What does Bulosan's memoir tell us about America's empire and its effects on American society?

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Carlos Bulosan, a Filipino poet born in 1913, writes about his early years growing up in the Philippines in his 1946 memoir America is in the Heart. He writes of the time right after World War I: "it seemed like the younger generation, influenced by false American ideals and modes of living, had become strangers to the older generation" (5). When he is growing up, the Philippines were becoming more and more Americanized. For example, the author's older brother, Macario, attends the school far from his village, and he is indoctrinated in American ways. When he sees Allos (or "Carlos"), Macario wants to cut his brother's hair in the American way. 

Later, after Bulosan sees the plight of the peasants in his hometown of Luzon, he dreams of going to America and learns about Abraham Lincoln. He thinks, "A poor boy became President of the United States!" and he is fascinated by this story (69). He believes the United States represents equality. This is the idea of America that people in the far-flung parts of the empire believe, and this dream draws them to immigrate to the United States.

When he arrives in the U.S. in the early 1930s, Bulosan finds life entirely different from what he imagined. He writes, "There seemed to be tragedy and horror everywhere I went" (175). He works at menial jobs in the American west, where he is treated with prejudice and disrespect by the white world around him. He develops a hatred and distrust of white people, and he says of his Filipino community: "we hid cynically behind our mounting fears, hating the broad white universe at our door" (164). Finally, he turns to becoming part of the Filipino civil rights movement. His early dreams of American equality help motivate him to push for equality in American society. Therefore, Bulosan, an immigrant, dedicates himself to making America more egalitarian and more true to its promise of equality. 

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