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Bookworm In Your Ear: Family Lore, and Its Lure

The two novels today take on family in big ways. Whether dysfunctional, multi-generational, or what have you; the ties that bind are omnipresent.


The Italian Teacher by Tom Rachman


One of today’s highly regarded young authors, Rachman delivers with this novel about a once great, womanising artist who has multiple kids with multiple partners. When we first meet Bear Bavinsky, his son, Pinch, is only five years of age; blissfully unaware of the circumstances surrounding his larger than life father. It is Rome 1955, and there’s always a great sense of time and place as we accompany Pinch into adulthood. This is crucial as the book traverses all the way into the present day, moving from Rome to Soho galleries in New York, Toronto, London, and an ageing artists’ sanctuary in the South of France. The dysfunctional father-son relationship dominates the plot; and it often leads to unexpected places. Third novel for Rachman, and he’s three for three.


America Is Not the Heart by Elaine Castillo


The first novel of this Bay Area Filipina-American is a sprawling multi-generational story that carries emotional punch via strong American Dream/Nightmare elements, an LGBTQ angle, and a lot of passages that deal with the true Filipino’s obsession, Food! Paz hails from Pangasinan and is that classic nurse immigrant who takes on shifts like there’s no tomorrow as she basically acts as workhorse for her extended Milpitas family. Hero (from Geronima) studied medicine but joined the NPA, was captured and tortured, shunned by her Ilocos Sur family, and is now seeking refuge in the Bay Area. Roni is Paz’ daughter, born in America, and carrying that dual identity of Asian and American. Sense of identity, family, debt (utang ng loob), all mingle in this vivid snapshot of the American experience.