This past Sunday, September 9th, I had the honor of introducing Elaine Castillo at her reading at Eastwind Books of Berkeley. I had read her debut novel, America Is Not the Heart, and I was so enthusiastic in my introduction and praise of her book, which is ultimately an homage to her hometown of Milpitas, California, in the San Francisco Bay Area. The writing is sharp and lyrical. The characters are full of life and passion. And the character-driven story is at once a love story and search for home and discovery of family.
Catherine Ceniza Choy, professor of Ethnic Studies and chair of the Ethnic Studies Department at UC Berkeley, began the program by saying a few words in honor of Dawn Mabalon, professor of history at San Francisco State University, champion of Filipino-American history, who passed away while on vacation in Hawaii with her family. Her death was untimely, and her loss immeasurable to so many communities. Dawn introduced me at Eastwind Books of Berkeley when I launched my book here in September 2015. Despite having begun teaching the fall semester that year, she graciously agreed to come to Berkeley and talk about the Filipino-American contribution to the farm labor movement.
Elaine read an excerpt from her novel, and then Cathy and I launched into a Q&A. Our questions revolved around the concept of home for Filipino immigrants, the freedom of language in her book, and her weaving in of Filipino history into her narrative. Afterwards, we opened up the floor for other questions. It was a packed audience. We were all treated to a great afternoon. And we all look forward to Elaine’s next book.