cover image Concepcion: An Immigrant Family’s Fortunes

Concepcion: An Immigrant Family’s Fortunes

Albert Samaha. Riverhead, $28 (400p) ISBN 978-0-593-08608-7

In this extraordinary memoir from BuzzFeed News editor Samaha (Never Ran, Never Will), the history of his Filipino forebears serves as an evocative window into global issues of immigration and American imperialism. The Concepcion family’s three-decade effort—starting in the late 1940s—to bring relatives from the Philippines to San Francisco as part of the United States’ “fourth largest diaspora” meant abandoning lives of privilege and even fame to live “eleven people packed into... five rooms.” Their motivations are revealed through family anecdotes, extensive reportage, and historical records, skillfully mined by Samaha, of the subjugation of the islands, first under Spanish rule, and later as an American territory. “To be conquered is to shrink from existence,” Samaha states, yet larger-than-life characters emerge from the narrative—including his great aunt Caridad, a WWII veteran; Uncle Spanky, a rock star turned SFO airport baggage handler; and great uncle Tomas, whose appearance in Fellini films launched an art career. As Samaha explores “the cost of my comfort,” he reckons with a legacy that’s both benefited and burdened him and other first-generation immigrants, who’ve been tasked to navigate structures of “American injustice” while ensuring their parents’ “sacrifice isn’t wasted.” The result renders an extraordinary look at the freedoms and perils of making a new life in America. Agent: David Patterson, Stuart Krichevsky Literary. (Oct.)