Discovering the Region: Commentary

18. Carlos Bulosan, America is in the Heart: A Personal History

Carlos Bulosan (1911-1956), writer and labor organizer, emigrated from the Philippines to the United States in 1930. The selection included here from America Is In the Heart is loosely based upon his arrival in Seattle and his reactions to his experiences with racism and labor exploitation in the United States. We say loosely based because while the subtitle of the book is A Personal History, the book included not only his own experiences but also those of other Filipino immigrants with whom Bulosan was acquainted. Over the years America Is In the Heart became an important text for the Filipino American identity movement. The book is remarkable for its ability to document the mistreatment and exploitation that immigrants faced, while retaining some degree of optimism about the promise of the United States as well. Bulosan maintained this perspective in large part because he never idealized conditions in the Philippines. America Is In the Heart begins with a depiction of a village’s collective cruelty to the bride of one of Bulosan’s brothers, and it also portrays the economic hardships that drove men such as Bulosan to emigrate. The book also reflected its author’s confidence in the labor movement as a means to improve conditions for immigrants and other laborers. However, Bulosan’s activities got him blacklisted during the 1950s.

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