America Is in the Heart

Narrated by: Ramon de Ocampo
Length: 13 hrs and 26 mins
4.3 out of 5 stars (22 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

A 1946 Filipino-American social classic about the United States in the 1930s from the perspective of a Filipino migrant laborer who endures racial violence and struggles with the paradox of the American dream, with a foreword by novelist Elaine Castillo....

Poet, essayist, novelist, fiction writer, and labor organizer, Carlos Bulosan (1911-1956) wrote one of the most influential working class literary classics about the US pre-World War II, a period and setting similar to that of Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath and Cannery Row. Bulosan's semi-autobiographical novel America Is in the Heart begins with the narrator's rural childhood in the Philippines and the struggles of land-poor peasant families affected by US imperialism after the Spanish-American War of the late 1890s. 

Carlos' experiences with other Filipino migrant laborers, who endured intense racial abuse in the fields, orchards, towns, cities, and canneries of California and the Pacific Northwest in the 1930s, reexamine the ideals of the American dream. Bulosan was one of the most important 20th-century social critics with his deeply moving account of what it was like to be criminalized in the US as a Filipino migrant drawn to the ideals of what America symbolized and committed to social justice for all marginalized groups.

©2019 Carlos Bulosan, Elaine Castillo, E. San Juan, Jr., Jeffrey Arellano Cabusao (P)2019 Blackstone Audio, Inc.

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Pointless, wandering narrative poorly performed

This book is in three parts. The first is the protagonist's (or author's: the book is semi-autobiographical) pastoral childhood in the Phillipines of...the teens and twenties? He's frustratingly vague on years, when he mentions a big war that one of his brothers goes off to fight in, I thought it was WWII, but later figured out it was WWI. This part is a touching portrait of his poor family, struggling to survive through farming and retain their connection to the land. Parts of it are confusing: he seems to have a infinite supply of brothers,-- I never could keep them straight-- and he never tell us why he, or his family, does anything they do. When he finally decides to go to America, we don't know why (or how old he is, or what year it is) he wants to leave his family, whom he clearly loves. The first part is the best, it's touching if confusing, but if it had a moral, it would be "it sucks to be rural poor in the Third World". Yeah. The second part is his first years in America as a young man. This part was perhaps the most frustrating. He wanders around the West as an itinerant laborer, and although we get an engaging portrait of the world of sin and crime and brutality of Filipino immigrants during this time (the 30s and 40s I guess?), I got frustrated with the pointlessness of his wanderings, back and forth, and up and down the West Coast, tracing and retracing his steps, taking different jobs, meeting countless friends (none of whom is characterized well enough to be memorable, so that it loses all impact when he runs back into them later: I thought "OH! It's...this guy..that he.., I don't know, worked with?" As in the first part, he never tells us his motivation, why he's moving, what he hopes to achieve, so that pretty soon, I didn't care anymore. Towards the end, he gets involved in the labor movement--think Steinbeck's In Dubious Battle-- and that takes us into the third phase of the novel. Like the first, there's no motivations to help us understand the protagonist or the other characters. At one point, he gets beaten up by the cops. Fleeing, he reaches town and just opens the door of someone's house and walks in. It happens to be an American woman, who receives him sympathetically. Then, the next day she quits her job, gives up her apartment, and they're moving to I think LA together. What? Why? No motivation explained. If there's a point to this phase, it's "it's even harder to be poor and a minority in pre-WWII America." Yeah. The third phase is his maturity, where he comes of age, and discovers his intellectual maturity. By this point, I really didn't care. If there's a point to this phase it's, "it's better to read and write than pick fruit." Yeah. Finally, the narrator had a whiny voice which contributed to my frustration with the book. Also, he couldn't do a Filipino accent, they all sound Mexican.

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