If National Women’s Month isn’t the time to diversify your bookshelf, then when is it?
There are so many female and Filipino authors to discover out there, this list is by no means comprehensive, but here are some Filipina authors to help get you started!
Dead Stars by Paz Marquez-Benitez
Not a whole novel, but this short story by Paz Marquez-Benitez (1894-1983) is an iconic piece by a just as iconic female author. This timeless piece is a three-part story about (complicated) love found and love lost.
“Was love a combination of circumstances, or sheer native capacity of soul? In those days love was, for him, still the eternal puzzle; for love, as he knew it, was a stranger to love as he divined it might be.”
Written in 1925, Dead Stars is recognized to be the first modern English short story that launched the proliferation of the genre in the Philippines, and what a story it is (which is easily researchable online btwfyi)!
Another “first” accomplished by Paz Marquez-Benitez is the founding of the first women’s magazine in the Philippines entitled Woman’s Home Journal.
Babaylan: Filipinos and the Call of the Indigenous edited by Leny Mendoza Strobel
The highly revered women and (feminized) men of the Philippine pre-colonial era have become a symbol of strength and gender fluidity. With input from various professionals in different fields, this book urges Filipinos to return to our roots. Take inspiration from the pre-colonial Filipinos, the grace and power of the Babaylans, and the belief that all Filipinos are bonded as humans through Kapwa mentality.
Once Upon a Sunset by Tif Marcelo
Coming from the month of love, why not try to inject a little literary romance into this year’s International Women’s Month?
After a series of unfortunate events, thriving and successful OB/GYN Diana Gallagher-Cary is forced to take a sabbatical from the prestigious hospital she works for in Washington, DC. Forced to slow down, Diana decides to use this time off to regain control over her life.
Amid taking back her life, she discovers a box of letters from her grandfather to her grandmother in the 1940s. The letters do not only reveal the romance between her grandparents, but also the fact that her grandfather did not die in World War II as she was brought up to believe.
Itching to find out more, Diana travels to the Philippines in search of her family, her history, and herself.
America Is Not the Heart by Elaine Castillo
A nod to Carlos Bulosan’s classic America Is in the Heart, America Is Not the Heart is Castillo’s take on the ugly truths behind the American Dream.
A groundbreaking debut into the literary scene, Castillo describes her novel as a story about a “former queer communist insurgent turned undocumented immigrant who moves to California and falls in love, then grows the hell up.”
Hero De Vera takes to America to live with her Uncle Pol and his family, escaping her troubled past in the Philippines. Will Hero be able to move on with her life in America while her past continues to catch up with her?
Read on as her unsettled past, precarious present, and shadowy future push and pull at her all at once. What things are brushed under the rug and eventually brought to light as Hero and her family try to grasp the ever-elusive American dream?
Dead Balagtas Tomo 1: Mga Sayaw ng Dagat at Lupa by Emiliana Kampilan
Usually seen wearing a bayong on her head, Emiliana Kampilan gives credit to “the Filipino People” as a part of the creators of this comic. She may be giving recognition to the story of the Philippines and its people as a whole, as the inspiration for her work.
This graphic explosion of colors and unique style is an anthology of four stories: the myth of Tungkong Langit and Laon Sina retold with a twist, the tension and strain faced by two friends, the story of a gay couple finding strength from their relationship and identities, and a friendship between two women looking out for each other during a time of political unrest.
The push and pull of Kampilan’s words and pictures create an enigmatic method of storytelling, making you think that there was no other way for her to tell these stories except in the form of a comic.
And Then She Laughed: Counseling Women by Sylvia Estrada Claudio
Published with the aim of providing solace for women who may have experienced similar abuses and do not have the resources to attain the help of a good counselor, And Then She Laughed chronicles cases Sylvia Estrada Claudio faced when counseling abused women.
Unpacking topics like rape, sexual harassment, violence, and depression, Claudio helps her patients navigate the complex feelings these experiences bring up in the hopes that they (and the readers) may uncover valuable life lessons and a new lens with which to look at the world.
Bata, Bata… Pa’no Ka Ginawa? by Lualhati Bautista
You may have heard of Lualhati Bautista from her seminal book Dekada ’70 (also a must-read). Bata, Bata… Pa’no Ka Ginawa?, like Dekada ’70, revolves around a female lead who Bautista places under a microscope and later escapes the confines of her petri dish.
Lea Bustamante is a single mother challenged by internal and external forces that require her to reflect on her identity, the role society has given her, and the role she decides to give herself.
When do our children stop being children? What are they learning from us now, and what will they teach their own kids about the world and standing up for themselves in it?
Fairest by Meredith Talusan
A sun child from a provincial Philippine village, Meredith Talusan was born as a male child with albino. From this extraordinary entrance into the world, Talusan continues to blaze her way through it.
Ocean Vuong, author of On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous, describes Talusan’s memoir as “A ball of light hurled into the dark undertow of migration and survival.”
Talusan chronicles her arduous journey of self-discovery from being a sun child in the Philippines to a student at Harvard, later transitioning into womanhood, in America, and feeling comfortable in her skin. In an honest and intimate memoir, Talusan leaves in all the gritty details of her experiences of gender, privilege, education, and race.
Smaller and Smaller Circles by Felisa Batacan
Felisa Batacan, also known as F.H. Batacan, received high praise for her novel Smaller and Smaller Circles. Some of the awards it won are the Carlos Palanca Grand Prize for the English Novel in 1999, the 2002 National Book Award, and the 2003 Madrigal-Gonzalez Best First Book Award.
The already spread thin law enforcement of the Philippines is unable to cover one of the poorer neighborhoods in the country. When the bodies of young boys start to appear in garbage dumps, two Jesuit priests step up to the plate. Father Gus Saenz, with the help of his protégé Father Jerome Lucera, is tapped to use their forensic anthropologist and psychology skills to solve the mysterious crime before it gets any worse.
The novel is considered to be the first Philippine crime novel. Smaller and Smaller Circles has also been made into a film of the same name in 2017, directed by Raya Martin.
It’s a Mens World by Beverly Wico Siy
Beverly “Bebang” Wico Siy, interweaves humor with some of the harsher realities of being a girl in the Philippines. She makes you laugh while thinking deeply with her essay collection It’s a Mens World.
Written in Filipino, this collection feels like a trip down memory lane with one of your childhood friends. Remember when you got your period before me? Laugh out loud as Siy tackles the topic of womanhood and femininity with the voice of a “dalagang Pilipina” growing into her skin.
And that’s 10 books by female authors to get you started on expanding and diversifying that bookshelf! Again, this is not a comprehensive list, there is so much more to discover out there but this may be a good place to start.
The voices of women and Filipinas will always be strong and relevant no matter what time of the year it is. Happy National Women’s Month!
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