Bulosan, Carlos. America is in the Heart. Seattle: University of Washington Press (1943; last reprinting 1984). 328 pages. NOT IN PRINT. Format: paperback; Ethnicity: Filipino American America is in the Heart is Carlos Bulosan s heart wrenching account of a Filipino American s experiences as a migrant laborer in the West.
The book has long been considered a classic of Asian American literature, as it not only captures the harsh realities of the immigrant experience, but was one of the earliest published works that presents that experience from an Asian American perspective. Bulosan, a writer and labor activist, is also considered a hero in the struggle for justice for immigrant and working class people. Bulosan describes how the intense poverty of Philippines led his protagonist Carlos to come to America only to be faced with racism and economic exploitation. Working for little pay in the salmon canneries of Alaska and facing racial violence as a migrant farmer in the western U. S. , Carlos begins to question his earlier notion of America as a land of opportunity.
At the same time, he begins to understand that the oppression he faces as a Filipino American is rooted in the same forces of institutional racism that oppress other minorities in America. His revelation leads to his belief in uniting collectively to fight for social justice. Armed with this knowledge, he takes on the role of a union organizer and later a writer. In teaching America is in the Heart, there are many misconceptions of the book that teachers should be aware of. First, the book should be looked at as a work of historical fiction though Bulosan often draws from his own personal experiences, it is not an autobiography. Second, given its uplifting conclusion, the book has often been interpreted as an affirmation of the American Dream rather than a critique of it.
Teachers should be careful to look at the myth of an "American Dream' as something to be discussed, not a reality to be affirmed. In addition, teachers should be conscious of the way Bulosan depicts women as they are portrayed in a rather one-dimensional fashion. Because of the important place that America is in the Heart plays in Asian American literature and history, we have decided to recommend it, despite the fact that it is currently out of print. It is our belief that resourceful schools can still present the book to students. We also believe that if more educators value the historical impact of the book, such a novel will not be allowed to remain out of print for long.