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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)   

Featured Article: The Best Listens by East Asian Authors


The geographical region that comprises Asia is vast and varied—and so are the stories that have emerged from it. And as the continent consists of more than 50 countries, it is nearly impossible to narrow down a list of the best Asian literature. So, for this collection, we’ve elected to highlight the wonderful works crafted by authors who are from the East Asian region or are of East Asian descent. We’ve chosen some of the greatest works by genre to get you started.

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What listeners say about America Is Not the Heart

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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.

6 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.

4 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.

2 people 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.

2 people found this helpful

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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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An instant favorite

Amazing story, fantastic voice acting. Made me feel so much closer to my roots and my family, as well as grateful for everything I have and lost. 11/10 will pick up a physical copy and read/listen again.

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Not just a story, but gave Filipino history too!

It was very descriptive, reminded me of Filipino life! Surprising, sensual and well written. Mabuhay

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amazingly accurate

I grew up in Fremont driving through Milpitas every day to go to school in Palo Alto during the same period of time in the book. the accounts of locations, streets, buildings are all so accurate. the reader was on point with all the accents. wonderful story that hit the heart of this filipino mastisa born in the east/south bay.

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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.