By Harvey I. Barkin
If your idea of a good read by a Pinoy author is a musty, misty-eyed memoir of life back when, you’re missing the crisp, fresh Love, Dance and Egg Rolls by Jason Tanamor (Ooligan Press, release by May 10, 2022).
Second gen Tanamor (now 46) is a Portland, Oregon native. His most recent book, the adult/new adult urban fantasy Vampires of Portlandia (2020) featured a different kind of Pinoy immigrant — a family of aswang – the same Pinoy creature of lore that was featured in the Grimm cable series, shot principally in weirdlandOregon. It was recently optioned for the screen and is in development.
But now Tanamor flips to the brighter side with his lively rom-com about Jamie Santiago, a high-school kid growing up Pinoy in Portland. In his semi-autobiographical account, he relatesabout being bullied and discriminated (“African-Americans are always criminals. Asians are always cooks. Middle Eastern people are always terrorist or cabs.”)
And so, he finds expression of his cultural identity in dancing tinikling at the Asian folk festival.
But like many others in his situation – neither white nor brown – he also experiences culture overload and gets embarrassed when his Dad keeps feeding white guests lumpia.
That plus the “fat-shaming and nerd-shaming” will transport many first gen Pinoy parents back to when they were raising their children in America. The dream was to give the precious child the chance the parent never had and the story is about the price both had to pay.
Of course, Jamie has a crush and the time comes when he must decide between Homecoming or the dance. Love or identity.
It’s easy to relate to Love, Dance and Egg Rolls. Revisiting the themes of family, teen-age love and stranger in a strange land is so familiar and comforting.
Said Tanamor, “What I’d like to see are stories that depict Filipino families as main subjects, and not just role players. If we can get more stories and people who can make differences, such as authors writing OwnVoices stories, I think we’ll begin to see a shift in industries that can depict people of color in a more positive light.”
Since 2008,the prolific Tanamor has written eight books in different genres from fantasy to horror to satireto young adult. Publishers Weekly cited him as writer “with lots of potential.” The one-time Yahoo! content writer and Energy department contracting officer lists among his favored Fil-Am writers: Erin Entrada Kelly, Grace Talusan, Randy Ribay, and Jessica Hagedorn.