Monstress

Monstress

4.3 3
by Lysley Tenorio
     
 

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“The debut of an electric literary talent. Brilliantly quirky, often moving, always gorgeously told….Bravo for this fabulous American fiction!”
—Chang-Rae Lee, New York Times bestselling author of Native Speaker

“A wonderful story collection that’s as wide and rich and complex as the geography it spans.”

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Overview

“The debut of an electric literary talent. Brilliantly quirky, often moving, always gorgeously told….Bravo for this fabulous American fiction!”
—Chang-Rae Lee, New York Times bestselling author of Native Speaker

“A wonderful story collection that’s as wide and rich and complex as the geography it spans.”
— Ben Fountain, PEN/Hemingway award-winning author of Brief Encounters with Che Guevera

“Tenorio is a deep and original writer, and Monstress is simply a beautiful book.”
—Jessica Hagedorn, author of Dogeaters

A luminous collection of heartbreaking, vivid, startling, and gloriously unique stories set amongst the Filipino-American communities of California and the Philippines, Monstress heralds the arrival of a breathtaking new talent on the literary scene: Lysley Tenorio. Already the worthy recipient of a Pushcart Prize, a Whiting Writer’s Award, and a Stegner Fellowship, Tenorio brilliantly explores the need to find connections, the melancholy of isolation, and the sometimes suffocating ties of family in tales that range from a California army base to a steamy moviehouse in Manilla, to the dangerous false glitter of Hollywood.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Spanning several decades and diverse settings, Tenorio’s debut story collection is a vibrant survey of Filipino-American immigrant history. The tales are tragic, but Tenorio makes the most of his gift for black humor. “Save the I-Hotel” follows friends Vincente and Fortunado, going back to their meeting 43 years before in Manilatown, San Francisco, in the 1930s, when the law forbade Filipino men from bringing their wives to America and pursuing white women was a dangerous enterprise. At a leper colony in the Philippines, a young Filipina who spent time in America before her disease appeared begins a relationship with an infected AWOL American soldier in “The View from Culion.” Reva Gogo, a famous actress,looks back on her early days in Manila making horror movies with her struggling director, Checkers Rosario, and the trip they made to Los Angeles, where he expected to break into the big time. In “Felix Starro,” a quack doctor travels to San Francisco to perform his famous Extraction of Negativities, involving fake blood and chicken livers, while the grandson who accompanies him must decide whether to continue in the family business or take the money and run. This question—to exploit one’s own or to be exploited—is shrewdly evoked by the author’s blend of the harrowing and the absurd. (Feb.)
The XX Factor Slate
“Tenorio writes persuasively about otherness and connection… [his] characters are zany, witty, and beautifully drawn… Ultimately, though, it is the unassuming pitch of these stories that makes them so exquisitely deadly.”
Elle
“A wondrous clutch of stories that pits the customs and superstitions of his Philippines homeland against the fads and fetishes of his adopted America. Set in Manila, Hollywood, and San Francisco, these yarns feature... memorably endearing eccentrics.”
Anthony Doerr
“Lysley Tenorio’s first book [is] better than I hoped: poignant, imaginative, somehow sad and funny all at once. Tenorio’s characters walk tightropes strung between the Philippines and America, between illusions and reality, between family ties and the need to strike out alone. Monstress is a wonderful read. ”
Chang-Rae Lee
“The stories in Monstress announce the debut of an electric literary talent. Brilliantly quirky, often moving, always gorgeously told, these are tales of big-hearted misfits who yearn for their authentic selves with extraordinary passion and grace. Bravo for this fabulous American fiction!”
Peter Ho Davies
“Lysley Tenorio is a writer of sly wit and lively invention—these are stories bursting with wonders...but most wondrous of all is his intimate sense of character. Each story is a confession of love betrayed, told with a mournful, austere tenderness as heartbreaking as it is breathtaking.”
Jessica Hagedorn
Lysley Tenorio’s darkly funny stories capture the contradictions and complexities of being both Filipino and a citizen of the world. Tenorio is a deep and original writer, and Monstress is simply a beautiful book.
Ben Fountain
“Tenorio is that rare breed of writer who mines gold from the impossible. He sees everything—the absurd and the tragic, the funny and profound—and delivers stories that are as true to life as any you will ever read.”
Rishi Reddi
“In these fantastic stories, Tenorio skillfully blends the unlikely and the emotional, the bizarre and the humane. His writing portrays the universal human condition through unique specificity, and is very deserving of attention.”
Daniel Orozco
“Tenorio’s wit is understated; his writing is deft and self-assured; his dramas don’t shout, but whisper, seductive and heartfelt. Monstress is one of the wisest and heartfelt collections I’ve read. I’ve waited a long time for this book.”
