What with certain people creating a political climate in which it's perfectly okay to dehumanize, criminalize and otherwise screw another group of people (I'm so pissed, by the way—really effing pissed), it was more than fitting to spend a day taking an in-depth look at Carlos Bulosan's work, not only as a writer but as one who fought for the rights of immigrants in this country. Ahem.
So here's a photo of the set-up for the The Carlos Bulosan Symposium:
How excellent are those red walls? Very excellent.
My scattershoot of all things symposia:
• Remé Grefalda, having willed this entire event into being, is the Pinay answer to Wonder Woman (minus the crown, hot pants, and bullet-repelling bracelets). She is tireless, hilarious, big-hearted.
• I am not being facetious when I constantly reiterate my shortcomings as a reader, particularly when it comes to academic work. It won’t surprise you to learn, then, that try as I might, I have never been able to comprehend—except in the vaguest (rhymes with "lamest"!) ways—anything written by Dr. E. San Juan, Jr. It was quite different, though, to hear him in person and get a real sense of his warmth and the passion he has for his subject.
• Dr. Richard Baldoz is a straight-up rock star, if for no other reason than he has coined the phrase “fictions of white injury." He read some choice lines from a few of the hundreds of national newspaper stories from the 30s describing the filth and moral degeneracy of Filipinos. I especially found amusing the description of Pinoys "primitively" seducing young blonde women. What does that mean, do you think—"primitively"?!
• Dr. Susan Evangelista describing Bulosan's poetry as that of a "sentimental Marxist." (So excited to meet Susan, who lives in Palawan, and with whom I've been in an online writers group for years now!)
• Young Dr. (well, soon, very soon a Dr.) Jeff Cabusao talking about ways a new generation can negotiate their relationship with Bulosan. He talked about how his own journey past simple identity politics brought him to an understanding of Bulosan's continued relevancy.
• Halfway through the day I became a little dizzy from the avalanche of neo-, trans- and post- words (if someone could make me a set of flashcards, I promise to love you forever and ever). Following a lunch with all the panelists (hosted by the Library's very kind and generous Dr. Hwa Wei Lee, Chair of the Asian Division), though, I was ready for more.
• Dr. Tim Libretti discussing Bulosan's use of a guileless narrator and the journey taken from ideological innocence to experience.
• Could not tear my eyes away from the 15 minutes of video footage from the Ma-Yi Theater's OBIE award-winning production of The Romance of Magno Rubio. Breathtaking.
• My desperate attempts to understand Dr. Jorshinelle Taleon-Sonza's paper! She was so intent on fitting her entire presentation into her allotment of 20 minutes, that she read at breakneck speed. I did get that she believes Bulosan had a complete understanding of the effects of globalization (on the worker) before the word "globalization" even existed. I think.
• Cindy Domingo wearing her labor activism with such pride and grace.
• Dr. Lane Hirabayashi and independent scholar Marilyn Alquizola requesting that all recording devices and videotaping be shut off prior to their presentation. Drama! I was loving it. They showed us parts of Bulosan's declassified FBI file which was filled, of course, with all sorts of lies and evil.
Here are the scholars, along with Remé, Dr. Lee, Frank Celada, and panel moderator Carlene Bonnivier: