The Umbrella Country was published in 1999 by Ballantine Reader’s Circle, RH.
It received the first Asian American “Member’s Choice” Literary Award, and was a nominee for the 2000 Barnes and Noble “Discover Great New Writers” Award.
The author’s personal take on its publication can be found here.
Information about The Umbrella Country can also be accessed from the publisher’s website here. Included are: synopsis of the book, questions to facilitate book club discussions, and a short excerpt from the second chapter, Miss Unibers.
Before reading the reviews, you might be interested to read an essay written by Leonard Casper, Professor Emeritus of English, Boston College about the author and his novel. Published in Philippine Studies, “The Blood Compact in Bino A. Realuyo” can be found here.
Reviews in the U.S. and Abroad
“Realuyo’s lucid prose, unencumbered by sentimentality or hindsight, lends freshness to the conflicts of his somewhat familiar characters and color to a setting both impoverished and alluring.”
- Laura Morgan Green, The New York Times Book Review
“ ‘The Umbrella Country’ is a significant contribution to Filipino American literature.”
- Benjamin Pimentel, San Francisco Chronicle
“Bino A. Realuyo proves that the telling of a novelist’s heart and country is contained in the smallest movement of moments. Word upon lyrical word, his novel is beauty that dwells like a beloved’s lingering ache, a beloved’s familiar voice.”
- Lois-Ann Yamanaka, author of Blu’s Hanging
“A lyrical first novel limns a troubled coming-of-age in 1970s Manila, where deviance and difference are punished by silence or brutality…An evocative and subtly different take on the loss of innocence. A PROMISING DEBUT.” (full text here)
- Kirkus Reviews
“Heartbreaking . . . Poet Realuyo assembles a powerful array of characters for this coming of age novel.”
- Publisher’s Weekly
“Manila snaps, crackles and comes of age for a boy who is just discovering the meaning of intimate strangers.” Sunday Morning Post, Hong Kong. More here (pdf file).
“A wrenching first novel filled with the sights, sounds and smells of Manila under martial law.” (full text here)
“Extraordinary first novel.” – The Advocate
“Realuyo’s prose is vivid and fluid, often impressive in its attention to poetic detail. This street feels real, thus feeling both right and wrong at the same time. We know these characters, have heard some of these stories. But even as these are familiar locations, Realuyo gathers them in a moving, insightful tale of a Philippines within the Philippines. That we know these stories are true only adds to the power of Realuyo’s telling. It’s a memorable, satisfying read in any weather. But, in this country where the weather still blows dark and then suddenly clear, “The Umbrella Country” seems as delightfully familiar–and as emotionally pungent–as the scent of sampaloc in the wet wind.” (full text here)
- Ruel S. de Vera, The Philippine Daily Sunday Inquirer Magazine, Philippines
“This is a harsh tale salted with dialog in three languages. ”
-Word of Mouth, Library Journal.
“This is a dangerous book because it reveals the Filipino soul, tortured, tormented by poverty . . . Everything in this book has the sting of reality. The images are stunning but true. The smells are so strong they assault the reader. The people are familiar characters we have met in the comings and goings, ups and downs of our city lives: They may be stereotypes and archetypes, but you know them all, they were part of each of our past and they’re still very much around, 30 years after Gringo’s recollection.” (full text here)
- Jullie Yap Daza, The Manila Standard, Philippines
“And boy, how this boy-writer of the prodigious racial memory CAN write, CAN limn his prose with the quietly lyrical line as wise as its efficacious . . . This novel is rich in portents as well as hopes despites all the gut-wrenching episodes; there is ever a tenderness that transcends the poverty, the city, the humor and tragedy, and all the eyes ‘constantly judging everything they saw’ . . . Thanks, Bino. Page after page, it is beautifully your song, our song. The Umbrella Country is a splendid book. Quite honestly, it’s the most moving novel I’ve read in years.” (full text here)
- Alfred A. Yuson, The Philippine Star, Philippines