responding to writers’ spirituality could not be more timely. This anthology offers readers creative works by Texas writers as they wrestle with evolving systems of belief or nonbelief.
Copies of the anthology can be pre-ordered from Barnes & Noble, Amazon and Blackwell's in the UK. I would also like to thank Willow (Canada) where these two poems initially saw print in 2018.
Interview With Daphne Palasi Andreades, Author of Brown Girls (Random House, 2022) in The Masters Review
My first publication of the year is an interview with Daphne Palasi Andreades, whose debut novel, Brown Girls, is out this week from Random House. Over email, we talked about the challenges of writing from life as a second-generation immigrant, the task of writing about female friendship in a society that undervalues its importance, and how one wrestles with the complexity of one’s identity resulting from the complicated histories of our motherlands. We also got to talk about our shared homeland, the Cordillera Region of the Philippines, a place Daphne often revisits in her fiction. Many thanks to The Masters Review for graciously giving a home to our conversation! Read the full interview here.
I am currently a writer-in-residence at the I-Park Foundation, an artists' residency program in rural Connecticut. It's in a beautiful location, with numerous walking trails and art installations dotting the paths. I am grateful for this opportunity to be close to nature, working on my novel and a new short story in my little grey studio pictured above, while enjoying the company of some amazing fellow artists in residence at the dinner table. It is truly a precious gift after nearly two years spent in isolation due to the pandemic. More about the I-Park Foundation here.
I am happy to share that "A Shared Stillness", my essay appearing in the Spring 2021 issue of Colorado Review, has been included in the Community of Literary Magazines and Press's (CLMP's) reading list for this year's Filipino-American History Month. One can scroll down the list to find the link to my essay about how I tapped into my family's history of joy and resilience by learning to tango in New Zealand. It's a piece that might be more appropriate for a Filipino-New Zealander history month (which has yet to exist, haha) but I am nonetheless honored to be in such great company. View the full list here.