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 in Colorado Review about how I tapped into my family's history by learning to tango in New Zealand, 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. 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.
I am happy to share that two of my late father's poems written in his native tongue, Chavacano, appear in the latest issue of Words Without Borders, featuring writing from Southeast Asian creole languages. Entitled "Ojos del Marijada" (Eyes of the Wave) and "Nor Marcos" (Mr. Marcos), these two poems are accompanied with his own English translations, as well as audio recordings of my aunt, Dr. Sonia Alensub, reading the poems in the original Chavacano. Professor Stefanie Shamila Pillai also wrote a remarkable introduction to this issue, making the vital observation that "[F]or multilingual writers such as those represented in this issue, choosing to write in their heritage languages can be seen as an expression of agency, an active choice to communicate in a nondominant language rather than, for example, an official or national language (e.g., Malay, Filipino, Portuguese, or Chinese), or an international language like English." I would like to thank the Words Without Borders team for this wonderful opportunity to showcase my father's work in Chavacano, especially Nina Perrotta who initially reached out to me. This is a wonderful gift to us during my father's birth month.
As part of Oyster River Pages's contributor showcase, I answered a few questions about my novel-in-progress, how I confront the rise of authoritarianism and the wounds of my nation's past in my work, and how the COVID pandemic has changed my relationship to art and writing. Many thanks to Jonathan Freeman-Coppadge and the rest of the Oyster River Pages team! You can read that interview here.
"The Life-Affirming Words Of Katherine Mansfield in a Time of Pandemic" Anthologized in Katherine Mansfield and Children (Edinburgh University Press, 2021)
I am excited to share that my essay about drawing strength from Katherine Mansfield's life and work during the first few months of this pandemic has been selected for inclusion in the anthology, Katherine Mansfield and Children, which will be published by the Katherine Mansfield Society and Edinburgh University Press in October 2021. This is a longer version of an essay I wrote that appeared last year in New Zealand's The Pantograph Punch entitled "The Life-Affirming Words of Katherine Mansfield in a Time of Pandemic". I would like to thank Gerri Kimber and Todd Martin for selecting my work, as well as Hannah Newport-Watson for originally publishing it in The Pantograph Punch. Hardback copies can be pre-ordered from the Edinburgh University Press website and from Barnes and Noble.
"The Autumn Sun" (Czech Translation) Anthologized in Kuřata v hadí kleci: Moderní filipínské povídky (Prague: Argo, 2020)
Posting this belatedly, but better late than never: my short story, "The Autumn Sun", was selected by Jaroslav Olsa for translation into Czech and inclusion in the Czech-language anthology of modern Philippine short stories in translation, Kuřata v hadí kleci: Moderní filipínské povídky, published in the Czech Republic by Argo in 2020. "The Autumn Sun" is one of my first short stories, and it was originally published in English by the now-defunct Philippines Free Press in 2007 (belated thanks to Paolo Manalo for selecting my work). It also got me into the University of Texas-Michener Center for Writers in 2010, so it's a story I've very proud of, and I am honored that it has been given a second life in Czech. The anthology is available for purchase here.
I had the honor of reviewing The Memory Eaters, Elizabeth Katesky's beautiful and heartbreaking memoir in essays about grief, loss, and the nature of memory, for Colorado Review. Here's an excerpt from what I wrote:
Central to Elizabeth Kadetsky’s stellar collection of essays about the nature of memory and grief, The Memory Eaters is her mother’s slippage from a world that once defined the parameters of her identity, and her own capacity to navigate it, as a result of Alzheimer’s disease. As Kadetsky grieves, memories from her girlhood and young adulthood come together to shed light upon her mother’s psychological absences and departures that plagued her throughout her life.
Read the rest of the review here.
(Photo credit: Rappler)
In my mind, you are still a young man who has been thrust into the Presidential race after your mother died, awakening in us a rare sense of hope after spending years, perhaps even decades, accepting corruption as a way of life, as the way things will always be. It is the way one survives in this country, by allowing one’s rage and disappointment to be dampened over time as the corruption one witnesses in the highest echelons of government, or in the road projects outside one’s house, or in the glaring inequality one sees day after day after day, becomes a constant in one’s life, a radio static to which one grows frighteningly deaf.
Your mother’s death shook us awake, reminding us of the sacrifices she and your father made for a country that many of us had given up on, whether we still lived here or had packed our bags for more prosperous lands. “Walang pag-asa ang Pilipinas,” I’ve heard Filipinos mutter under their breath, a mantra of disillusionment that makes every effort to improve our lot appear like a complete waste of time. Your father didn’t believe this at all, sacrificing his life for a country that would go on to belittle his sacrifice; your mother didn’t believe this either, putting her own personal safety on the line to help overthrow a dictator and restore democracy. Were we grateful at all for the freedoms we gained from their sacrifices, as we complained about the things your mother did or failed to do during her term, or about all your character flaws, and every single thing you failed to do when you were President? Could we have anticipated the election of another authoritarian who worshipped the dictator your parents helped overthrow, or did some of us simply desire to return to those dark years, harboring a secret wish, as we invoked our freedom of speech to undermine your achievements, to destroy all our hopes for a better tomorrow?
For this is the one thing you gave us, which your predecessors failed to instill in us: a capacity for hope. Unlike your predecessors, you vowed to go after corrupt officials who lined their pockets with our hard-earned money, after tax evaders who drained our country’s resources by refusing to pay their fair share. You knew that these were the people who held our country back, whose unprosecuted crimes diminished our faith in a government that was meant to serve us. You knew that a culture of corruption led to a collective disillusionment that corrupted our souls, and allowed us to accept the moral degeneracy around us as a fact of life. Perhaps even you could not completely fathom the depths of our own corruption, and our capacity to elect a leader who speaks with relish about murder and rape. My heart breaks when people make a joke of your death, making me wonder if our moral center has died with your passing.
My mother sobbed this morning when we learned of your death. We used to criticize you too, but there’s something about your untimely departure that makes me unbearably sad. These are dark times in which even I have lost the capacity to hope, and with your passing I ask myself if I still have the strength to keep my remaining embers of hope warm and ready. They made a mockery of your legacy in recent years, and not once did you try to defend yourself, even as your quiet accomplishments came to light in spite of all efforts to erase these from people’s memories. Some of my own friends have distanced themselves from you to avoid being labeled “dilawans”, a cuss word spat out to belittle you and the people who still believe in what you stood for.
The Philippine Left will of course dismiss your achievements, in the same way that they belittled your intellect and harassed you with all sorts of ableist insults when you were President. They will still try to vilify you, if only to erase from people’s memories their initial unabashed support of the current President, their acceptance of cushy government positions in exchange for their silence over the ongoing genocide of our nation’s poor. Despite their efforts to make us forget about your sacrifices and the selflessness of your parents, not all of us will forget. I will never forget.