because, in my view, a writer’s job is to recognize reflexivity constantly: to wonder why it is we use the words we do. And for a Filipino, that angst is vital: because with our multiple tongues, the fact that a human is a translated being, a split self divided by words, is always in our face.
Thanks to Rowan Hisayo Buchanan of Asian American Writers Workshop. Listen to the interview here. Best perhaps to use the subtitles tool. It is on the roof deck of my apartment building, and we did not realize how noisy the airplanes would be. Also, I hate my hair! It’s ugly. I should have had my haircut before, not after, the interview!
.@GinaApostol‘s powerful acceptance speech at last night’s #PENawards: “Art is a form of activism.” pic.twitter.com/EeqRamDRj1
Truth is concrete, says Brecht, quoting Lenin who was quoting Hegel quoting St Augustine. And to me Fiction is the house of concrete that builds truth. I am honored by this prize from PEN America because of the support PEN gives to writers around the world building that house of truth that is art. I’d like to thank the judges for choosing this unknown book about acts of revolution in the Philippines. I’d like to thank Kirby Kim and Denise Scarfi and everyone at Norton. Most of all, I’d like to thank my family, Ken and Nastasia, who understand that there is not only one way to be revolutionary—that art is a form of activism. Lastly, I’d like to share this prize with my late husband, Arne Tangherlini, the first reader of this novel. He taught me how Gramsci had read Karl Marx—how our human need to make art is reason to seek revolution in the first place.
You will read Gun Dealers’ Daughter wondering where Gina Apostol novels have been all these years (in the Philippines, it turns out). You will feel sure (and you will be correct) that you have discovered a great fiction writer in the midst of making literary history. Gun Dealers’ Daughter is a story of young people who rebel against their parents, have sex with the wrong people, and betray those they should be most loyal to. At its essence this is a coming of age novel, albeit one where rebellion is part of a national revolution and where sex with another girl’s boyfriend leads to assassination. This is coming of age in the 1980s, Philippine dictatorship style, where college students are killed for their activism. The telling is fractured, as are the times. The reveal of information happens in a nonlinear manner, reflective of the mental breakdown suffered by the main character, Sol. We flip between Manila, where Sol is in school, and New York, where she goes to escape the madness that she has done and that has been done to her. Through this novel we see how fiction can scrape out a future, demand a re-look at the past—it is a reckoning kind of book. Not only does this novel make an argument for social revolution, it makes an argument for the role of literature in revolution—the argument being that literature can be revolution.
– See more at: http://www.pen.org/literature/2013-pen-open-book-award#sthash.yR6ONccG.dpuf
Excerpts from Gun Dealers’ Daughter on PEN’s blog: http://www.pen.org/fiction/gun-dealers-daughter
Read the review by Paul Nadal here or click on image below.
“A casual revolutionary,” this reviewer calls Sol. In general, a fine understanding. But his final remarks annoy me:
” Whether Sol ever gains a fuller understanding of her active role in history, which includes her involvement in a man’s death, remains as hazy as Borges’s dream of an image modified into a tale. And as readers, we are left with the sense that the comforting dream of foolish youth may have triumphed over the harshness of revolution and reality.”
I mean, the girl lost her mind. The ethical point of that end seems lost on the guy. It’s all about the harshness of reality—she is unable to grasp her self. That is a tough end for that girl—or for anyone. Do I have to ask a professor of lit a question I ask fourteen-year-olds in my freshman high school classes: and so, what is implied in the loss of mind? Aber? I feel like a reverse-Kinbote—the author who will go strangle readers for their inadequate intuition.
They asked me to respond to their questions about writing with excerpts from the novel. But I thought—my ENTIRE NOVEL is about writing (in my view anyway). So I rifled through some passages before I got on a train at Penn Station. Here’s the result. Thanks to Joseph Scapellato and Dzanc Books. Click on the photo:
Loved conversing today with Merry Gangemi at Woman-Stirred radio on WGDR in Plainfield, Vermont. She’s a lovely close reader of books and also just a great natural conversationalist. I spoke with her about Gun Dealer’s Daughter, and she mentioned the incidence of insects, repetition of heat and decay, and the book’s language games—all of which are perceptive recognitions of small or seemingly easy to overlook matters in a book that in fact create its structural integrity—follow her radio show to get in touch with an intelligent reader!
The Jam’s Going Underground. The public gets what the public wants, but I don’t care what society thinks. Going underground…
I’d choose it for my playlist, on largeheartedboy (see post below), if I had not been in such a rush to write the piece (because I was packing). Great stuff for Gun Dealer’s Daughter playlist, if only I had remembered. The incident linked to The Jam would be when I was out of school and had no work, no apartment and was looking for a job, and a friend from the movement said, we have an apartment, we have room, stay with us for a while, and I did. It was a nice, lovely place in Quezon City, close to Diliman. Very burgis, no rats, haha, I would never have been able to afford it, and no one ever asked me for rent; I just helped with the chores, helping out with another housemate, who it turns out was pregnant. Another of my Kalayaan (freshman dorm) friends. I think we were 20 or 21 at the time. Anyway, turns out, her lover was underground, and he’d come up from the hills to visit her every so often. I’d just stay away and go out to parties when he was around, to give them privacy—I’d go dancing to The Jam or similar ilk. I told this story recently to my friends from those days and they said, OMG, Gina, I can’t believe you were living in Blabla’s safe house! I said, no I wasn’t. Yes, you were, you were living in a UG safe house. Oh my god. I realized more than 2 decades after, I was living in a goddamned UG safe house, and I had no clue. No wonder they never asked for rent. So that’s my playlist anecdote—there I was, dancing to The Jam while the guy who had actually gone underground got it on above ground. Yeah. “Going underground! But I don’t care what society thinks, going underground!” Oh, the 80s. I’m so ignorant.