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American Passages: A Literary SurveyUnit IndexAmerican Passages Home
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5. Masculine Heroes   



12. Migrant
Struggle


•  Unit Overview
•  Using the Video
•  Authors
- Rudolfo A. Anaya
- Carlos Bulosan
- Robinson Jeffers
- Alberto Ríos
- Tomas Rivera
- Muriel Rukeyser
- Upton Sinclair
- John Steinbeck
- Henry David Thoreau
- Helena Maria Viramontes
- Suggested
Author
Pairings
•  Timeline
•  Activities

Authors: Carlos Bulosan (1913-1956)

Filipino Man Processing Fruit
[6061] Anonymous, Filipino Man Processing Fruit (c. 1930), courtesy of the James Earl Wood Collection of Photographs Relating to Filipinos in California, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley.

Carlos Bulosan Activities
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About 150,000 Filipinos immigrated to the United States between 1906 and 1946. Early on, many Filipinos came to America to seek an education and then return home. But starting in the 1920s, most came looking for work. Along the West Coast and in Hawaii and Alaska, they sought jobs as migrant workers, cannery workers, and domestic servants. They were subject to intense racism and discrimination, and Filipino men were beaten and driven out of town by mobs if they were seen with white women. It was within this atmosphere that Bulosan arrived in the United States.

Carlos Bulosan is the first important literary voice for Filipinos in the United States. Bulosan's most famous novel, America Is in the Heart, was published in 1946. It depicts the terrible living and working conditions of Filipino immigrants struggling to survive in America. Bulosan came to the United States from the Philippines in the early 1930s. He washed dishes, worked in canneries, and picked fruits and vegetables up and down the West Coast, including the area in the Salinas Valley where many of John Steinbeck's novels take place. He eventually became a labor activist and tried to address racial and economic discrimination in the United States. After meeting labor organizer Chris Mensalves, he helped organize a union for fish cannery workers in California. During a long period of poor health, Bulosan read the works of many American writers, which helped improve his English and inspired him to become a writer. Bulosan gradually gained recognition and respect as a poet and social commentator. His work appeared in a number of prominent magazines and journals in the 1940s, including the Saturday Evening Post, New Yorker, Harper's Bazaar, and Poetry. Bulosan's works include poetry collections, Letter from America (1942), Chorus from America (1942), and The Voice of Bataan (1943), as well as the novels The Cry and the Dedication (written in the 1950s and published posthumously in 1995) and The Sound of Falling Light (1960).

In the 1950s, at the height of the anti-communist movement, Bulosan's labor-organizing activities and early involvement with the communist party prompted Senator Joseph McCarthy and the House Un-American Activities Committee to blacklist him. Bulosan died in Seattle in poverty and relative obscurity in 1956. In the 1970s his works were "discovered" by the Asian American community, which recognized their historical and cultural importance. As one of the first writers to explore how Filipinos were forging an American identity, Bulosan influenced such Asian American writers as Jessica Hagedorn and Maxine Hong Kingston.



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