Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 336
America is Not the Heart is a 2018 contemporary fictional novel written by American writer Elaine Castillo. It is the author’s first novel, and in it, she writes about the experiences of one immigrant family from the Philippines. The novel is, essentially, a multigenerational family saga, in which Castillo describes...
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America is Not the Heart is a 2018 contemporary fictional novel written by American writer Elaine Castillo. It is the author’s first novel, and in it, she writes about the experiences of one immigrant family from the Philippines. The novel is, essentially, a multigenerational family saga, in which Castillo describes the life stories of several Filipino women, who immigrate to America to find a better life and pursue the American Dream. Thus, America is not the Heart is often classified as a slice-of-life novel as well.
The main protagonist is a young, undocumented immigrant from the Philippines named Geronimo de Vera or "Hero.” Before she fled to the States, Hero was a doctor who got involved with the New People's Army—a rebellious group that fought against the Marcos regime. Soon, she was captured and tortured by the government, but was let go once it was established that she had some familial ties to Marcos. Her parents were very unsupportive of her political opinions and her bisexuality, and so they sent her to live with her aunt and uncle, in Milpitas. There, she meets a kind and energetic hairstylist named Rosalyn, with whom she gradually falls in love with.
Castillo manages to write a romance, a historical novel, and a family drama all in one, and delivers an honest and thought-provoking narrative. She covers a myriad of social themes, such as the importance of family, the hardships of life, love, romance, sexuality, secrets, trust, friendship, intimacy, and self-discovery; but, she also manages to incorporate several politically and culturally relevant themes like immigration, culture, identity, diversity, tradition, racism, violence, communal life, and the wild political climate of the Philippines in the 1980s and 1990s.
The novel received generally positive reviews, however, it did receive some criticism as well, mainly for Castillo’s frequent time skips. Many readers have also commented on Castillo’s recurring use of Tagalog, Ilocano, and Panganisan words, with some finding it authentic and unique, and others describing it as too repetitive and tiring.