Growing Up Filipino: Stories for Young Adults

by 29 Filipino & FilAm Authors (PALH 2003, 283 pages)

ISBN 0971945807 (sc) - ORDER
ISBN 978195316002 (hc) - ORDER
EBOOKS - Kindle

Dazzling and Impressive Collection

This collection of 29 stories, the first publication of PALH (Philippine American Literary House) received critical acclaim. Written by established and emerging writers, the book delves into universal but at the same time personal themes of how it is to grow up Filipino. It remains in print and is used by many educators in their classrooms. It is part of National Geographic's 2020 Summer Reading List.

Book Review by Booklist, April 15, 2003, v 99 p 1462 (1)

In this fine short-story collection, 29 Filipino American writers explore the universal challenges of adolescence from the unique perspectives of teens in the Philippines or in the U.S. Organized into five sections--Family, Angst, Friendship, Love, and Home--all the stories are about growing up and what the introduction calls "growing into Filipino-ness, growing with Filipinos, and growing in or growing away from the Philippines." The stories are introduced by the authors, who illustrate the teenage experience as they remember it or as they wish to explain it to the reader--whether the focus is the death of a grandparent, budding sexuality, or going to the mall. The cultural flavor aspect never overwhelms the stories, and readers will be drawn to the particulars as well as the universal concerns of family, friends, love, and leaving home. While the stories are fairly easy to read, teens might be intimidated by the dense book design and small type. Take the time to help them overcome this. The stories are delightful! ~ Review by Frances Bradburn

Book Review by School Library Journal

Grade 9 Up-These 29 short stories offer a highly textured portrait of Filipino youth and an excellent sampling of creative writing. Thematically arranged, most of the pieces have been written since the turn of the 21st century. Each story is introduced by a thumbnail sketch of the author and a paragraph or two about some element of Filipino culture or history that is relevant to the story. Authors include those born and continuing to live in the Philippines, emigres, and American-born Filipinos. Tough but relevant topics addressed include a gay youth's affection for his supportive mother, the role of religious didacticism in the formation of a childhood perception, consumer culture as it is experienced by modern teens in Manila, and coping with bullies of all ages and stations in life. While the introduction seems more appropriate to graduate school than high school students, and the layout and book design are not attractive, there is much here to merit consideration. There are more Filipinos living in the U.S. than most people realize, but finding literature reflective of their experiences is difficult. The high caliber and broad but wholly accessible range of this collection, however, makes this title a solid purchase for multiple reasons. ~ Review by Francisca Goldsmith, Berkeley Public Library, CA

Book Review by Bookbird Jounral Internationa, Children's Literature 
Emerging and established award-winning writers are the authors of this fine collection of 29 stories about what it means to be young and Filipino in the Philippines and in the United States. Filipinos in America are now the second largest in the umbrella group of Asian Americans, yet there is a scarcity of books by and for Filipinos. This impressive array captures the complexities of both the Filipino culture and history and the realities of the lives of young adults no matter what their ethnic affiliation. Each story is assigned to one of five universal themes: family, angst, friendship, love, and home.” ~ Review by Glenna Sloan, Bookbird Journal International. Children’s Literature, IBBY

Book Review by MELUS (Multi-Ethnics Literature) Spring 2004
Growing up is not easy. Adolescence is fraught with misunderstandings, loneliness, feelings of exile, and bad haircuts. In an anthology edited by Cecilia Manguerra Brainard, authors explore numerous facets of this time of life. This alone does not make the collection unique; what does, however, is that all the protagonists in these stories are Filipino or Filipino American. What comes through is that being an adolescent is awful, no matter where or who you are, because adolescence is about awakenings: learning things that one did not want to know and rejecting things one thought one did know.

The anthology is divided into five sections, each with a theme: family, angst, friendship, love, home. While this imposes a kind of order and structure on the stories, it seems unnecessary. What makes the collection compelling is what Rocio Davis calls in the introduction the "multifariousness of the Filipino experience" (ix), and it is this variety which cannot be contained within the five themes. As one reads the stories, one forgets (as one should) that these stories are examples of the theme. Instead the voice of each protagonist and narrator comes through individually, speaking a new idea each time. For example, two stories from the section titled "Family" begin with first sentences describing grandmothers. Paula Angeles starts her story "Lola Sim's Handkerchief" with this: "When my Lola Sim, my mother's mother, died after my sixteenth birthday, no one wanted to open her armoire"(3); while Veronica Montes begins her story "Lolo's Bride," with this: "After my grandmother died, Lolo Ting spent three months blinking" (13). These stories could have repeated each other like bad echoes, but instead they describe two completely different kinds of grief. Angeles' story describes a girl's regret about the relationship with her grandmother: "my teenage years with my grandmother echoed with the volleys of words in our continuous argument game" (4). In contrast, Montes' story is almost humorous in describing a girl watching her mother's on-going self-delusion about her grandfather's new "maid"--in actuality, a much younger wife. So while these stories may be categorized together because of the common feature of the Lola, or grandmother, they are very different from each other. That difference enables the anthology to escape a dull homogeneity.

