Review : GOING HOME TO A LANDSCAPE

Excerpts from MELUS, The Journal of The Society for the Study of the Multi-Ethnic Literature of the United States, Spring 2004 (Special Issue on Filipino Literature, guest edited by Rocio G. Davis)

As Villanueva states in her introduction, the two editors found “writing that showed a profound sense of engagement, writing that struggled with issues of dislocation, dispossession” to be the most compelling. Going Home to a Landscape, which takes its title from Shirley Ancheta’s poem of the same name, features writing which explores the relationship between place and identity, although, given that the writers are from locations as diverse as the Philippines, Hong Kong, Australia, California, Hawaii, and the American Midwest, the place engaged is not always the Philippines itself. Significantly, the anthology draws upon the concept of “landscape” which indicates the importance of perspective and the creative framing of place in the mind. The poetry and prose evoke a longing for place through a layering of the personal, the historical, the political, and the fantastic.

* * * *

The remarkable achievement of this anthology is the sense of intimacy maintained despite the radical differences and distances which mark the Filipina diaspora. Svetlana Boym’s understanding of “diasporic intimacy,” marked by “shared longing without belonging”, speaks to the sense of Filipino identity articulated here: that is, one not measured by the faithfulness of its affiliation with an original homeland culture, but instead grounded in the recognition of similar modes of yearning, of celebration, and of survival. The creation of “internal landscapes” in memory, as Villanueva has put it, indicates a survival strategy symptomatic of the experiences of diasporic dispersal, of encounters with racism and anti-immigrant sentiment, of patriarchal domination, and of connections to a homeland weighed with the imperialist legacies of Spain and the United States. Nostalgic desire for any kind of idealized homeland may be frustrated, but a creative remembering of place in the imagination allows for cultural reappropriation, political resistance, and the different kinds of affiliations necessary in a world marked increasingly by global migrations. Villanueva and Cerenio’s Going Home to a Landscape bears witness to the remarkable skill of Filipina writers in navigating such new terrains.

    — reviewed by Susan Muchshima Moynihan, Bowling Green State University

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