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This is the blog of Ian Rosales Casocot. Filipino writer. Sometime academic. Former backpacker. Twink bait. Hamster lover.


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Sunday, March 29, 2009

entry arrow9:32 AM | Summer Reading (and Coeli Barry's The Many Ways of Being Muslim)

I love Sunday Inquirer Magazine's annual roundup of books, which it releases at the start of every summer. It often contains the most honest book reviews this side of the world -- pithy, to-the-point, sometimes brutal -- which is amazing, given the usual observation that in the Philippines, nobody really writes honest-to-goodness books reviews because everybody is a friend of everybody else. (Unless, of course, you are the amazing and fearless Adam David, now a Philippines Free Press book reviewer, who will tear you apart if your lazy work deserves it, friend ba kayo o hinde.)

Here is the magazine's latest edition of its summer review...



... but I'd like to highlight one book I kinda helped in its inception: Coeli Barry's The Many Ways of Being Muslim. This was a project that took years to put together. (I still had my Survey of Philippine Literature website when Coeli asked me for help locating Muslim authors.) The short review, by Pennie Azarcon-dela Cruz, goes:

The Many Ways of Being Muslim: Fiction by Muslim Filipinos. Edited by Coeli Barry (Anvil Publishing, Inc.). As this long overdue collection of short stories by Muslim Filipinos shows, there is no simple way to capture the complexity of life as a much maligned minority in one’s country. To the credit of the nine writers who penned these 22 stories over the past 70 years, no chest-thumping or kris-wielding underlines the everyday joys and grief in these engrossing tales. Instead, these tales show how much we have in common and how similar and universal is our font of pain. The boy Rashdi might well be any rash adolescent, intent on crushing a wayward crab to prove ancient superstitions wrong. New engineer Odal blushes with embarrassment and guilt, as would any OFW hailed as the town’s sole hope on his first homecoming. And there’s the first wife who bats down feelings of resentment while eyeing the youthful second wife. At the same time, the stories reflect distinct Muslim sensibilities and we feel for these ordinary folk chafing under the cultural constraints of rido or clan wars, the Mindanao conflict, arranged marriages and outdated traditions. To well-known Muslim writer Ibrahim Jubaira, add Noralyn Mustafa, Elin Guro, Loren Lao, Pearlsha Abubakar, Arifah Jamil, brothers Mehol and Said Sadain, and Calbi Asain.

The roundup also includes other books by Dean Francis Alfar, Edgar Calabia Samar, Ellen Sicat, and others.

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