America Is Not the Heart by Elaine Castillo

Start Your Free Trial

Download America Is Not the Heart Study Guide

Subscribe Now

America Is Not the Heart Summary

Published in 2018, America Is Not the Heart by Elaine Castillo tells the intergenerational story of a Filipino immigrant family. The novel's title is drawn from a 1946 semiautobiographical work by Carlos Buloson titled America Is the Heart, which chronicles the experiences of a young Filipino man in his immigration to America.

Like Bulosan, Castillo also writes about the immigrant experience and Filipino diaspora. Her alteration of the Bulosan's title does not negate the views expressed in his work; her use of the word "not" is used to imply that America is not someone's entire heart and that the immigrant experience is multifaceted and multicultural. There is no singular experience; each is unique to the individual, the culture, and the past, and may only be truly understood by the individual person. This message is most strongly conveyed by Castillo's use of multiple languages within the novel itself: the dialogue switches between English, Spanish, and the three Filipino languages (Tagalog, Pangasinan, and Ilocano) without translation. Characters at times struggle to overcome these language barriers, and Castillo uses these struggles to demonstrate the difficulties faced by immigrant communities.

The experiences of Hero (a nickname short for Geronima), the central character in Castillo's America Is Not the Heart , go beyond the typically presented immigrant experience and are incredibly layered and complex. She is from a wealthy Ilocano family, but was disowned after joining the New People's Army (a Communist guerrilla group) to work as an army doctor. Hero was eventually captured and tortured, which left her with two broken thumbs. Unable to return to her family in the Philippines, she moves to Milpitas (a San Francisco suburb) to live with her uncle Pol, his younger wife Paz, and their daughter Roni. Here, Hero struggles to return to a sense of normalcy and heal from her traumatic past. She meets a makeup artist named Rosalyn with whom she...

(The entire section is 477 words.)