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A Review of R. Zamora Linmark’s Leche (Coffee House Press 2011)

A Review of R. Zamora Linmark’s Leche (Coffee House Press 2011)

R. Zamora Linmark’s returns to narrative form in his second novel Leche. Linmark is always so exceptional when it comes to Asian American writing precisely because of his comic and parodic tone, which is always unrelenting, dynamic, and fun. In some ways, Leche extends from the fictional world first depicted in Rolling the R’s, Linmark’s first novel, as Edgar Ramirez returns as a side character. The main viewpoint is given to Vince de los Reyes, a queer Filipino American, who lives in Hawaii and is crowned as runner-up to the Mr. Pogi pageant. The prize comes with it a trip to the Philippines, which offers Vince the chance to return to a country he has not seen for about thirteen years. The return narrative is an aesthetic “form” that I have been enjoying very much as of late, precisely because Linmark, like the others I’ve read, are quite adept at deconstructing the logic of ethnic authenticity. In the return narrative, there is always the question of the ethnic subject: is he ethnic enough to be claimed by his “homeland” inhabitants? As Vince comes to discover as soon as he arrives in the Philippines, he’s not necessarily as Filipino as he thinks he is. Linmark’s aesthetic approach, which includes multimedia such as postcards and inserts before each book section filled with original adages and aphorisms that will have you grinning and chuckling, will necessarily and fairly draw comparisons to Hagedorn’s Dogeaters. However, Linmark’s tone is all his own and though Hagedorn and Linmark draw on familiar geographical territories, Linmark clarifies a different temporal moment—that of the 90s, the post-Marcos era, where Cory Aquino’s presidency does not come to fulfill the many hopes of the people. Particularly tragic is the way that Linmark can so successfully demonstrate the incredible class difference that pervades the Filipino landscape. Also, amazing about Linmark’s work is how skillful he is at using pop culture to locate what moment we’re in and the narrative illuminates exactly how dated the 90s already are. The novel, much like Rolling the R’s, is episodic, but there if there is a throughline to the book, it operates in the auspices of Vince’s heritage and how he might reconcile how disconnected he feels from the Phillipines. Readers will have no trouble finishing the novel, as Linmark’s storytelling is first-rate, with the kind of humorous pulse so absent from much contemporary ethnic writing. I will definitely be teaching this novel in future courses.

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