So here we are, 11 days before September, a.k.a. the start of the “ber” months or the holiday season in the Philippines. For non-Filipinos, I dread this time of the year because everyone starts playing Christmas songs from September until goddamn January.
It’s also the beginning of the recap or rundown season for content creators, or at least the planning stages. 2019 is shaping up to be my most disorganized year ever, reading-wise. Thanks a lot, life in general and graduate school.
To clarify, I have been reading. I just haven’t been doing it by category or posting about it, save for that one time back in June.
Last year’s reads
I had crossed off two books from my long reading list last year. But I held off from talking about them until I could get to the other books in their respective categories. Well… I might as well bring them up now.
Pukiusap is a graphic novel by Swedish artist Liv Stromquist, and translated by Beverly Wico Siy into everyday Tagalog. It doesn’t just discuss the natural cycles of ovulation and menstruation. It also educates readers on how the vagina and female sexuality have been viewed (and treated as less) through various philosophical and intellectual eras. This treatment goes all the way to today’s popular culture and surprisingly longstanding false beliefs.
It’s a book I wish I had when I was still going through the hellhole that was puberty. That was the age range when I thought the patriarchy was right, and the vagina was a thoroughly taboo topic in a civilized society. Man, we have a lot to talk about.
I had also borrowed Crimetime: Inspector SJ Tuason Case Files, by Maria L.M. Fres-Felix, from a friend – and finished it in two nights. It’s a quick read, with four short stories focused on a Quezon City policewoman investigating a mix of routine and odd cases with her younger partner. It was awesome to see a level-headed and methodical Filipina as the protagonist in a genre or procedural wherein the heroes are usually macho and temperamental white males. Also, it wasn’t difficult to imagine these cases and circumstances happening in real life. (Although I really hope they don’t…)
I am looking forward to more SJ Tuason stories from the author!
Thesis project sources
While reviewing for my comprehensive exams last September-November 2018, I was already looking into the other books and resources I could use for my thesis project. (Pukiusap has been a valuable resource, BTW.) Many more have been added to my literature review since January 2019, but I’m including only six of them here.
Sexuality and the Filipina, by Lilia Quindoza Santiago, was one of the first books I got. It was interesting to see how the Pinay body and sexuality have been subjugated and transformed post-colonization; as well as how our women writers are working to liberate them, in their own words, through old myths and tales, short stories, and essays. It’s also depressing to see that some things haven’t changed since the Spanish conquistadores landed on our shores, and how much work remains to be done.
Roxane Gay‘s Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body was an easy but difficult read, if that makes sense. She bluntly tells readers about her long struggle to come to terms with physical and psychological traumas – and how personal stories aren’t always “triumphant” or positive. It’s a literal reclamation of body and self. And not all personal processes are the same, or have a neat and definite end.
I didn’t finish reading Sara Pascoe‘s Animal: The Autobiography of a Female Body. I liked the comedian’s witty and funny writing style, and that she made an effort to “bridge the gap” between scientific efforts and cultural realities. But around 1/4 into it, I decided to switch to the points of view and voices of “minority” writers or “people of color” because I am one, too. Maybe I’ll get back to this book eventually.
The next three books are from independent feminist publisher Gantala Press. I got artists Nikki Luna and Julienne Dadivas (a.k.a. Hulyen)’s I Love My Body, Rae Rival‘s zine Talak, and the multilingual anthology Danas: Mga Pag-Aakda ng Babae Ngayon.
I Love My Body is another book I wish I had while growing up. Maybe I could have avoided the body and body ownership issues I had as a teenager and young adult. I’m obviously not the target market here (this is a children’s board book!), but I also wonder why it took so long for a book with such a logical and straightforward message to be published.
Talak caught my attention mainly because the author used the same basic concept I had several years ago for my Poetry Techniques class: body parts as jump-off points for different discussions. (You should have a good idea of my thesis project by now.) But Rival was much better in execution – and needed only 28 pages to go beyond the female body to the complex topics of street protests, literary production, disaster response, violence against women, food security and agrarian reform, and uneven parental responsibilities and expectations.
And anthologies like Danas that tackle in-depth the many stories and experiences of the Filipina – and in different genres – is a must-read. I also liked how the book subtly addresses the ongoing “Imperial Manila” criticism of Filipino literature, development and funding as too focused on the capital and its writers. These printed voices from all over the country have been given one outlet, but they must have more.
Last summer, I went to my first book fair focused on independent creators…
…and came home with these three zines:
I know Filipino writers and artists have a long history with zines, zine culture, and DIY publishing. But Komura; Book Fair 2019 (yes, the semicolon is intentional) was my first exposure to this production and selling method.
I was somewhat familiar with Marguerite de Leon’s fiction work and reportage, so I immediately read her three-story zine A Corpse, a Party, and a No-Good Nobody. A zombified Raul Roco in a campaign sortie, fixing the dietary requirements of an entire clan for a funeral, and a caged, monstrous pick-up artist? Solid writing work, as always. I have yet to go through her self-published collection People in Panic, though. I should do that this year.
Katrina Tankeh‘s The Female Dilemma and the zine-thology My Body is a Revolution by the writer/artist collective Gyoza Zaragoza are also interesting to me. Content-wise, they had what I expected, although I also wanted more variety and risk-taking in form and execution for some pieces.
But these two zines also let me know how much time I lost and wasted. These much younger writers are at ease with talking about topics and concepts I had struggled for decades to process. Also, they have no problem self-publishing and selling their work when I can’t even submit one damn essay to a publication or panel for review.
Again, not all personal processes are similar or have a neat and definite end. I’m just annoyed at myself these days.
Hey, you four… I’ll deal with you real soon. Count on it.