A debut memoir about a young man coping with an abrupt move between two very different cultures.
Long was born in the Philippines to a loving mother and a father who didn’t care to be in his life. He spent much of his childhood in the fishing village of Alumnos, raised by his grandmother Rufina Cabreros; his mother and American stepfather moved to California and saved money to bring him over. Long formed a deep bond with Rufina as the two eked out an existence in the poor but deeply communal village. When he finally arrived in Fontana, California, in 1975, at age 15, he struggled with being separated from his beloved grandmother. He also had trouble faking his way through public school while barely understanding English and trying to understand the deep differences between Filipino and American social norms. Long married his girlfriend after she became pregnant; after being expelled from high school for fighting, he enrolled in the U.S. Army to support his new family. The ensuing years were a roller coaster of highs and lows, Long writes, as the young couple dealt with financial issues and her increasingly severe depression and substance abuse. After the marriage finally collapsed, Long resolved to pursue an education and get ahead in the home equity loan business, which forced him to confront even more cultural differences. The author writes eloquently about how Filipino ideals shaped his youthful experience in America. For example, he tells of how his deeply traditional commitment to family drew out the collapse of his own marriage but also reminded him of the deep love between his grandparents. His memories of his childhood are particularly vivid; his descriptions of his small Filipino community, his growing awareness of the many traps of poverty, his grandmother’s die-hard commitment to him, and his volatile uncles will all stick in readers’ memories. The latter third of the book, describing Long’s life after his divorce, isn’t quite as compelling, however.
A thoughtful memoir that makes for engaging reading about cultural differences.