By Friday afternoon, my husband and I, crazy Californians that we are, heaved a sigh of relief. We achieved what we traveled 5,371 miles for – which was to collect a box of especially printed books from the Natural History Museum in London. At 22 kilos, the box was too heavy to bring back as luggage. So we decided to spread the contents in two separate backpacks, then trudged a mile to the nearest FedEx office with absolute singularity. The books were taking a little trip across the Pond. Getting them home meant our mission was at least half accomplished. You see, we were the only Americans (Filipino American, in my case) to “crash” the first World Book Night (WBN), an event that was most likely meant to be exclusively British, at the time. As WBN givers, we pledged to pass on 48 books to 48 readers half a globe away (and passed on they will be, so help us God). No one took the responsibility more seriously than us.
That evening, March 4th, 2011, we stood in the middle of Trafalgar Square (in bone-chilling weather) to attend opening night. World Book Night founder Jamie Byng summed up why we came, and what we came for. Quoting C.S. Lewis ever so poignantly, he said, “We read to know we are not alone.” Which is true for many of us. Stories, most times, transport us; and other times, they are word maps, or fellow travelers, pointing the way home.
From The Square Mile, we journey to The City of Angels, where generations of Filipinos continue to make literary and sociopolitical history. This issue, we proudly present excerpts from Filipinotown: Voices from Los Angeles, a new anthology edited by Carlene Sobrino Bonniver, Gerald G. Gubatan, and Gregory Villanueva. We’re in the 1930s and 40s, it reads, Downtown L.A. We’re with the Filipino “boys,” hanging out on Bunker Hill. John Fante (Chapter 15 – McWilliams) has a rented room in one of the old Victorian houses there, and it’s just a few blocks to the Chinese and Filipino restaurants on Temple and Figueroa. He’s friends with William Saroyan (Chapter 14) and Carlos Bulosan (Chapters 3 4, 9, and 12 – Carter and Bonnivier). An Italian, an Armenian, and a Filipino. All great writers, all outcasts, the three of them eating chicken adobo, white rice, and pancit noodles.
OOV’s 42nd is a celebration of readers, and the prose and poems which connect us. In Poems, we feature works by Ivy Alvarez (OOV’s 2012 and 2013 Resident Poet), Jim Pascual Agustin, Lingling Maranan-Claver, Jonathan Reyes, and Troy Cabido. Speaking of celebrations, we are pleased to announce the release of Ivy’s second book, Disturbance, published by Seren Books in October 2013, and Blood Orange (Aquarius Press), a first collection of poems by our December 2011 featured poet Angela Narciso Torres.
In Essays, we feature a review of Before The Rain: A Memoir of Love and Revolution (Luisita Lopez Torregrosa) by Michael Baradi; and a review of The Party’s Over: A Nun for Modern Times (Sr. Myrna Francia) by veteran journalist Elizabeth Lolarga. In “Stories of Us,” Catherine Ceniza Choy shares narratives from her book, Global Families: A History of Asian International Adoption in America. Last but not least, we invite you to read Paulino Lim, Jr.’s twitter short story “Deus Ex Vulcanus,” and Rey Ventura’s “Cherry Blossoms in the Time of Earthquakes and Tsunami” (like many of Yokohama-based Ventura’s works, this reflects the Japanese aesthetic of mono no aware, or literally, a sensitivity to the impermanence of things).
It is our hope that as you browse our current issue, something good will ring true, and sustain you for many years to come.
World Book Night reintroduced me to some old friends. An Indian boy from Pondicherry, for instance. I revisited his story because second (or third) read-throughs offer different perspectives, and because “everything changes when we read.”*
“This book was born as I was hungry,” the author begins. “He [sits] down at the kitchen table, and [picks] up the story again.”** He recalls the moment he walks into the jungle, without ever looking back. Come back!, I thought, for I suspect my heart breaking. You see, the reader in me roots for you, old friend. If you can choose your story, I can also choose mine. That changes everything, doesn’t it? And what if it doesn’t? And what if it does.
*from The Reading Agency
**from Life of Pi by Yann Martel
San Francisco, March 2014