Tag Archives: sfpl

SF Reads: Monstress

Cover of Lysley Tenorio's "Monstress"

I finished reading this last week and got around to posting just in time—Monstress by Lysley Tenorio is the July/August pick for the San Francisco Public Library “On the Same Page” book club, and the library is holding author talks this Wednesday and Thursday evening at the Excelsior and Main libraries. Every single story in this collection was a joy (and a heartbreak) to read, but my favorites were Monstress, Superassassin, and Save the I-Hotel. In the title story, a Filipino woman dreams of being a romantic Hollywood heroine, but is forever consigned to playing the grotesque monsters of her lover’s B-horror films; she finally gets her big break, but at the cost of her relationship. I don’t like reading or hearing about the film industry (a neurotic holdover from my ill-fated stint in L.A.), but I thought this story really captured the sleaze and the pathos of Hollywood. In the final scene, years after her film’s release, the heroine sits anonymously in a theater where her campy film is being played for laughs, lost in her memories.

Superassassin is a darkly hilarious tale of a teenage boy obsessed with comics and supervillains, becoming a supervillain in his mind as a form of empowerment as his life spirals out of control. His plans to destroy schoolyard bullies and his mother’s boyfriends with his evil weapons technology are alternately funny, frightening, and sad, but always pitch-perfect. As a 透明外人, a possessor of a certain kind of invisibility myself, I also appreciate the half-white main character’s thoughts when faced with a shop owner complaining about thieving Filipinos: “My mutant biology hides that part of me he would fear. Ollie continues complaining and accusing, unaware that a shape-shifter stands before him. I tell him I know exactly how he feels, that they really can’t be trusted, that they’re a dangerous and deadly breed, as my hand fingers its way to the mini-rack of candy bars at my side.”

They are probably going to take away my Asian American studies degree for admitting this, but when I saw the title of the story Save the I-Hotel in the table of contents, while my conscious mind thought “All right, a shout out to the Asian American movement in San Francisco!”, a small evil voice in my subconscious said “Geez, the I-Hotel again?” Don’t get me wrong—no matter how much time has passed, the fact of the injustice remains, and I understand the importance of preserving our history. On the other hand, I was shown the documentary The Fall of the I-Hotel at least five times in various classes and at a certain point it started to feel like the professors were just waxing nostalgic for their student activist days. I guess I was expecting something like the ham-handed dramatic production staged by my Fil Am Lit class, but Save the I-Hotel is the real thing—a deeply human history of the Filipino immigrants in America, and a surprising love story that’s rooted in brotherhood and made more poignant by the tragedy of injustice. Save the I-Hotel doesn’t depend on the plight of the manongs to tug at your heartstrings, though; that starts to happen long before the dramatic events of 1977, when the two main characters are young and full of hope.

San Francisco doesn’t appear in every story, but it’s rendered faithfully in the stories that are set there (The Brothers, Felix Starro, and most especially Save the I-Hotel, which tells the story of a part of San Francisco history that, while overexposed in Asian American studies classes, is little-known to almost anyone else). Monstress is full of the human, the tragicomic, the strange and the sad and the wonderful.

SFPL event information:

Excelsior branch
Wednesday, August 29, 7-8:30pm

Main library
Thursday, August 30, 6:30-8pm

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Link roundup: Feature edition

Time for another link roundup! A lot of these are pretty old, but worth seeing if you missed them the first time around; the last two in particular are pretty meaty and essential reading for any booklover.

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Volunteering at the Friends of the SFPL Book Sale

Friends of the SFPL Steps book sale

The sale in full swing

This morning I volunteered at the Friends of the San Francisco Public Library’s Steps book sale on the front steps of the main library. Volunteers arrive at 10am to help unload boxes of books off a truck (which they have to do quickly so the driver isn’t ticketed!), then set them out on tables. There’s no rhyme or reason to the order in which books are boxed or set out, and the collection runs the gamut—everything from ARCs (advance reader copies) and galleys from publishers to donated books to old or outdated library books. As soon as all the books are out of the boxes, people can start shopping, and another truck comes a little later with more books that are set out.

On a side note, I am really loving people-watching now that I’m back in San Francisco. The sale got busy really fast, and the customers were your usual Civic Center crowd, meaning just about every type you can imagine—hipsters, students, well-dressed older people, aging hippies, scruffy bums, families. Don’t get me wrong, people-watching in Japan as an outsider to the culture was interesting (especially in the cities, and especially from a fashion standpoint), but for sheer variety and a complete cross-section of every walk of life, you can’t beat San Francisco.

I didn’t really have high expectations for the book selection, but there was some great stuff—lots of ARCs for young adult fiction that isn’t out yet, a fair few classics, bestsellers from a few months or years back, even a few books in Japanese. All of the books are $1 each, but the best thing about volunteering is that you get to pick 5 free books!

Something Under the Bed Is Drooling, Running the Rift, The Diary of Anais Nin Vol. 4, Lessons from the Monk I Married, Anne of Windy Poplars


I’m especially excited about Running the Rift, which I’ve been wanting to read ever since I read about it in Shelf Awareness last year. But my to-read pile is getting out of control and it’s only going to get worse if I keep volunteering, so I think I’m going to take a “reading day” sometime this week and go to Dolores Park or a cafe and just spend the day reading.

Anyway, here’s the information on the sale if you’d like to check it out:

Friends of the SFPL Steps sales
Wednesdays through October, 11am-3pm
Main Library (100 Larkin St.)
For volunteer information click here

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Find of the day: SFPL Blogs

I was going to write a post about checking out ebooks from the San Francisco Public Library, but when I tried to log on I found out that my library card expired on my birthday yesterday! I can’t renew it until I’m physically back in the city, so instead I’ll share my latest discovery: the SFPL has a blog! It consists mainly of book reviews (including some in other languages) highlighting books in their collection. There are also a fair number of branch blogs (Chinatown, Mission, Merced, Glen Park, Excelsior, Mission Bay), which aren’t much other than event listings for that branch, but they all seem to be up-to-date.

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