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A space to encourage writing of Filipino American literature and the arts




Philippine American Writers and Artists blog for lit/arts events, reviews, news, and opportunities.

Filtering by Tag: Gina Apostol

Gina Apostol: ‘Memory is deception’


Via The Recorder:

‘Memory is deception’

Story by Trish Crapo Wednesday, October 17, 2012

“Memory is deception,” Sol, the young narrator of Gina Apostol’s new novel “Gun Dealers’ Daughter,” muses. “There’s a pall under which intentions lie, gross as an astrologer’s ball.”

To figure out how memory works is not just a passing fancy for Sol, the daughter of wealthy Filipino gun dealers. She needs memory to jog her out of a deep amnesia brought on by traumatic events she helped to instigate in Manila during the 1980s when Maoist insurgents were fighting to bring down dictator Ferdinand Marcos.

Apostol, who, like her character, attended the University of the Philippines during the 1980s, drew from newspaper accounts of the time as well as her own experiences as a student protester to write her novel. She described the period of unrest the book is set within as “terrifying but at the same time, it was very exhilarating.” Apostol joined the Maoist street demonstrations because, in the face of the oppression of the Marcos dictatorship, she felt compelled to act.

“What are you going to do?” Apostol asked. “Are you just going to sit there? … If there is constant violence against the farmers, against the students, if people are being killed, it’s not enough to just sit there and read your books!”

Some of her friends ridiculed her for taking part in the demonstrations, telling her that she didn’t look the part of a radical. “It’s like you have to be a particular kind of person (to be politically involved),” she said. “You have to look like riff-raff to be thoughtful. You have to go and dress in hemp or something … So I would always have arguments. I’d also have arguments with the Maoists. I’d say, ‘Just because you believe in these kinds of things doesn’t mean you can’t read Virginia Woolf.’”

Read more. And don't forget to RSVP for Gina's 10/26/2012 San Francisco event at the Philippine Consulate!

Review: Gun Dealers' Daughter by Gina Apostol


Via Pop Matters: Gina Apostol’s Gun Dealers’ Daughter is very much a mosaic. It’s a hazy fever-dream of a novel, a story in which the confusion of the narrator spills into the storyline itself, leaving the reader as disoriented as the protagonist. Given the serious thematic issues here, both political and personal, this confusion might be expected to result in a reading experience that’s more frustrating than satisfying. Happily, though, Apostol manages to keep her readers engaged, for the most part, by imbuing her story with significant event, as well as sentence-level interest.

As with many mosaic novels, a simple reiteration of the plot reduces the story to something unappealingly simplistic. A Filipina college student, a daughter of privilege, becomes involved with a group of would-be revolutionaries under the Marcos regime. They commit petty acts of rebellion before working their way toward a much larger, more significant event. Consequences from this range from the obvious to the unexpected.

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And come see Gina read from Gun Dealers' Daughter in San Francisco in October.

10/26/2012: PAWA Presents Gina Apostol's Gun Dealers' Daughter at the Philippine Consulate (SF)


For immediate release.Contact: Philippine American Writers and Artists

Please join PAWA as we welcome Gina Apostol to the Bay Area for the San Francisco launch of her novel, Gun Dealers’ Daughter.

When: Friday, October 26, 2012 Doors open at 5:30 pm | Event begins at 6:00 pm Where: The Philippine Consulate 447 Sutter Street San Francisco, CA 94108


“Gina Apostol’s novel is just what literature needed. Fresh, funny, irreverent, it won me over immediately.” —Gary Shteyngart, author of Super Sad True Love Story

“There is Didion in the female protagonist with the fractured consciousness and there is Naipaul in the sharp portrait of a third world where revolution battles privilege, but Ms. Apostol performs her own unique alchemy: she fuses poetic language with a thriller story to create a mesmerizing slow-burn of a book.” —Han Ong, author of The Disinherited

“In Gun Dealers’ Daughter, Gina Apostol probes the hard truths of love, nationhood, and exile with crisp intelligence and subtle humor. Apostol is a fearless, stylish writer of substance, and her American debut is long overdue.” —Jessica Hagedorn, author of Toxicology

“The mind at its best is a ruinous house, with traps.”

As she idles away the years in a decrepit mansion overlooking the Hudson River, Solidad Soliman (Sol), the unforgettable narrator of GUN DEALERS’ DAUGHTER: A Novel [W. W. Norton & Company; July 9, 2012; $24.95 hardcover], obsessively relives a brief but traumatic episode from her adolescence.

Sol, born into privilege in the Marcos-era Philippines, never questions the true source of her family’s wealth until she enrolls in university in Manila. There she joins a rebellious Maoist student group and becomes infatuated with Jed, a fellow rich kid who has denounced his birthright for the communist cause. But Sol is the daughter of arms traders whose business props up the country’s political tyranny—can she ever be more than her legacy? “The state of the country was enough to condemn me […] under a military dictatorship, guns, goons, and gold were not just tired devices in a slogan but a percussive note that […] dogged my every domestic good.”

