"'Just remember, Buddy, ' said my father, 'you got family, you got friends. Back home in Cebu, but 'specially here, where you got nothin'.'" So begins this beguiling strut into true riches, recounted in twelve powerful stories by award-winning novelist Peter Bacho. Set in Seattle from the 1950s to the present, Dark Blue Suit depicts the lives of two groups: Filipino immigrant pioneers, the Manong generation who arrived on the Pacific Coast during the 1920s and 1930s, and their American-born children. Although narrated as fiction, the stories -- their landmarks, activities, settings, and events -- are grounded in historical fact.
The book opens with the annual spring dispatch, by the Seattle-based Filipino union, of thousands of Filipino workers to the Alaska salmon canneries. We meet characters who reappear throughout the stories: Vince, the tough but charming union foreman and "big shot" father to Buddy, our American-born narrator; Chris, the battle-scarred union president targeted by McCarthyism; Rico, the spirited young king of the neighborhood who will fall victim to Vietnam; Stephanie, the beautiful mestiza who marries up; and many others who age and change in ironic counterpoint to persistent themes of loyalty, fierce ethnic pride, and a willingness to struggle against hostile forces in society. There are wry twists of humor and surprising turns of plot; a long-lost love is renewed; a long-hidden family secret is revealed.
We encounter the inevitable aging and passing of the Manong generation, but we sense as well the arrival of its vision. Babies are born. The migrant fisheries worker gets a nine-to-five job, and his children go to college. The conclusion builds to a quietpower that is essentially elegiac; an era closes, but the voices of the older generation are shouldered by the younger, to keep the history, to retell the stories, and to pay homage.
"These tales, so disarming in their sense of humanity, so lovingly and engagingly narrated in a style which appears effortless, deal with the shadows the massive facts of emigration and identity cast over the lives of Filipino Americans -- a literary turf Bacho has made particularly his own. Here he moves with an inveigling confidence amongst lives caught between the raucous demands of modern America and the potent ghosts of ethnicity. It is a superb performance". -- Thomas Keneally, author of Schindler's List
"Bacho has a vital, deeply felt subject -- the lives of a group of Filipino immigrant men and the growing up of their often mixed-race children. This book sparked the desire to know even more intimately about these people, this very American enclave in time and space". -- Judith Grossman, University of Iowa
"Peter Bacho's latest collection pays homage inform and content to the earlier generation of Filipino writers -- Bulosan, Santos, Gonzalez. But Bacho's stories provide a transition from that bachelor generation to the generation of Filipino families. His stories are a perfect contrast to Santos's Scent of Apples and an important link for teaching Asian American literature". -- Shawn Wong, University of Washington