The people of Lysley Tenorio’s story collection, Monstress (Ecco), are straddlers. Most obviously, they straddle cultures. Filipino immigrants in America pine for their native land or wish, often hopelessly, to assimilate indistinguishably into the culture of their adopted home. Life in the Philippines seems just as conflicted; the West’s exported culture muscles out the endeavors of Filipinos, with the Beatles and Hollywood dominating the collective imagination there just as much as they do here. But Tenorio’s characters also seem to straddle the high and low. He imbues them with profound (but never cheaply sentimental) longings, and with refinement of feeling […]
In its Fall 1985 issue, ZYZZYVA published a piece by Jessica Hagedorn, taken from her novel-in-progress at the time. According to her bio in that issue, Hagedorn, who was born and raised in the Philippines, had lived in San Francisco for 14 years “before banishing herself to New York City.” (She’s now the Parsons Family University Professor of Creative Writing at Long Island University in Brooklyn, and her latest novel, Toxicology, was published in April.)
The story, about a DJ and prostitute named Joey Sands who works in a Manila disco, is a frank look at a predatory world, one revealing the tangled relationship between the Philippines and the United States. The novel-in-progress would be published five years later as Dogeaters, which would received critical praise from the likes of Robert Stone and would go on to become a finalist for the National Book Award in 1990.