Date of Award


Document Type

Campus Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Fine Arts (MFA)


English/Creative Writing

First Advisor

Askold Melnyczuk

Second Advisor

Jennifer Haigh

Third Advisor

Emilio Sauri


America Haunts the Heart is a collection of fictional short stories that centers the inherited and externalized conflicts of second-generation Filipino Americans of biracial identity. Having to constantly navigate the world as someone who can and cannot fit within the confines of how a society defines race and femininity, the narrators in this collection develop and learn to embrace their identities as they are: rife with nuance, contradiction, burden, and grief, haunted by the ancestral and the perpetually present.

The collection’s title references two Filipino American works of literature. The first, Carlos Bulosan’s America is in the Heart, is an autobiographical novel of a Filipino immigrant in the US who works as a migrant laborer and becomes a radical unionizer based on socialist ideals in the 1940s. Second is Elaine Castillo’s novel America is Not the Heart, a fictional narrative of Filipinos in California whose American-born children cannot claim a national identity of the archipelago, but ultimately inherit a cultural identity. These previous works of literature reflect the migrant lives of Generations 1.0 and 1.5. America Haunts the Heart is my contribution to the intergenerational Filipino American experience as a member of “Generation 2.0”—the generation of mixed race, mixed cultural upbringing in America, further estranged from the countries we have heard about in stories and visited in our youth and in our dreams. These stories document the heartache of cultural pride, be/longing, and the conflict in embracing a cultural identity that rejects a proximity to whiteness and privilege during times of polarizing racial and civil tensions in America.

Some stories also explore loss and emotional abuse’s influence on narrative reasoning, aiming to provide a closer reading of the soul and psyche when circumstances leave one with insecurity and doubt and lead us to reevaluate our assumptions and dependence on a single story.

In the hopes of provoking further discussion and a lasting imprint on the canon of diaspora in Western literature, America Haunts the Heart is a work of fiction that begs to be read by those who have been looking for a piece of themselves on the page.


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