Orginal Publication Date
Explorations in Sights and Sounds
First published in 1946, America Is in the Heart has reached a seventh printing (1986). Carlos Bulosan's "personal history" has evidenced remarkable staying power, and that mainly in the Asian American ethnic communities and the academic programs which describe and support them. This is all the more remarkable in a book that has been damned by Philippine critics for giving a distorted view of the Philippines, and by American critics for distorting the history of the Filipino in America. Despite all this, the popularity, and the sense of "rightness" that surrounds the book can be explained rather easily once certain limiting presuppositions are removed. America Is in the Heart is an emotionally and esthetically true account of the immigration, spiritual and physical, of the pinoy, the young Filipino with all his village innocence, focused on an America "in the heart," which, like the white women in his life, always promised more than it was willing to give. It is the quintessential experience of the pinoy migrant worker in fisheries and fields, up and down the western coast of these United States given rough shape by some of the outward facts of Carlos Bulosan's life. True, the book can be read against the historical record of events noted, the characters can be roughly identified, but it is the literary accomplishment of containing a certain group experience within the narrative limits of a single life that marks the success of the book. There are other sources for the facts of the labor movement in the fields of California or on the slimming lines of the Alaskan canneries. There are few other records that speak as truly to what it meant to be Filipino in temptress America, standing on the sidewalk looking in.
Copyright, ©EES, The National Association for Ethnic Studies, 1988