Book Review: The Bamboo Stalk

After a long wait, finally it’s here!

The hIMG_1523ubby balked at the price tag but how many books tackling the themes of identity, alienation and belonging feature a Filipino (okay, half-Filipino in this case) protagonist? Come to think of it, how many books sold internationally or published outside the Philippines feature a Filipino protagonist?

For that reason alone, I did not hesitate to buy the English translation of Saud Alsanousi’s The Bamboo Stalk, a novel that won the International Prize for Arabic Fiction in 2013. For a foreigner to write about the Filipino psyche is no mean feat and Alsanousi, a Kuwaiti, achieves this – partly because he spent time in the Philippines to immerse himself in his character’s world and partly, I suspect, because he has a journalist’s sense of curiousity about matters mundane.

The first-person narrative, which also doubles as a coming-of-age story, centers around Jose, the product of an illicit relationship between a Kuwaiti and the Filipina maid of his family. Jose’s identity issues, which arise from straddling two religious and cultural millieu – one closed to people who do not belong to their religion and another open to foreigners – may or may not resonate with Filipino kids whose parentage is mixed and who find themselves having to bridge the two cultures of their parents. Why the ambiguity? Well, Kuwait is  far cry from the Western hemisphere where most Filipinos tend to settle.

Still, I believe it will be warmly received by OFW children who grew up abroad and find themselves at a crossroad over whether they are truly Filipino at heart or not upon their return to their native country.

The book, which was published by Bloomsbury Qatar Foundation, is now out on Amazon. To read an interview with the author, click here.

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