Thank you to Vickie Vertiz, Melissa Sipin-Gabon and Iris Law for tagging and inviting me to be a part of this blog project. It’s awesome to hear what folks are up to. Be sure to check out their blogs/websites for their responses!
What is the title of your book?
The Gossip Tree or The Aswang’s Particular Thirst. I’ve been going back and forth…
What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
The aswang witch meets Imelda Marcos meets a young girl from Hayward, CA, and they talk (or refuse to talk) about beauty pageants, motherhood/daughterhood, haunted suburbia, familial violence, shoes, shape-shifting and celebrities over blueberry pancakes.
What genre does your book fall under?
Where did the idea come from for the book?
I started writing about the aswang witch back in 2005-2006. I found it difficult to write poems from my personal “I” and the persona form helped a lot. The aswang helped me access and confront my body in ways I previously couldn’t.
My mother told me the story of the aswang witch when I was a child, and she’s haunted me since. The aswang, who appears in many manifestations (weredog, vampira, ghoul, viscera-sucker), is best known for her appetite for human fetuses. When I first started writing about the aswang, I was interested in this notion of shape-shifting that the aswang inhabits; everyone seems to have a different story about her. During my research on the aswang, I came upon Carolyn Brewer’s book, Shamanism, Catholicism, and Gender Relations in the Philippines, 1521-1685, and discovered that during Spanish colonialism in the Philippines, the Catholic Church dismantled many women community leaders (also known as babaylans), deeming them brujas, unfit to rule their villages. I intuited this history as I wrote about the aswang prior to my research, but it was affirming to realize that my hunch was right.
What does it mean for a woman to exercise her power? How does this power become terrifying? When it confronts patriarchy? What does it mean to both challenge and affirm patriarchy?
Imelda Marcos appears in the book as well, and I was interested in her monstrosity and her similarities to the aswang. She shifts shape and personality depending on her audience. She demands to be heard, despite what banal and ridiculous shit comes out of her mouth.
How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?
About six years.
Who or what inspired you to write this book?
Imelda Marcos, the aswang, Nicki Minaj, Jack in the Box tacos, Hayward (the “Heart of the Bay”), Philippine history, babaylans, my mother, sister and cousins, mythology,the Book of Symbols, surrealism, Louise Bourgeois, Ana Mendieta, Cindy Sherman, Jennifer Tamayo, Barbara Jane Reyes, Sylvia Sukop…
Who will publish your book?
Dancing Girl Press published my chapbook Self Portrait as Rumor and Blood, which contains some of these poems. I’m still submitting my full-length manuscript.
What other works would you compare this book to within your genre?
In his review of my chapbook and Jane Wong’s Dendrochronology, Henry Leung makes reference to Diane di Prima’s Loba. I’d say Barbara Jane Reyes’ Diwata, Arlene Kim’s What have you done to our ears to make us hear echos?, Jennifer Tamyo’s Red Missed Aches Read Missed Aches Red Mistakes Read Mistakes, Kate Durbin’s The Ravenous Audience, and Kim Hyesoon’s All the Garbage in the World Unite!
What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?
Oh, I have no idea. Imelda Marcos would play herself. Perhaps a collective of Pinay actors could play the aswang. Maybe a puppet would do. Oooh, like a lion-dragon size puppet for the aswang. That would be incredible.
What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
Poems are delicious, and you should eat them for a well-balanced diet.
Five writers I’m tagging:
& one more:
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