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.
Excerpts from Gun Dealers’ Daughter on PEN’s blog: http://www.pen.org/fiction/gun-dealers-daughter