Excerpt from My Heart Underwater by Laurel Fantauzzo, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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My Heart Underwater

by Laurel Fantauzzo

My Heart Underwater by Laurel Fantauzzo X
My Heart Underwater by Laurel Fantauzzo
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  • Published:
    Oct 2020, 320 pages


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Book Reviewed by:
Catherine M Andronik
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Print Excerpt

"One hundred!" She stands, startling me. "Come, we'll go to In-N-Out. Tara na."

"I just wanted to show you! You don't have to take me out!" Though I know she loves In-N-Out and uses any small celebration as an excuse to go.

"You'll get that milkshake, the weird one you like, with all three flavors."

"Dad's busy talking to—"

"Ay, never mind, he has to eat also. Rom!" she calls upstairs.

He doesn't answer, so we go upstairs. He's sitting at the desk in their bedroom, still in his work polo, covered in splashes of plaster and paint.

Usually Papa's wide brown face splits into a smile as soon as he sees us. But he looks serious and startled when we enter. His eyes dart from us to the screen and back to us, like he's balancing and about to fall if he doesn't watch out. My mom doesn't seem to notice. "Look, oh, your daughter got one hundred on a test!"
"It's just a quiz," I mumble, but finally my dad smiles. "Ay, ang galing naman!" His eyes jitter back toward the screen. "Show your kuya Jun."

I see the dark-haired guy onscreen, pixelated, wearing glasses. Jun, the faraway half brother I've never met in person before. I've seen him about once a week onscreen, though, since I was a kid.

I'm a little annoyed that I have to talk to a screen, instead of just my parents, now, when my mom is having such a rare moment of pride in me.

I've always been a little annoyed at these moments. Living my life with my family, then being forced to share something with near-strangers my parents insist are close to me.

"Hi, Kuya Jun," I say.

There's a pause. Maybe there's a delay. But he's not smiling. Maybe he's annoyed too. "Hey, congrats," the pixelated face finally says. "Can I talk to our dad again?"

Now I'm fully annoyed. But I don't say anything.

"I'm just a few more minutes with your brother, anak," our dad says in his low voice. "A few more minutes?" Jun protests from thousands of miles away. "Talaga, Tay?" He sounds more than annoyed.

"Come," my mom says, and pulls me back downstairs, away from their conversation. Behind us, I hear the voice on the computer rise, and I wish my dad would just turn off the screen.

In our dad's rattling Tacoma, we pass the big, uniform tract developments my parents always mutter about in Tagalog. Some of them are abandoned, the building stopped months ago. We maneuver around SUVs and convertibles and pass strip malls and chain restaurants and gas stations. Then we come to In-N-Out and park near a BMW.

"We have a BMW also," my dad says, patting the hood of his rusty truck. "Bulacan Motor Works!" I think he's referring to somewhere in the Philippines. He giggles at his own joke.

We get in a busy line filled with firefighters and police officers, random road trippers, and parents with nannies and toddlers. When we get to the front, there's a girl with curly brown hair taking the orders, maybe a couple of years older than me. I don't think she's that cute, but I do notice a small gap in her front teeth, and that sets me off thinking about Ms. Holden again.

"Um," I mumble.

"What? Sorry, can you repeat?" the girl says.

My mom orders. "One cheeseburger, the animal fries, and the shake, what's the one?" She looks at me.

"Neapolitan," I manage to say.

"One burger also with extra lettuce, one cheeseburger, no lettuce, no tomato," my dad finishes, remembering my mom's order.

When we choose a table and get our food, sitting with my celebratory parents and feeling my want for Ms. Holden at the same time is too weird. It makes my throat close up.

"O, bakit? You're not hungry?" my mother says. To my parents, not eating a ready meal means I might as well have stepped on it, it's so insulting.

My dad gazes at me. His gaze is as strong as any saint's, any statue's, and I chomp my burger to avoid it.

Excerpted from My Heart Underwater by Laurel Fantauzzo. Copyright © 2020 by Laurel Fantauzzo. Excerpted by permission of Quill Tree Books. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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