Gina Apostol’s third novel—her U.S. debut—is a lush, dizzying depiction of wealth, corruption, and rebellion in 1970s Philippines. As the novel opens, Sol—now an adult—suffers from anterograde amnesia. She lives in the past, endlessly compelled to confess her minor role in a political assassination that resulted in devastating unintended consequences. “We’ll always have our wealth,” she insists, “we will always have our names. There is something suspicious, dishonest in playacting revolt. We’re cockroaches. We’ll even outlast our crimes.”

GUN DEALERS’ DAUGHTER is that rare accomplishment of both language and plot—combining the literary allusions and linguistic puzzles of Borges with the vertiginous pace of a Hitchcock thriller. Apostol’s razor-sharp language yields perpetual delights: Jed is “a millionaire who dressed like Saint Francis and acted like Saint Jerome […] as if he spent days starving himself in the desert, transcribing the words of the Lord.” A Philippine bureaucrat is “a clean, mild-mannered blur in the night”; a detestable court artist “[gurgles] her usual gnomic curses like some zombie from nomad land.”

Beyond the rich, allusive language and the tightly controlled plot, GUN DEALERS’ DAUGHTER is a fascinating psychological portrait of a damaged mind doomed to confession and repetition. As engrossing as the unraveling voice of erudite guilt in John Banville’s Book of Evidence, as clever a novelistic puzzle as Nabokov’s Pale Fire, all the story’s elements resolve in a deeply satisfying finale.

GUN DEALERS’ DAUGHTER is a trove of obscure facts, imperial histories, and ironic social relations of the Philippine elite, and an exploration of the power of language to absolve or imprison us for our sins. It is also a resonant portrait of one woman’s youthful idealism, adolescent lust, and disillusionment in a life circumscribed by her inescapable privilege and its dark origins.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR Gina Apostol won the Philippine National Book Award for her first two novels, Bibliolepsy and The Revolution According to Raymundo Mata. She teaches at Deerfield Academy in Deerfield, Massachusetts.

TITLE: Gun Dealers’ Daughter AUTHOR: Gina Apostol PUBLICATION DATE: July 9, 2012 ISBN: 978-0-393-06294-6 PRICE: $24.95 hardcover

Book sales will be handled by Arkipelago Books | Author photo credit: Ken Byrne

Book Notes: Gina Apostol, "Gun Dealers' Daughter"


Via Largehearted Boy: In her own words, here is Gina Apostol's Book Notes music playlist for her novel, Gun Dealers' Daughter:

I had a hard time thinking of a playlist for Gun Dealers' Daughter because the novel was music-deaf: the novel was about words, books, graffiti. Sol, the heroine, is in love with words, using language to get hold of her elusive past. But I had forgotten a primal scene, the image that had sparked the novel—the mourning of the death of John Lennon in 1980 by young radicals in Manila. I ended up burying that scene in revision—it was too didactic. But musical trauma was, in fact, central to the novel. December 7, 1980, to be exact (December 8 in New York). When Denise, my editor, asked me to create a dateline, I realize I had framed the novel's tragedy around the date of John Lennon's death.

In a way, I wanted to capture that odd confluence of commercial veneration and commie heartache that was the weird detritus of the death of John Lennon in 1980 in Manila—that weird moment of genuine heartbreak among the commies was an emblem to me of the implausible idealism of our times.

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Interview: Gina Apostol at Bookslut!


One of the things I most love about your novel is that it has this strong political and historical sensibility, and yet those things seem indistinguishable from your narrator's inner life, from her personal story. This is in contrast, I think, to the many historical novels that read like fictionalized history lessons. How much, then, is the novel (in a general sense) tied up in your history, in the world's history? And why do so many people perceive it as something separate from history? My first novel, Bibliolepsy, took shape as the country's revolt also took shape. There's something in that: the novel is like a revolt happening in real time, with the end game hoped for but not known. Well, if the novel is a revolt happing in real time, an improvised thing, the interesting corollary is that history also is like a novel. History is surprisingly improvised, which is why tragedy happens. Why irony is at the heart of our experience. Aristotle called irony an element of drama; but it is an element of reality, in the sense that reality is a retrospective construction: it works like fiction.

We often forget this, but it was obvious to me, for instance, in 1986, when I was on the streets with a million people, wondering if the bazooka I just saw pass me by was going to kill me or not. We watched history happen, we were history, and it was like living in a novel, in the sense that we were in suspense about what would happen next. We are always in the middle of history, you know, if you think about it. We are always in some novel, wondering about the outcome. In 2000 with the election contretemps in Florida we were in a novel, we were in the middle of history, and the Supreme Court was a very bad author, creating a deus ex machina over something that, in hindsight, maybe we should have taken authorship of and rejected. It was a terrible day for democracy, and for the novel that is the United States of America, I think, when the election was decided by a Supreme Court verdict: that was a terrible plot. I still don't know how we allowed that to happen, why we were so passive, why as citizens most seemed to think we had no say in the plot, in the story of our democracy. I still have theNewsweek cover story that came a year or so later, September 2011, on the summary of journalists' investigations of Florida -- I believe the idea was that if Gore had been allowed to pursue the case, the results would have shown he had won. Of course, that Newsweek story came out the week of 9/11. Aristotle would have noted the peripeteia in that -- the reversal of expectations, the irony.

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