Elaine Castillo debuts “America is Not the Heart”

Elaine Castillo’s debut novel “America is Not the Heart” is an epic multi-generational saga about a young Filipina, born to a rich family in the Philippines, turned communist rebel, turned immigrant to the US.

The novel follows Hero de Vera, a Pinay who migrated to Milpitas, California, trying to escape the life of a former new people’s army rebel from the Philippines, a decade after martial law and chase her American dream.

Castillo said some characters were inspired by real people, but are mostly products of her wild imagination.

“There was a family of mine who in the NPA, but unlike the character in the book, I think this family of mine whom I never met, she was quite a higher up in the NPA and the CPP, but I knew I didn’t want to write about anyone important, I wanted to write really about a loser.”

“America is Not the Heart” is Elaine Castillo’s first novel, and it’s been getting great reviews, from Vogue to the New York Times.

“This book is really about what I sometimes call post-apocalyptic daily life,” Castillo says. “It’s just how do you make a life, from day to day, what are the things that make up a life – feeding each other, maybe being kind to each other, falling in love with each other, taking care of each other.”

Castillo says the book’s title is with pun intended.

“I’m Filipino, I like a pun, so whenever I read the title, America is In the Heart by [Carlos] Bulosan, sa sarili ko, I always thought America Isn’t the Heart, it’s a rhyming joke that I used to say to myself. Because I was saying it to myself I thought, maybe I’ll do an essay or chapter that title, so that’s really where the title comes from.”

“America is Not the Heart” is available at bookstores and online.

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