Important quotes in America is Not the Heart are about Hero's journey to America, her coming to grips with her past, her healing the wounds left by her family, her time in the Army, and her imprisonment.
Hero has a difficult relationship with her parents. She grows up extremely wealthy in the Philippines; in contrast, her Aunt Paz grows up extremely poor and with very disconnected parents, including a father who went abroad and rarely returned. Elaine Castillo writes:
When you’re old enough to know better but not old enough to actually stop talking back to him, your father will remind you, usually by throwing a chair at your head, that the only reason you’re able to attend nursing school is because of his army dollars. It’s your first introduction to debt, to utang na loob, the long, drawn-out torch song of filial loyalty. But when it comes to genres, you prefer a heist: take the money and run.
The contrast between Paz's history and Hero's history is startling; it's one of the things that helps Castillo focus on the tragedy that happened to Hero because it showed that trauma can come with or without a privileged past. Paz marrying Pol—Hero's uncle—gave her access to the kinds of resources that Hero's family enjoyed.
After Hero tells Rosalyn about being in the New People's Army and then the prison camp—explaining that it's what happened to her hands—Hero has a sense that her life is going to be longer. Castillo writes:
Hero knew then, with a wry, bleak, doubtless humor, that life was long, that this third or fourth life she was on was long, long, long, not even all the way started up yet, not even close. She’d fallen down another slope; now she was being carried back up the mountain. Listening to Rosalyn’s chewing noises start up again in the dark, Hero’s throat ached, all the way down the arteries, down to where the throat met the heart. She held her hand out for the next bite.
Opening up to her love interest about her past begins the healing process for Hero. She thinks of each section of her life as a separate life. Coming to Milpitas to live with her uncle and his family was the beginning of a new life;...
(The entire section is 605 words.)