Adolescence, family issues, music and revolutionary politics all sink sharp hooks into a Filipino teenager at the beginning of the 21st century.
Related with a rich mixture of English, “Taglish” and Tagalog dialogue, Angel’s tale begins with the sudden loss of her Papang (father) and the ensuing departure of her Ináy (mother) for America. Switching time and locale halfway through, Angel flies from Manila to Chicago two years later, just before her 16th birthday, only to discover that she has a new stepfather and baby brother. In a narrative rush propelled by grief and anger, Angel chronicles hard times struggling to support herself, her little sister, Lila, and her grandmother Lola Ani while attending a convent school run by activist nuns who lead politicized students out in demonstrations against the Estrada regime. In Chicago, she conducts a cold war at home while facing culture shock and sparking a student walkout at her new school. In both countries, Angel is deeply embedded in webs of close-knit community and extended family. References to then-current politics mix with explicit, shocking testimonials from elders who were brutally used as “Comfort Women” by Japanese soldiers in World War II. Along with these, Galang folds Filipino food, dress, sights and customs into her narrative. As a result, and particularly because the meanings of the non-English lines and expressions are not always clear in context, events and characters are often outshone by their milieu.
The multilingual text will be a stumbling block for many readers, but it’s a vivid portrait of a culture, with particular focus on its women. (afterword, study questions) (Historical fiction. 14-18)