If you’re Filipino and grew up in the ’90s, chances are you knew every iconic Filipino celebrity in mainstream American media—and you could count all of them on one hand. Tia Carrere was in Wayne’s World. Lea Salonga was the lead in Miss Saigon and the singing voice of Jasmine in Disney’s original Aladdin. Dante Basco played Rufio in Hook. Paolo Montalbán was the Prince to Brandy’s Cinderella.
These days, that list has grown far and wide across pop culture (Oh hey, Manny Jacinto from The Good Place!), including our contemporary bookshelves, familiarizing us with a new wave of names to stan like Tolentino, Talusan, and Chupeco. From fantasy to nonfiction, a graphic novel and queer romance, here are eight recently published and upcoming books by Filipino authors to round out Filipino American Heritage Month and guide us into the new year.
Food is one of the most important languages of love for Filipinos, and Sarah Gambito’s book Loves You: Poems makes for a perfect pairing—including real family recipes—that taps into all our senses to leave us satisfied and full.
Grace Talusan’s debut memoir shares a story that many of us are familiar with but may not have had the strength to voice out loud. Talusan’s experiences of displacement from home, from her body, and from her mind is a testament to survival and the healing power of telling one’s truth.
Brigitte Bautista brings a friendship–turned–romance to life in You, Me, U.S. by taking us straight to the heart of Metro Manila with Jo, a sex worker, and Liza, a salesclerk. The two women are best friends and roommates who end up falling for each other even as work, family, and an obligatory engagement constantly come between them. We are here for this loveship and are rooting for them the whole way through.
Malaka Gharib’s I Was Their American Dream: A Graphic Memoir gives me similar feelings to when I watch Tuca & Bertie. I want to both laugh and cry at the same time with all the joy and sometimes sorrow in my heart. It’s an immigrant and first-generation story we know very well but is also so unique to Gharib. She was born and raised in Los Angeles to a Filipino Catholic mom and a Muslim Egyptian dad and navigates her coming-of-age through the expectations of her immigrant parents contrasted by the expectations of being American.
Randy Ribay’s young-adult novel explores the complex relationship between the Philippines and the often violent war on drugs launched by President Rodrigo Duterte in 2016, looking at it through the eyes of Jay, a biracial Filipino American college student. Jay’s quest to find out the truth behind his cousin’s murder takes him from the confines of Michigan to the boundless streets of Manila, where he finds himself at the crossroads of grief, guilt, and identity.
New Yorker columnist Jia Tolentino embodies the quintessential millennial: She was raised with and on an internet that was itself growing and evolving, and like so many of us during that time, felt constantly compelled to find herself in it. But Tolentino didn’t stop there, and her ability to critique online culture and its impact on self-conception with unmatched wit has only sharpened over time. In Trick Mirror’s nine essays, Tolentino uses unabashed introspection to show us millenials exactly who we are.
The only thing that makes me sad about Rin Chupeco’s work—other than having to wait for this book to be released—is that I didn’t discover it until recently. Wicked As You Wish adds to Chupeco’s ouevre of supernatural young-adult fiction: It’s a fantasy in which fairytales are real history and the Filipina heroine, Tala, is a descendant of the real-life legendary warrior princess, Urduja. Chupeco weaves together a magical tale with real history and mythology that is sure to leave us spellbound.
Constantly on the move since his parents’ divorce, Pablo has never really felt grounded. In Tanya Guerrero’s How to Make Friends with the Sea, he moves to the Philippines when his mother takes a demanding job as a zoologist, leaving him to cope with constant, crippling anxiety on his own. Pablo can’t depend on the adults in his life, but when his mother takes in an orphaned girl named Chiqui, Pablo experiences what it’s like for someone to depend on him—and learns how to love himself and others along the way.