Misfits and outcasts populate People Are Strange, a collection of stories by one of the Philippines’ most enigmatic writers and winner of the Philippine Centennial Prize, the highest award ever given in Philippine history.
An unforgettable panorama of surreal weirdness, People Are Strange is like Twilight Zone with an Asian, magic realist twist. In these eight stories, Gamalinda creates a stranger-than-fiction world “where normal doesn’t exist.” There are former Manila celebrities—one a personal psychic of the Marcoses, another the “Elvis of Manila”—who must deal with anonymity and change in the U.S. There’s a woman who receives emails from her dead ex-husband, and a poet who uses his student in a publishing scam that turns them into the most notorious literary frauds of their time. There’s a man who discovers he can change his skin color at will, and becomes the object of a worldwide manhunt. In a story inspired by Kafka, a fly that infests an apartment parallels the apartment dweller’s inconsequential life. In another story, Skylab falls, and a small group of people forms a pop-up cult to stop it from hitting Manila. And finally there’s a tender story about the author’s grandfather and the strange pact he made with his two best friends—to come back from the dead and let the others know what the afterlife is all about.
Not only are the tales of People Are Strange remarkable and surprising, Gamalinda’s prose breaks the heart in unexpected places. Honest, lovely, real, this book is a must, with its awe-inspiring twists.
– Kim Chinquee
“I have been able to speak to the Dalai Lama, attended a couple of meetings of the Ku Klux Klan, was singled out in a case of racial profiling in Trenton, New Jersey, and hung out with Mexican day laborers in MacArthur Park in Los Angeles, where I learned how to laminate a bogus green card,” writes the fictional Eric Gamalinda, and I promise you will believe it of the real Eric Gamalinda who earned the right to title his book People Are Strange because it takes one to know one and he knows them all. Like Walt Whitman, he contains multitudes—but with a better sense of humor.
– Barry Schwabsky
In People Are Strange, Eric Gamalinda masterfully crafts stories of everyday absurdity which bring us inside the untold lives of Filipino immigrants and the strange grip of nostalgia—a concert of narrations that pair identity, loss, and solitude with humor, forgiveness, love and reverence.
– Susie Ibarra
In a lonely world, where everybody is looking for integration, where nobody wants to be different, we find our bond with humanity because everyone is strange. This is the fantastic idea of Eric Gamalinda and we congratulate him.
– Yareah magazine
Poet, playwright, fiction writer and experimental filmmaker, Eric Gamalinda has won several awards and grants for his work, including the Asian American Literary Award, a New York Foundation for the Arts fellowship in fiction, the Cultural Center of the Philippines Independent Film and Video Awards, and the Philippine National Book Award. Born and raised in Manila, he currently lives in New York City.
He is the author of several collections of poetry, including Amigo Warfare and Zero Gravity, both published in the U.S., and four novels previously published in Manila: My Sad Republic, Empire of Memory, Confessions of a Volcano and Planet Waves. His fifth novel, The Descartes Highlands, was recently shortlisted for the Man Asian Literary Prize. He also published an earlier collection of stories in Manila, entitled Peripheral Vision. He is the editor of an anthology, Flippin’: Filipinos on America, and his stories, poems and essays have appeared in a number of publications including Harper’s Magazine, Charlie Chan is Dead 2: At Home in the World, Language for a New Century, and Vestiges of War: The Philippine American War and the Aftermath of an Imperial Dream. He currently teaches at Columbia University’s Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race.