Summary and book reviews of Monstress by Lysley Tenorio

Monstress

Stories

By Lysley Tenorio

Monstress
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  • Paperback: Jan 2012,
    240 pages.

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Book Summary

A luminous collection of heartbreaking, vivid, startling, and gloriously unique stories set amongst the Filipino-American communities of California and the Philippines, Monstress heralds the arrival of a breathtaking new talent on the literary scene: Lysley Tenorio.

Already the worthy recipient of a Pushcart Prize, a Whiting Writer's Award, and a Stegner Fellowship, Tenorio brilliantly explores the need to find connections, the melancholy of isolation, and the sometimes suffocating ties of family in tales that range from a California army base to a steamy moviehouse in Manilla, to the dangerous false glitter of Hollywood.

Excerpt Monstress

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Checkers stepped into the kitchen. "The great Checkers Rosario," Gaz said.

Checkers stared at Gaz with bloodshot eyes. "Used to be," he said, then sat down.

Gaz explained himself: he was in Manila visiting an ex-girlfriend, a make-up artist for CocoLoco. He toured the studio, went through their vaults, and found copies of Checkers' movies. "I watched them all, and I thought, jackpot-eureka! This is the real deal. They said if I wanted to use them, I should find you." He pulled four canisters of film from his canvas bag and stacked them on the table. "And now you're found."

Checkers took the reels from the canisters. I could hear him whisper their titles like the names of women he once loved and still did - The Creature in the Cane, Cathedral of Dread, DraculaDracula, The House on Dead Filipino Road. "Use them," he said. "What for?"

"Three words," Gaz said. "Motion. Picture. History." He got up, circled the table as he explained his movie: en ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. The stories in Monstress feature characters who have immigrated from the Philippines to America. In these stories, what does it mean to be Filipino? What does it mean to be American?


  2. The Beatles, comic books, and B-movies, and are featured in many of these stories. What does western popular culture represent to the characters in these stories?


  3. We never learn the names of the narrators of "Superassassin," "L'amour, CA," and "Help." What is the significance of namelessness in these stories?


  4. In the title story, the narrator, Reva Gogo, resents her ex-boyfriend, Checkers Rosario, for making her play monstrous roles in his B horror movies, and longs to play beautiful leading lady roles. In "The View From Culion," Teresa only ...
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Reviews

BookBrowse

The style in all of these stories is very straightforward - no postmodern trickery or stories in verse - just standard narratives with exemplary execution. While the book has no overt, all-encompassing theme or recurring characters, all of the stories are like courses from the same meal - some sweet, some warm - that together make for a very satisfying experience.   (Reviewed by Beverly Melven).

Full Review Members Only (673 words).

Media Reviews
Author Blurb Peter Ho Davies, author of The Welsh Girl
Lysley Tenorio is a writer of sly wit and lively invention - these are stories bursting with wonders... but most wondrous of all is his intimate sense of character. Each story is a confession of love betrayed, told with a mournful, austere tenderness as heartbreaking as it is breathtaking.

Author Blurb Chang-Rae Lee, New York Times bestselling author of Native Speaker and The Surrender
The stories in Monstress announce the debut of an electric literary talent. Brilliantly quirky, often moving, always gorgeously told, these are tales of big-hearted misfits who yearn for their authentic selves with extraordinary passion and grace. Bravo for this fabulous American fiction!

Author Blurb Ben Fountain, PEN/Hemingway award-winning author of Brief Encounters with Che Guevara
Tenorio is that rare breed of writer who mines gold from the impossible. He sees everything - the absurd and the tragic, the funny and profound - and delivers stories that are as true to life as any you will ever read.

Booklist

Complex, and powerful... This first collection introduces a writer of great promise, whose stories can illustrate tenderness at one minute and human cruelty not much later.

Kirkus Reviews

[An] intimate and admirably controlled debut story collection… Monstress [is] an introduction to a promising writer who knows how to get a reader's attention... Tenorio has a great knack for striking story premises… [and] cultivates a plainspoken (but not blunt) style that recalls Tobias Wolff.

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Tenorio's debut story collection is a vibrant survey of Filipino-American immigrant history... [the] question - to exploit one's own or to be exploited - is shrewdly evoked by the author's blend of the harrowing and the absurd.

Elle

A wondrous clutch of stories that pits the customs and superstitions of his Philippines homeland against the fads and fetishes of his adopted America.

Jason Rice, Three Guys One Book

This story slipped around me like a tailored suit. Tenorio writes with a casual precision that bleeds equal parts emotion and resigned complacency.

NPR

[Tenorio] has taken a uniquely Filipino-American perspective, polyglot and glittering with cinema dreams, and used it to make a bold collection of stories of the rejected, the helpless and the lost. Monstress is the debut of a singular talent.

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Lysley Tenorio

Lysley Tenorio Lysley Tenorio (pronounced LESS-lee ten-OH-rio) is the winner of several awards, including the Whiting Writers' Award, the Nelson Algren Award, and a Pushcart Prize - and fellowships from Phillip Exeter Academy, The MacDowell Colony, Yaddo, the University of Wisconsin, and a Stegner Fellowship from Stanford University. He earned his MFA at the University of Oregon, and received a National Endowment for the Arts in 2006. His stories have appeared in The Best New American Voices, Ploughshares, Zoetrope: All-Story, Manoa and The Atlantic. Born in the Philippines, Tenorio moved to the US as an infant. He lives in San Francisco and is on the faculty of St. Mary's College in California.

Click on the video below to hear Lysley talk about ...

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