Sabina Murray
Monstress is an exhilarating rollercoaster of a book. Deeply funny, heartbreaking, hopeful, philosophical, bawdy, and wise, Tenorio’s stories, written from the underbelly of the American Dream, present one brilliant portrait after another.”
NPR.org
“Tenorio, born in the Philippines and raised in California, has taken a uniquely Filipino-American perspective, polyglot and glittering with cinema dreams, and used it to make a bold collection of stories of the rejected, the helpless and the lost. Monstress is the debut of a singular talent.”
The Onion A.V. Club
“[Monstress] introduces a unique voice from an underrepresented slice of the American experience.”
Boston Globe
“[A] compassionate and entertaining new collection…The book’s most poignant tale is Save the I-Hotel, a chiaroscuro of loneliness that’s also a quiet portrait of abiding friendship and life-changing betrayal.”
The Oregonian (Portland)
“Tenorio skillfully balances the beautiful and grotesque, the fantastical and commonplace to arrive at his particularly insightful renderings of the human condition.... [The] reader feels an immediate sense of intimacy with the most unlikely of protagonists.”
San Francisco Weekly
“Tenorio lays bare hearts that dare to hope but wind up disappointed, always with the wit and power of a born storyteller.”
San Jose Mercury News
“[A]n impressive debut… Although the situations are sometimes bleak, the stories benefit from Tenorio’s wry sense of humor.”
Washington Independent Review of Books
“MONSTRESS, a debut collection of short stories by Lysley Tenorio, is a gift: a chance to understand what those Filipino émigrés might have been saying about their lives, loves, disappointments and sense of being the other…Don’t expect happy endings, but do expect to be moved, dazzled and surprised.”
Los Angeles Times
“Tenorio’s stories, set amid mingling nationalities and generations, prompt comparisons to the works of Junot Díaz and Jhumpa Lahiri… But the refreshingly wry stories...are rangier and...focused on uncanny moments when a character realizes that something essential to his or her life might be...false and frightening.”
San Francisco Chronicle
“[W]insome…illuminating…[Tenorio] manages to make fabulous setups plausible through his meticulous crafting, deeply imagining the lives of a memorable cast of eccentrics.... For readers who shy away from short stories on the grounds that they’re often quiet or uneventful...Tenorio might make a convert of you.”
Booklist
“Complex, and powerful....This first collection introduces a writer of great promise, whose stories can illustrate tenderness at one minute and human cruelty not much later. Tenorio’s writing is immediate, visceral even....[A] vital addition for short-fiction collections [and] readers of Junot Diaz, Chang-Rae Lee, and Jessica Hagedorn.”
Slate
“[A] jittery, caffeinated, dazzling collection with a poignant center. The characters, straddling Filipino and American traditions, will charm you with their wit and devastate you with their loneliness. And in addition to being quirky and moving, the eight stories unfold beautifully in language that evokes…Junot Diaz.”
Kirkus Reviews
Unusual culture clashes between the Philippines and the West drive this intimate and admirably controlled debut story collection. Tenorio has a great knack for striking story premises. "Help" is narrated by a young man who's recruited by his uncle to attack the Beatles at the Manila airport for supposedly disrespecting Imelda Marcos. "The View From Culion" is set in a leper colony where a young Filipino woman attempts to connect with a stranded American. "Felix Starro" is narrated by a young man who helps take advantage of San Franciscans with a faith-healing scam, and the heroine of the title story is an attractive actress who's spent much of her career relegated to wearing monster costumes in junky B-movies. In each of these eight stories, Tenorio cultivates a plainspoken (but not blunt) style that recalls Tobias Wolff, and the conflicts are straightforward as well, usually dealing with lost innocence and heartbreak. The best stories add an extra layer of complexity: "The Brothers" tracks the different impacts a transsexual man's death has on his family and his friends in the community, while "Save the I-Hotel" leaps back and forth in time to follow the tense relationship between two Filipino immigrants in San Francisco as they manage homophobia, xenophobia and the destruction of the residence hotel where they'd spent their lives. Like many young story writers, Tenorio has talent and ideas to burn, though he isn't always certain where he wants to take those ideas. For every story like "I-Hotel" or "Superassassin," in which a young man's anger metastasizes into a terrifying comic-book fantasy, there are others that end with vaguely artful gestures that don't quite clarify what has changed within the characters. An introduction to a promising writer who knows how to get a reader's attention, though he occasionally has trouble sticking the landing.
Andrew Haig Martin
Tenorio's first collection of stories takes a refreshingly off-kilter approach to the lives of Filipinos in America…Tenorio's prose isn't flashy, but his stories are impeccably constructed, leading us calmly but insistently through the characters' external and internal landscapes.
—The New York Times Book Review

