Book Reviews


TITLE: “Dream Jungle”

AUTHOR: Jessica Hagedorn

PUBLISHER: Penguin Books

REVIEW PUBLISHED IN: The New York Times, Oct. 5, 2003 by Michael Harris

A narrative collage hopscotching from year to year, from place to place and from one point of view to another: that’s what Jessica Hagedorn offers in her intricate new novel, which boldly links a Manila millionaire’s ”discovery” of a Stone Age tribe on Mindanao with a filmed re-creation of the Vietnam War on that same guerrilla-plagued island six years later.


TITLE: “Magdalena”

AUTHOR: Cecilia Manguerra Brainard

PUBLISHER: Plain View Press (August 8, 2008)

REVIEW PUBLISHED IN: World Literature Today, April-June 2003 v77 i1 p100 by Kathleen Flanagan

CECILIA MANGUERRA BRAINARD’S novel Magdalena takes its title from a protagonist descended from several generations of equally compelling female characters. Brainard’s earlier novel When the Rainbow Goddess Wept (1994) employed the viewpoint of an adolescent girl to recount the Japanese invasion of the Philippines during World War II. With Magdalena Brainard uses a nonlinear narrative and multiple points of view to describe the history of the Philippines that roughly corresponds to its contact with the United States from the Spanish-American War to the war in Vietnam. Magdalena begins and ends with the perspective of Juana, daughter of the title character and her American lover (a POW in Vietnam), who is herself pregnant and curious about her family history. Letters, diaries, and narratives from numerous characters help Juana reconstruct her maternal and, to a lesser extent, paternal lineage.


TITLE: “Gun Dealers’ Daughter”

AUTHOR: Gina Apostol

PUBLISHER: W. W. Norton & Company (July 9, 2012)

REVIEW PUBLISHED IN: The Philippine Star by Juaniyo Arcellana

It took me a while to finish Gina Apostol’s Gun Dealers’ Daughter (Anvil 2010), not through any fault of the novelist, rather due to sheer intimidation with the type size, as well the bouts of attention deficit disorder that seem to rule our day to day. Apostol was here recently around the Holy Week, both to promote her double-barreled work, the aforementioned Gun Dealers’ (apostrophe rightly placed) and The Revolution According to Raymundo Mata (Anvil 2009), and to take a much-needed break from the Big Apple to visit her typhoon-ravaged hometown of Tacloban.


TITLE: When the Rainbow Goddess Wept

AUTHOR: Cecilia Manguerra Brainard

REVIEW BY: Associated Press, December 18, 1994

When the Rainbow Goddess Wept by Cecilia Brainard is the tearful, seldom-told story of the Japanese invasion of the Philippines during World War II as seen through the eyes of a young Filipino girl. The many hardships that 9-year-old Yvonne Macaraig and her family are faced with teach her the value of hope and endurance.

From the beginning, the war deals Yvonne terrible losses. In order to evade the Japanese, Yvonne’s family must leave their home in the city and go into hiding in the countryside. Yvonne is separated from her aunt and cousin, and her eccentric grandfather, Lolo Peping, is killed in the first attack on the city. While fleeing the Japanese, Yvonne’s baby brother is born and tragically dies for lack of medical attention.




AUTHOR: Cecilia Manguerra Brainard

PUBLISHER: Anvil Publishing, 1997, 254 pages

REVIEW PUBLISHED IN: MANOA, Vol. 13, No., 1, Silence to Light: Japan and the Shadows of War (Summer, 2001) pp. 201-203 by Harold Augenbraum

A couple of years ago, I asked a colleague of mine who was preparing a comprehensive
anthology of world literature which Filipino writers he was going to
include.He wasn’t aware of any, he replied, adding that they probably hadn’t been
translated yet.

I explained that many of the best Filipino writers in the Philippines wrote in
English, a legacy of American colonialism from 1898 to 1946. With great enthusiasm
and some hope, I mentioned a half dozen that he might want to consider,
including N .V. M. Gonzalez, Linda Ty-Casper, and F.Sionil Jose. I wasn’t surprised,
however, when the anthology appeared without a one.

TITLE: Abadeha: The Philippine Cinderella

AUTHOR: Myrna J. de la Paz

PUBLISHER: Shen’s Book

REVIEW PUBLISHED IN on September 2009 by Abigail Sawyer

Myrna J. de la Paz’s upbringing in a Philippine town where indigenous culture and spiritual beliefs are practiced alongside Christianity inspired her to share a world of magic and myth that had become familiar to her but was in danger of disappearing as a result of the long history of Spanish Colonization and Americanization. Abadeha: The Philippine Cinderella is a story that had already disappeared from mainstream Philippine folk literature, and de la Paz made it her mission to rescue this tale with its indigenous roots intact.


