America Is Not the Heart

A Novel
Narrated by: Donnabella Mortel
Length: 16 hrs and 24 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (119 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Named one of the best books of 2018 by NPR, Real Simple, Lit Hub, The Boston Globe, San Francisco Chronicle, The New York Post, Kirkus Reviews, and The New York Public Library 

"A saga rich with origin myths, national and personal.... Castillo is part of a younger generation of American writers instilling literature with a layered sense of identity." (Vogue)

How many lives fit in a lifetime? 

When Hero De Vera arrives in America - haunted by the political upheaval in the Philippines and disowned by her parents - she's already on her third. Her uncle gives her a fresh start in the Bay Area, and he doesn't ask about her past. His younger wife knows enough about the might and secrecy of the De Vera family to keep her head down. But their daughter - the first American-born daughter in the family - can't resist asking Hero about her damaged hands. 

An increasingly relevant story told with startling lucidity, humor, and an uncanny ear for the intimacies and shorthand of family ritual, America Is Not the Heart is a sprawling, soulful debut about three generations of women in one family struggling to balance the promise of the American dream and the unshakable grip of history. 

With exuberance, grit, and sly tenderness, here is a family saga; an origin story; a romance; a narrative of two nations and the people who leave one home to grasp at another. 

©2018 Elaine Castillo (P)2018 Penguin Audio

Critic Reviews

“Hungrily ambitious in sweep and documentary in detail, and reads like a seismograph of the aftershocks from trading one life for another.... Like Bulosan, [Castillo] channels a righteous anger, revisiting America’s historical crimes.” (The New York Times Book Review)

“An impossible-to-put-down, multi-generational family epic.” (Southern Living)

“Castillo’s debut, a contemporary saga of an extended Filipino family, is a wonderful, nonpareil novel... a remarkable feat... a brilliant and intensely moving immigrant tale.” (Publishers Weekly, starred review)    

“Castillo is a vivid writer, and she has a real voice: vernacular and fluid, with a take-no-prisoners edge. At the same time, she complicates her narrative by breaking out of it in a variety of places - both by deftly incorporating languages such as Tagalog and Ilocano and through the use of flashback or backstory... Beautifully written, emotionally complex, and deeply moving, Castillo's novel reminds us both that stories may be all we have to save us and also that this may never be enough.” (Kirkus, starred review)   

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  • Overall
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    4 out of 5 stars

New Perspectives

To me, this is a new perspective of the "American Dream". Uncensored and real. It had enough detail where you felt as if you were one of the characters, while withholding information until the right moments. I felt more drawn to this story because my father is an immigrant from the Philippines and enjoy multiple perspectives.

4 people found this helpful

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Unexpected Love Story

Excellent story, not predictable! Outstanding narration, differentiated characters. Thoroughly enjoyed, I've listened twice. Thank you.

3 people found this helpful

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Great Listen!

This was overall a great listen, I really enjoyed all the perspectives and the era the story is set. That being said, I wish I had physically read the book instead of listening to it. There's a lot of Tagalog and Ilicano that wasn't translated so there were several parts where I got the general vibe of the situation but didn't know exactly what was happening.

2 people found this helpful

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Stories of Me

To read your culture in a novel is precious. As a first-gen American born Filipino-American, visibility is something I crave for daily. I appreciate the beautiful layers of Elaine Castillo’s novel more than words can say. Maraming salamat, Elaine.

1 person found this helpful

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  • J
  • 07-01-18

Brilliant narrative

It's a lovely book. Precise in a way that makes it relevant beyond the story told. I could so easily see my own family members reflected in this brilliant narrative. I'm thoroughly impressed.

1 person found this helpful

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this book has no point

the characters are well crafted and have potential, bit nothing happens to them. it's the most anticlimactic book I've ever read.

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the story is my heart

I didn’t think I’d weep as long and deeply as I did listening to this story. as a filipinx Canadian there was so much in the book that spoke to me and my experience as an immigrant.

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Good story and well read by the performer.

I love listening to these stories by someone has a good accent, so the context is understood. However, there is a typo in the book or the reader misspoke. In the 2nd story, the reader says “Toyota Corona”. Instead of “Toyota Corolla”. Is that a “Pilipino thing” or a Audible mistake? Lol!

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Phenomenal

Incredibly lively and loving (without devolving into sentimentality) window into multiple overlapping Filipinx/Fil-Am narratives: vivid details bring you right into the eras, neighborhoods and communities that Castillo has rendered. Full of personality and affection, while still maintaining some necessary critical distance. The reader was fantastic, creating fully fleshed out, highly appealing characters in her voice work. A total winner.

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Bay Area Fil-Ams Represent

Donabella’s narration does a great job of bringing every character in this book to life. Author Elaine Castillo also writes the experiences of Filipinos in America and Filipino-Americans in the Bay Area beautifully. Loved how grounded the stories of each character were in the history and circumstance of the Philippines after Marcos and the Bay during the mobile DJ scene.