BOOK REVIEW: Lysley Tenorio’s Monstress

On reading the back cover blurbs of Lysley Tenorio’s short story collection Monstress—stories about faith healers, Imelda Marcos, leper colonies and artistas; “tightropes strung between the Philippines and America”—my heart sank just a little bit. I cracked the book open, fully expecting the tropes and characters that form the shorthand for the Filipino experience in the West— hookers with hearts of gold, plucky street kids, flamboyant parloristas, drug kingpins with names like Don Ramon, Martial Law, and a strident, overarching Social Message to each story. Like a Brocka or Bernal film, except, you know, a few decades old and repeated so much as to be predictable and tiresome.

Luckily, my expectations were all proven wrong. Unlike the usual characters in the Filipino-by-way-of-the-West genre, those that populate Tenorio’s stories are not two-dimensional mouthpieces here to Teach the Reader a Lesson. Tenorio’s misfits are fully realized, heartbreakingly human creations that act in unpredictable but ultimately understandable ways. 

Read the rest of my review over at Jessica Zafra’s blog.

About Author: Katrina Ramos Atienza

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