Tag Archives: Carlos Bulosan

Behind the Covers: “America Is in the Heart”

In today’s post, UW Press book designer Dustin Kilgore describes the process of designing the new cover for Carlos Bulosan’s memoir, America Is in the Heart: A Personal History. The book, first published in 1943, describes Bulosan’s boyhood in the Philippines, his voyage to America, and his years of hardship and despair as an itinerant laborer following the harvest trail in the rural West. As Marilyn C. Alquizola and Lane Ryo Hirabayashi point out in their new introduction, the book “still stands today as both an indictment of twentieth-century American imperialist designs overseas and a testament condemning a pre–World War II domestic regime of racialized class warfare.” Nevertheless, Bulosan maintained hope that America would provide new opportunities and he came to love it as his home. Here, Kilgore explains how he wrangled these complexities in designing the cover of the new 2014 edition of the book.

Prior to the 2014 reissue, the most recent edition of America Is in the Heart was published by the University of Washington Press in 1973 and featured a 1946 illustration by Frances O’Brien from the cover of the Saturday Review of Literature. When the design was reduced in size for the 1973 book cover, the shadows on Bulosan’s face appeared heavier than in the original illustration. This problem was exacerbated in subsequent reprintings, ultimately resulting in a heavily shaded, somewhat sinister-looking illustration of Bulosan. The determined look in Bulosan’s eyes in the original O’Brien illustration became almost glowering as the quality of the illustration was degraded over time.

bulosan comparison2

The original Frances O’Brien portrait of Bulosan as it appeared on a 1946 cover of The Saturday Review of Literature (left) and the degraded, heavily shadowed illustration on the cover of the 1973 edition of “America Is in the Heart” (right).

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America is in the Heart: A New Look at Carlos Bulosan’s Classic Memoir

First published in 1943, America is in the Heart—a classic memoir by Filipino poet Carlos Bulosan—describes his boyhood in the Philippines, his voyage to America, and his years of hardship and despair as an itinerant laborer following the harvest trail in the rural West. In the new 2014 edition of the book, Marilyn C. Alquizola and Lane Ryo Hirabayashi eloquently situate this classic work within a contemporary context while also highlighting the book’s legacy in Filipino American literature as well as in labor and immigration history. Below, we feature an excerpt from this introduction.

On October 2, 2013, Governor Jerry Brown signed Assembly Bill 123, a bill that will require public school instruction featuring Filipino Americans’ contributions to the farm labor movement in California. Assembly member Rob Bonta, who sponsored the bill, explained:

The goal of AB 123 is to supplement California’s rich farm worker history with the contributions of the Filipino American community. The Filipino American population composes the largest Asian population in California and it continues to grow, yet the story of Filipinos and their official efforts in the farm labor movement is an untold part of California history.(1)

Sadly, as is thoroughly documented in publications such as the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Close to Slavery: Guestworker Programs in the United States (2013), the plight of farm laborers—not from the Philippines, for the most part, but now mainly men, women, and children from Mexico and Central American countries—is as horrific and unsettling in the new millennium as ever. Perhaps public awareness of today’s exploitation of field-workers will be heightened by AB 123, as well as by the continuing circulation of Filipino American author Carlos Bulosan’s masterpiece of labor history, America Is in the Heart.

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