March 25, 2014

Latest Read: Angel de la Luna and the 5th Glorious Mystery by M. Evelina Galang

Here are the basics ...
Angel de la Luna and the 5th Glorious Mystery by M. Evelina Galang
Publication date: Nov. 5, 2013
Publisher: Coffee House Press
Category: Young Adult - Contemporary
Source: Purchased

Summary: Angel has just lost her father, and her mother's grief means she might as well be gone too. She's got a sister and a grandmother to look out for, and a burgeoning consciousness of the unfairness in the world—in her family, her community, and her country. Set against the backdrop of the second Philippine People Power Revolution in 2001, the contemporary struggles of surviving Filipina "Comfort Women” of WWII, and a cold winter’s season in the city of Chicago is the story of a daughter coming of age, coming to forgiveness, and learning to move past the chaos of grief to survive. (Adapted goodreads.com)
My thoughts…
The good: Angel de la Luna and the 5th Glorious Mystery was not an easy read for me. It's achingly real and heartbreaking and in many ways, hit very close to home. Angel de la Luna lives in the Philippines with her mother, sister, grandmother and father, until he suddenly passes away leaving their family broken with grief. But no one is more devastated than her mother. When her mother does finally snap out of it, she decides the best thing for the family is to live in the US. So she gets her papers together and goes with the intention of bringing the family over one by one, leaving Angel to take care of her sister and grandmother. Which she's been doing anyway since her mother hit rock bottom with her grief.

Angel misses her father deeply and is angry with her mother. There are only two things sustaining her: her sister & grandmother and her involvement in the revolution currently sweeping the Philippines. It's 2001 and the time of the second People Power Revolution. Through her school, she begins volunteering by spending time with a group of old women who turn out to be surviving "Comfort Women" from WWII. These women were taken against their will to Japanese camps to be sexually assaulted and brutalized by soldiers. Hearing their stories, by women who are the same age as her own grandmother (and actually, my grandmother was alive during that time too!) inspires her to attend rallies and become involved. This felt like a history lesson for me because I only had a vague idea of what happened during that time in the Philippines from my grandmother. But reading the uncensored version of what people, especially these women, suffered really weighed heavy on my heart. It's absolutely horrifying to imagine and I commend the author for educating readers on a situation that affected thousands of women. (Why isn't this ever mentioned in school?)

And that's only the first half of the book! The second half takes place in Chicago, two years later when Angel's mother finally sends for her. But Angel doesn't want to leave the Philippines, her friends or her family. In the time that's passed, Angel has ignored every letter her mother has sent and every attempt she's made to apologize for how she acted after her father passed away. Now that Angel is in Chicago she's forced to face all that and try to make a new life for herself. Her story of assimilating is a familiar one to me since many of my cousins have made the same journey. Some wanted to come live here, some didn't. The author accurately depicts Angel's internal conflicts and I sympathized with her every step of the way. But even though she didn't want to be in Chicago, I wanted her to find friendships and to fit it. To make peace with her mother, even when I understood her anger.

(Some minor) reservations: My main concern while reading, which I could not shake, was that there's a lot of Tagalog in the book. Words, phrases, sometimes entire conversations. For me, it added to the authenticity because my family speaks to me in Tagalog and this is how they speak. The book is this amazing insight into Filipino culture. But I kept thinking - how is someone who doesn't speak Tagalog supposed to understand this? There are no footnotes, no subtle explanations. Readers are supposed to infer the meaning from the rest of the conversation. The author explains why she wrote it this way and again, I get it. There are some feelings or words captured in Tagalog that don't have a direct English translation. But I still believe there should have been some footnotes so this story could reach a broader audience.

Do I recommend?: I do! I'm so glad this book caught my eye randomly at B&N and I decided to buy it. But don't be fooled by the size of the book, it's a dense read filled with so much history, culture and memorable characters. I especially recommend this book for fellow Filipinos like myself.

Happy reading!

1 comment:

  1. I'm really excited to read more Filipino literature this year, especially with our pet project in place ;) But seriously, this book sounds pretty good! I love the sound of this story, as I feel like I could identify with what the main character really went through. Glad you wound up enjoying the novel!

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