The anthology's "multifariousness" is heard not only in the voices of the characters but also in the subject of the stories. M. Evelina Galang's "Her Wild American Self" is about a Filipino-American girl in love with her own cousin; Joel Barraquiel Tan writes about a gay man's friendship with his mother, who upon learning her son was gay, responds: "Okay! Good...." (125); Oscar Penaranda in "Day of the Butterfly" writes about migrant workers in the orchards of California. Penaranda's narrator offers an apt description of the experience of reading the anthology itself. As the storyteller, but not the witness to the events of the story, the narrator admits to and describes the challenges of his job. "I had to piece things together, use liberties to fill in gaps, iron out seeming contradictions, and restrain the implausible, to make palatable, to make sense out of the whole fiasco that was the roadside showdown on freeway Interstate 80, about 40 miles northeast of San Francisco where we were all from. And even then it was still open for several interpretations" (89). Here too, the reader of these stories must iron out contradictions. How is it, for instance, that Filipinos can have so many commonalities, and yet be so distinct from each other? Is it plausible that an old man can marry a young woman and pass her off as his maid to his family? Then, how can immigrating for a better life in America turn out to be such a disaster? The challenge of reading and writing Filipino literature is what makes this anthology exciting.

Growing up Filipino is a valuable addition to Asian American literature. One feature of the anthology's title, however, may be misleading. The subtitle "stories for young adults" may direct potential readers away from the anthology, readers who assume (erroneously, perhaps) that the stories are simplistic or are themselves adolescent. They are not. The writing, the characters, and the stories are sophisticated and are appropriate for adult readers as well as young adult readers. ~ Review by Pearl Ratunil, University of Illinois at Chicago
Roger N. Buckley, Professor of History and Director, Asian American Studies Institute, University of Connecticut praises the book as follows: 

Cecilia Manguerra Brainard has collected a dazzling and impressive array of 29 stories about the saga of what it means to be young and Filipino. The authors make the experiences of ordinary young people come alive for us. The strength of the collaborative approach in this volume lies in its individual examples, for the best way to construct a picture of growing up Filipino is by specific reference to their lives. The structure of the book is simple enough. Each story is assigned to a theme and there are five of them: family, angst, friendship, love, and home.

“This volume is indeed about magic, mysteries, sadness, time, family, fear, and happiness of young adult Filipinos. But in exploring these arenas the authors, each a born storyteller and philosopher, collectively capture the natural and social tapestry of the Philippines and Filipino culture and those forces that influence it. Their use of the language with all its idioms, narrative intervals and cadences leaves no doubt about the complexities of the historical, social, cultural, gender and racial terrain of modern Filipino culture. It is hard to resist one more comment. Despite the book’s sub-title, this is also a book for adults. They too will profit from what is a truthful, passionate, hopeful — and ultimately — a very wise book. Kudos to Brainard and the other writers for this important contribution to Filipino/Filipino-American history and culture. This is a powerfully achieved and memorable book by authors who know their craft, and who also have a profound understanding and love for the Philippines and things Filipino.” 

Growing Up Filipino: Stories for Young Adults and Growing Up Filipino: More Stories for Young Adults are featured in National Geographic's 2020 Summer Reading List 

Article by Linda Kintanar-Alburo, "DIYANDI" Freeman Magazine, July 2003

The following libraries have Growing Up Filipino:

Growing Up Filipino is part of the History/Social Science Literature List compiled by the Santa Clara County Office of Education - click here for the entire list <>

Growing Up Filipino is in the Multicultural List of, a service of School Library Journal Click here to get to the site <>

Growing Up Filipino is in the collection of following libraries and more:

East Lansing Public Library (, Michigan, 950 Abbott Road, East Lansing, Michigan,

Juneau Public Libraries, 292 Marine Way, Juneau, Alaska 99801; (907) 586 - 5249

City of Lavergne Library, 5063 Murfreesboro Road, Lavergne, TN 37086; (615) 793-7303

Los Angeles Public Library, check the various branches, or try Central Library 630 W. 5th St., Los Angeles, CA 90071; (213) 228-7000

Mission College Library 3000 Mission College Boulevard Santa Clara, CA 95054-1897; (408) 988-2200

The National Library for the Blind and Handicapped (NLS), 1291 Taylor Street, NW, Washington, DC 20011, Toll-Free: 1-888-NLS-READ; (1-888-657-7323) to connect to a local library

Pasadena Public Library, Central Library, 285 E. Walnut St, Pasadena, CA 91109; (626) 744-4066

Plymouth District Library, 223 S. Main Street, Plymouth, MI, 48170-1687; (734) 453-0750

San Francisco Public Library, 100 Larkin Street, San Francisco, CA 94102; (415) 557-4400 ·

Seattle Central Library, 1000 Fourth Avenue, Seattle, Washington 98104

Skyline College Library, 3300 College Drive, San Bruno CA 94066-1698; (650) 738-4100

Calgary Public Library, check the various branches, or the Central Library 616 Macleod Trail SE, T2G 2M2, (403) 260-2600

Edmunton Public Library, check the various branches, or try Stanley A. Milner Library (Downtown), 7 Sir Winston Churchill Square, T5J 2V4, Canada, (780)-496-7000

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