When the hibiscus falls Stories

M. Evelina Galang, 1961-

Book - 2023

"M. Evelina Galang's stories center on the experiences of Filipina women and families and interweave Filipino folklore and Tagalog, quietly but insistently challenging racialized capitalism and the exclusion of the Filipino American experience from racial discourse in the U.S. while also making clear the role of ancestry and ancestors on younger generations."--

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FICTION/Galang, M. Evelina
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Psychological fiction
Domestic fiction
Short stories
Minneapolis : Coffee House Press 2023.
Main Author
M. Evelina Galang, 1961- (author)
Item Description
Subtitle from cover.
Physical Description
237 pages ; 21 cm
  • Strength is the woman
  • I. America, still beautiful ; Drowning ; The typhoon is a hurricane ; The Esguerra sisters ; When the hibiscus falls
  • II. Foodie in the Philippines ; Hilot of Parañaque ; Loud girl ; Holy Thursday ; Hot mommies
  • III. Deflowering the Sampaguita ; Fighting Filipina ; The kiss ; Imelda's lullaby ; Labandera
  • Isla of the Babaylan.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

Galang's masterly latest (after Her Wild American Self) takes on xenophobia, racism, and other ills via stories of strong Filipino women. In "America, Still Beautiful," elderly Faustina watches the 2016 election returns with her granddaughter Mahal and imagines her late husband, Orlando, is there with them. While mulling over the candidates--the "lady" and the "bully"--she reflects on Orlando's persecution as a journalist in Manila and their struggle to start a business in 1990s Milwaukee, and assumes Orlando would have supported Trump. Only after Trump's victory does Faustina grasp its implications, when a white woman tells her, "We won. He's deporting all of you. Comprehendo?" "The Typhoon Is a Hurricane" follows a Miami nurse named Celit on the eve of Hurricane Irma, as she cares for her elderly uncle Tito Pat, who has dementia. Tito Pat, like Faustina, is lost in his memories of the Philippines, often mistaking Celit for his mother or father and crying out in the night. Galang revisits Faustina and Mahal in "Fighting Filipina," as Mahal travels from Miami to Milwaukee to be with her grandmother during the early days of the pandemic. During Mahal's flight, fellow passengers refer to her by racial slurs and ask to be moved away from her ("The virus runs people's hate to the surface like a fever," Mahal thinks). What makes these stories so powerful and poignant are the inner lives of the characters, a complex blend of nostalgia, desire for assimilation, and defiance. This is a winner. (June)

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Review by Kirkus Book Review

Galang's short stories brim with family members--lolas and lolos, ates and kuyas, people whose care can be suffocating or revelatory as each generation confronts what Filipino American identity means to them. In the title story, a debate between cousins about what constitutes cultural identity--historical knowledge or family ties--becomes a family parable. "One day we will all be the ancestors," the narrator says, articulating the collection's implicit argument: that all stories, old and new, constitute valid and important histories. In "Foodie in the Philippines," Clarissa takes her husband, a chef, on a tour of her family's ancestral home to help create a compelling brand for a Miami restaurant. Though she brushes off her cousin's suggestions that she pay respects to local spirits, she finds herself haunted and watched after by long-dead relatives and figures in traditional Filipino dress. Clarissa isn't converted by the story's end, nor is she ambivalent to the visions--she is simply left with them. Many of the stories refuse formal conclusions, preferring instead to leave their characters as they consider whether to embrace or reject the family histories that flit about like ghosts. And though some of Galang's explorations of the future feel flat, like a foray into a time after "the Story Revolution" in "The Kiss," her use of the past is deft. In "America, Still Beautiful," an election causes a granddaughter to sob as her grandmother "weighed the candidates, slipping their campaign promises into her pockets and rolling them like loose change," and in "Isla of the Babaylan," colonization's violence lies in its power to make a person feel lost within her own self. A portrait of how complicated it is to face the history you inherit. Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.