The first link below takes you to a detailed summary and analysis of the book. America Is in the Heart is divided into four parts. The first describes the narrator's life in the Philippines in the 1920s and details the exploitation of Filipino peasants as well as the negative impacts of American colonialism on their lives. This part ends with Allos, the narrator, leaving his home country in pursuit of a better life in the United States. Yet, as Allos arrives in Seattle, he is forced to recognize that his image of the U.S. as the land of opportunity bitterly clashes with the realities of racial discrimination that he encounters. The second part of the book is devoted to the injustices and the racism that the narrator has to endure. The third part shows Allos's development of a political, class and social consciousness as he determines to fight racism against immigrants as well as against the exploitative work practice with which they have to cope. Allos becomes a union organizer and the editor of the magazine of the labor movement New Tide. The diagnosis of tubercolosis does not deter him from continuing to fight. In the concluding fourth part, the narrator continues to explore the growth of his radical consciousness, while, at the same time, reaffirming his faith in America in the face of the Fascist threat represented by the Japanese attack against Pearl Harbour.
In the beginning of Part 1, Chapter 1, we meet Allos--who is the persona of Carlos Bulosan himself--and his father. While Allos, the first-person narrator, weaves the description of his physical surroundings in with his excitement at sighting an unknown man "coming slowly through the tall grass," we are introduced to the way of life of his farmer father and we witness the return of a brother whom Allos has never seen because this brother has been away for years fighting in Europe in World War I (Allos himself later lives through World War II).
My father halted the carabao, or water buffalo, and bit the rope. He put his wet hands on his hips and waited patiently for me. ... "What is it, son?" asked my father .... "I think I saw brother Leon," I said,.... "I saw him coming toward our house." ... That was how I met my brother who had gone to fight a strange war in Europe.
Leon removes his soldier's khaki and enters back into family life, plowing with their father, hoping along with them all that there would be a good harvest in season. Allos now introduces the information that the Philippines is in social turmoil, "undergoing a radical social change." Young men are embracing more modern attitudes and, although the movement for national independence has already been broiling for a long time, with native leaders actually in positions of power, the economic chaos they engendered "obfuscated the people's resurgence toward a broad national unity": in those years, while the people of the Philippines wanted a unified movement toward independence, the economic catastrophe brought about by inept leaders threw the real quest for unity off course.
In the midst of this social turmoil, the brothers' father focuses on eking out a living from their four hectares of land by incorporating the technique of crop rotation. Usually the "generosity of the soil was miraculous." During the season of "warm rains," there occurred weddings and christenings. Leon meets and marries one of the most sought-after young women in their barrio.
She is from an impoverished barrio in the north, from an "industrious and thrifty people," and has brought earnest goodwill and dedication to hard work to the village, so is admired by all. After a three-day feast, the wedding takes place, and Leon carries his bride across the "harvested fields" with family and friends joyfully following after, throwing rice at them. As the marriage is consummated, the crowd of family and friends stand as witnesses to the virginity of the bride--which is testified to in black smoke issuing from their new home--in case the groom chooses to return her to her parents in the event of previously lost virginity. Allos, as the narrator looking back over time, identifies this ritual as a "fast-dying custom" being rejected by the modern "younger generation that were shaping out sharply from the growing industrialization."
Tragedy strikes when no black smoke appears. The bride is dragged out from the house. Leon is beaten. His father is trampled under "angry feet." The bride is tied to "a guava tree" and whipped. Leon throws his body over hers to protect her and take the whip lashes himself. His father rises from the trampled ground and throws himself over both, but a stoning commences even though he begs for mercy because "She is a good, industrious woman, and my son wants to live with her." When the crowd is "spent" and disperses, Allos "fumbled" with a knife to cut the ropes that bound them. As the bride clings with silent sobs to her groom, the questioning look in Leon's eyes remains unanswered as his father is unable to find the answers in the earth that holds his gaze.
The girl flung her bleeding arms about my brother and wept silently. I saw my father's face searching for an answer in the earth to the unanswerable question in my brother's eyes.
Allos looks back and narrates how Leon and his bride sold the portion of land given him as his inheritance and left the barrio to "live in another part of Luzon." The chapter ends with a flash-forward to the time, years later, when Allos will leave for America. At the time of his departure, his bus is to go through his brother's town. Allos earlier wrote and asked Leon to stand in front of his house so they could wave good-bye to each other. As the bus passes, he sees Leon and his wife in front of their house, with their children lined up with them. For Allos, who had become a man in his own right, it was goodbye to his brother, to the war that had shaped him, to his wife and to "all that was magnificent in her."
I leaned far out the window, waving to them. It was good-bye to my brother Leon and to the war that he had fought in a strange land; good-bye to his silent wife and all that was magnificent in her. It was only several hours afterward that I tried to recall how many children were beside my brother.