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780062059567
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
01/31/2012
Edition description:
Original
Pages:
240
Sales rank:
159,367
Product dimensions:
5.30(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.80(d)

What People are saying about this

Peter Ho Davies
“Lysley Tenorio is a writer of sly wit and lively invention—these are stories bursting with wonders...but most wondrous of all is his intimate sense of character. Each story is a confession of love betrayed, told with a mournful, austere tenderness as heartbreaking as it is breathtaking.”
Rishi Reddi
“In these fantastic stories, Tenorio skillfully blends the unlikely and the emotional, the bizarre and the humane. His writing portrays the universal human condition through unique specificity, and is very deserving of attention.”
Ben Fountain
“Tenorio is that rare breed of writer who mines gold from the impossible. He sees everything—the absurd and the tragic, the funny and profound—and delivers stories that are as true to life as any you will ever read.”
Daniel Orozco
“Tenorio’s wit is understated; his writing is deft and self-assured; his dramas don’t shout, but whisper, seductive and heartfelt. Monstress is one of the wisest and heartfelt collections I’ve read. I’ve waited a long time for this book.”
Sabina Murray
Monstress is an exhilarating rollercoaster of a book. Deeply funny, heartbreaking, hopeful, philosophical, bawdy, and wise, Tenorio’s stories, written from the underbelly of the American Dream, present one brilliant portrait after another.”
Anthony Doerr
“Lysley Tenorio’s first book [is] better than I hoped: poignant, imaginative, somehow sad and funny all at once. Tenorio’s characters walk tightropes strung between the Philippines and America, between illusions and reality, between family ties and the need to strike out alone. Monstress is a wonderful read. ”
Chang-Rae Lee
“The stories in Monstress announce the debut of an electric literary talent. Brilliantly quirky, often moving, always gorgeously told, these are tales of big-hearted misfits who yearn for their authentic selves with extraordinary passion and grace. Bravo for this fabulous American fiction!”
Jessica Hagedorn
Lysley Tenorio’s darkly funny stories capture the contradictions and complexities of being both Filipino and a citizen of the world. Tenorio is a deep and original writer, and Monstress is simply a beautiful book.

Read More

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