Here are my latest book recommendations for the Northwest Asian Weekly:
By R. Zamora Linmark
Coffee House Press, 2011
After 13 years of living in the United States, Vicente De Los Reyes is returning home.
Born in the Philippines, Vicente, or Vince, came to Hawaii when he was only 10 years old. He returns after winning a contest and finds himself struggling to adjust to many things in Manila, including the heat, crazy drivers in a chaotic city, and political and cultural differences.
Upon returning, Vince seems to struggle more as a “balikbayan” — or a U.S.-based Filipino “returning to visit the motherland and witness its vast improvements” — than as a young gay man living in the early 1990s. This surprised me, but in a good way, as the story is more about a young man returning home who just happens to be gay, rather than about his sexuality and the issues around that.
While Linmark doesn’t focus on Vince’s sexuality, he doesn’t ignore it either, as he explores the protagonist’s attraction to his cab driver on one of his first nights out on the town.
What I also enjoyed about “Leche” (which means milk in Spanish, but has come to mean another four-letter word to Filipinos) is the eccentric group of people Vince meets. From a former nun turned activist, to a political film director, to the country’s first-daughter-slash-actress, each character has a distinct personality.
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