Pati Navalta Poblete's The Oracles

Pati Navalta Poblete's The Oracles: My Filipino Grandparents in America (Heyday Books, 2006) recounts the author's childhood growing up in the care of her four grandparents in California.

Poblete casts this intergenerational story as one of cultural conflict, with her child and teenage selves, immersed in the MTV generation's aesthetics and desires, butting heads with her four very different grandparents who had come to the United States to help raise her and her younger brother.

The cultural clash of immigrant families here is fascinatingly extended between grandparent and grandchild, with the parents just barely figuring into the equation though they were present. In many ways, this widened generational/cultural gap is simply because Poblete's project is to document her grandparents' lives because though they were in her California world for only about a decade, they made a huge impact on her sense of self and cultural identity.

Poblete tells us about her Ilocano grandparents and a bit about how her parents were the first in their families to graduate from college in Manila and fly out to the United States to make a living. Though this American Dream narrative is clearly part of the story, there is also a pulling back from that romanticized narrative, with the grandparents' lack of interest in staying in the States (they all leave once Poblete starts a family of her own) and a reclamation of the idea of home and a community on Mindanao.

What I like most about the book is Poblete's careful depiction of the four grandparents, offering them both a collective identity--the Oracles, she calls them--but also detailed, individual portraits. In italicized passages, Poblete even gives each grandparent his or her own voice (recounting the past in the first-person point of view).

As a side note, given my current studies in library science, I find it interesting that the Library of Congress classification number for this book is F869, which is part of the range of numbers for books about personal narratives of local California history, rather than a number in the PS range, which would be appropriate for a memoir by an American author. This book clearly falls in the memoir category, as it is very specifically about the memories and past of the author (and a focused segment of that past as well), but instead, the Library of Congress has put the book in the category of California history books. I'm sure this classification is due to the fact that the publisher of the book is Heyday Books, which specializes in books that "foster an understanding of California history, literature, art, environment, social issues, and culture." It's one of the interesting things about LC classification--creative writing numbering (including nonfiction memoirs) gets assigned by author rather than subject, which makes it easier on the cataloger but less useful for someone interested in browsing creative writing by topic.
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i'm sorry to say i haven't read this title! need to get on it =)... thanks for the review