cover image Insurrecto


Gina Apostol. Soho, $26 (336p) ISBN 978-1-61695-944-9

Apostol (Gun Dealer’s Daughter) fearlessly probes the long shadow of forgotten American imperialism in the Philippines in her ingenious novel of competing filmmakers. Chiara Brasi, daughter of the director of The Unintended, a Vietnam War movie shot in the Philippines, comes to Manila to make her own film. She hires Magsalin, a translator, to take her to the Philippine island of Samar (near where Magsalin was born) and the town of Balangiga, site of a brutal American massacre of revolutionaries in 1901 during the Philippine-American War. Chiara and Magsalin craft two very different scripts for the film. One script focuses on Cassandra Chase, a well-connected photographer who travels to the Philippines to produce stereographs of the American military’s actions. She faces extreme hostility from the soldiers, including the inexperienced and devoutly Catholic Capt. Thomas Connell. The second script more elusively follows Caz, a Filipino school teacher, who mourns the death of an eccentric film director she had an affair with in the 1970s. This is a complex and aptly vertiginous novel that deconstructs how humans tell stories and decide which versions of events are remembered; names repeat between scripts, and directors suddenly interrupt what feels like historical narration. Apostol’s layers of narrative, pop culture references, and blurring of history and fiction make for a profound and unforgettable journey into the past and present of the Philippines. (Nov.)