"Roley's debut in FilAm literature--in American literature, more properly--was auspicious and important. He dramatized (for the first time in novel form, I believe) the plight of thoroughly assimilated and Americanized immigrant young men of Philippine ancestry...American Son is brilliantly written. Roley is one of the most adept writers I have read at using spare descriptions for crisp characterization...
Roley's The Last Mistress of Jose Rizal is an appearance equally auspicious to American Son: a demonstration of the prowess of this writer in the middle of a strong literary career. These short stories constitute the continuation and expansion of the family in American Son...
American Son and Last Mistress of Jose Rizal are Brian Ascalon Roley’s paeans to diasporic FilAm life: the earlier novel’s two sons finding their American-ness at violent odds with their Filipino-ness, then the later collection’s various family members striving to bridge the old and the new, the Philippines and the US. Roley’s American Son and The Last Mistress of Jose Rizal should be required reading for all of us in the diaspora, but don’t read it like it’s required! Enjoy."
Professor of English and Editor Emeritus of The North American Review
writing in Halo Halo Review (click for full review)
"This beautiful collection of stories revolves around generational experiences of interconnected Filipino families…elegant…The sudden revelations in these stories make them very raw, convincing, nostalgic yet lyrical and the endings are filled with a faint whiff of sorrow that will never completely die.
One very good reason to love this book? I have a particular liking for Jhumpa Lahiri’s way of writing and what she chooses to write about: the Bengali Indian diaspora and Indian Immigrants. The Last Mistress of Jose Rizal is an enchanting book for this same reason. As a reader I can immediately identify with all the characters: individuals who have their roots somewhere else than where they now ‘choose’ to belong. Life changes, friends change, families stay back in another country or move to a new place, language changes, memories change and for that matter, in a strange way History also packs itself in our baggage and moves with us."
-New pages (click for full review)
“A grandmother obsesses over her granddaughter’s un-Catholic upbringing. A son visits his estranged father at a hospital where he is under a suicide watch. A family imports a young maid from the Philippines, and all hell, with love, breaks loose. In the eyes of a dog, a boy reconnects with his deceased father. A war veteran migrates to Los Angeles and moves into the overcrowded home of his sister’s family to take care of their aging mother.
Written with seemingly effortless grace and in clean-eyed prose, the short stories in Roley’s long-awaited collection are poignant, intimate, and heartbreaking. These interlinked narratives—all the characters are from the same multi-generational family—offer refreshing perspectives of the Philippine experience in America and what it means to be a Filipino, or a Filipino American, in the country of dreams where they have to constantly make do with the odds; surrender to the scars of war, childhood, and family; endure failed hopes and loves; and grapple with the contradictions of living in between cultures, homes, and memories.”
--R. Zamora Linmark, author of Leche_ and These Books Belong to Ken Z
"Ambitious...beautiful..The Last Mistress of Jose Rizal is a story that deserves a second read."
"This collection was one of the most highly anticipated reads for this year! Brian Ascalon Roley published a novel about 15 years ago that I am still teaching (practically every year) called American Son. Fans of American Son can rest easy knowing that The Last Mistress of Jose Rizal continues Roley’s compelling storytelling track record...
“Unacknowledged” follows the perspective of Twig, who suffers from a physical ailment that has stunted his growth and bodily strength. He observes his family, as they adjust to a new social dynamic when they hire a maid who was once the mistress of a relative. That mistress also happens to bring along her daughter Teresa, whose presence is the major force of disruption that the family must deal with. Twig’s big brother Matt ends up having romantic feelings for Teresa, which complicates family dynamics. The next story fast forwards to a period of time in which Matt is an adult and is in a marriage with someone from a Caucasian background. The premise of this particular story involves Matt’s mother coming to meet his wife’s family, as a sort of unification of both sides, but this unification necessarily involves extended family members. The wife’s relative, for instance, is married to a Filipina woman from Mindanao. The regional and class differences between Matt (and his mom) and the woman from Mindanao are the cause for much familial tension. These stories allow the reader to get a larger narrative arc to one specific family, so I naturally found them quite fascinating. Fans of American Son will be extremely happy to see that Roley does give Gabe and Tomas’s family some narrative room, as they are the subject of “Old Man.” Here, Roley chooses to give the first person perspective to Tomas, something he never did in American Son. It was wonderful to see how different Tomas viewed himself and it certainly complicates how we understand Gabe’s narration from American Son, though it seems as if the events that unfold in this story occur just before that the novel.
...fans of American Son (and of Asian American Literature) should reserve some reading time for Roley’s story collection and hope that he won’t make us wait as long for a third publication."
--Professor Stephen Hong Sohn, author of Racial Asymmetries: Asian American Fictional Worlds (American Literature Initiative)
asianamlitfans.livejournal.com (click to read full review)