 TITLE: Forty Years Of Writing In America

AUTHOR: Ludy Astraquillo Ongkeko

PUBLISHER: Jack Bacon & Company (Reno, Nevada)

449 pages


REVIEW PUBLISHED IN PHILIPPINE NEWS (April 11, 2009)  By Allen Gaborro
There is something rather intimate about Dr. Ludy Astraquillo Ongkeko’s most recent book, “Forty Years Of Writing In America.” The work not only has a contemplative and reflective aura about it. It also, especially with subsequent readings, radiates with a personal tone and gravity that touches on the author’s collective experiences as a Filipino in America. Ongkeko’s experiences, much of which came about as a writer and as a teacher, span some forty years and two very different, yet historically- interrelated cultures and societies.

TITLE: In Her Mother’s Image
AUTHOR: Cecilia Gaerlan

Blistering winds from the South China Sea sway the giant coconut trees lining the pristine beach while the foam of crashing waves melds with the fine white sand. Darkness creeps into the skies, heralding an impending tropical storm on this December morning. The droning gusts turn somber as the skies open up, yielding a sea of planes emblazoned with the crimson symbol of the rising sun. One by one, in perfect formation, they descend swiftly on this bucolic town like a swarm of hornets about to prey. A child’s tiny feet trample madly on the powdery sand, racing with the wild beating of her heart. Her breathing becomes more rapid, each gasp turning shallow and frantic as the invading horde casts its dark shadow from above. Suddenly, an ear-piercing sound is heard, like an echo of a desperate woman wailing in pain.”


TITLE: Out of Cebu: Essays and Personal Prose

AUTHOR: Cecilia Manguerra-Brainard

REVIEW PUBLISHED IN  Erlinda Kintanar-Alburo’s column Promdi-wise, Sugbo News

Out of Cebu: Essays and Personal Prose is the newest book of Cecilia “Baby” Manguerra-Brainard, published by the newest press in town, the USC Press. The author, who lives in California, shows how much Cebu is a part of her and her writing. Her saying that “you can take a Filipina out of the Philippines, but you can’t take the Philippines out of a Filipina” may be rephrased “Cebuana out of Cebu” and “Cebu out of a Cebuana.”


TITLE:  Tropic Born  War Torn

AUTHOR: Susan Vance

PUBLISHER:  Inkwater Press

123 pages


While the scope and horror of war can never be fully realized, personal life stories encourage one to learn history surrounding these events. The author’s mother and grandfather, Gloria Haube Vance and William Haube, were caught up in the Japanese invasion of the Philippines during World War II. On the evening of Gloria’s engagement party, December 7, 1941, her life changed direction and she was plunged into survival mode. Reinforcements for the Philippines were diverted to protect Hawaii after the Pearl Harbor attack, leaving the Philippines to the Japanese. Gloria’s fiancé was captured, endured the Bataan death march — only to die on a Japanese ship bombed by American planes.


TITLE: War Stories: The Pacific, Volume I. Pearl Harbor to Guadacanal

AUTHOR: Jay Wertz


“On December 7th, when the attack come I had just bought me the paper, the Honolulu Times I think it was, and I lay down by a casemate and I was fixing to read it when the first bomb hit … We had targets, they were coming in from every which way; this way, that way, they just flied in a swarm; they’s just like a hive of bees coming through there. You just picked out the one you thought you could get … “

 That description of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor was given by Bud Taylor, a Texan who manned a .50-caliber machine gun on USS Pennsylvania. He is one of many veterans who share their memories in War Stories: The Pacific, Volume I, Pearl Harbor to Guadalcanal, the first book in a new series that blends those veterans’ stories with historic narrative, photos, maps, and numerous sidebars to provide a comprehensive history of the Second World War.


TITLE: When the De La Cruz Family Danced

AUTHOR: Donna Miscolta



Confession time: I judged a book by it’s cover. Well, actually by it’s title. Usually I am adamant about not doing that and rely instead on the synopsis. In this case, I was totally vindicated in my choice. This book has found its place on my top 100 list (still in progress).

As you know, if you have spent any time reading my reviews, I almost never include a run down of the plot. There are lots of places, on the web and off, that carry info as to the plot line of a book – my blog is for reviews. ‘When the de la Cruz Family Danced’ is going to be one of those exceptions because I feel like the blurb on the back of the book doesn’t do the book justice.

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