Form and Content

(Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction)

In America Is in the Heart, Carlos Bulosan gives his readers the uncomfortable perspective of harsh discrimination because of racial and economic status. The actual form of the book, however, is difficult to characterize. Unlike a novel, it contains real-life situations, but neither is it autobiography, in the strictest sense. Though narrated in the first person by a character named Carlos Bulosan, the book is neither really nor exclusively an account of his life. Unlike the book’s narrator, the real Bulosan was not as impoverished. In addition, with one leg shorter than the other, he was physically weak and could not have spent extended periods of time harvesting crops or working in canneries, as the narrator of the book does.

Bulosan, the real-life author, states that the events in the book are a composite: They happened either to him or to someone he knew or heard about. The book, then, is a conglomerate portrait of Filipino-American life in the early twentieth century, but Bulosan presents the events as personal history so that the reader is more likely to take what he says to be truth. The use of the first-person narrative voice conveys immediacy and energy, arousing sympathy in a way that a third-person narrative would not.

This is an “everyperson” story, an immigrant myth. As such, it is very episodic in nature, depicting brief or extended encounters first with one character who was influential to Bulosan and then moving...

(The entire section is 432 words.)