Winner of the 2024 Summerlee Book Prize!

Settling St. Malo

brings readers back to a time when Louisiana had the largest Filipino population in the United States. It explores a fishing village in Lake Borgne, shrimp drying platforms in Barataria Bay, and the Filipino Colony Bar in New Orleans. It tells of how one of the first Filipino sailors to join the US Navy settled in Louisiana. It takes us for a ride on a Filipino Mardi Gras float and explores how social, cultural, and political forces lead us to diminish the significance of these places and events.

Poet Randy Gonzales explores the history of Louisiana’s nineteenth- and early twentieth-century Filipino communities and his family’s story of migration and assimilation through a blend of documentary and lyrical poetry. Settling St. Malo is a history of Filipino Louisiana in verse and an ode to the struggles of our immigrant ancestors, a collection of poems whose substance, language, and rhythms are informed by oral histories, diaries, letters, and government documents—poems infused with cultural and visual landscapes and driven by a poet’s desire to account for a lost heritage.

Settling St. Malo Book Cover


“In Settling St. Malo, Randy Gonzales brings readers on a vivid voyage of Barataria Bay and New Orleans. We dance the shrimp, taste the tears of struggle, and hear the voices of our ancestors jump, feed, and embrace us on every page. Brimming with historical research this powerful book of poems should be required reading for anyone who wants to learn Filipino American history.”

Emily P. Lawsin, co-author of Filipino Women in Detroit, and National President Emerita of the Filipino American National Historical Society (FANHS)

“Randy Gonzales’s compelling portrait of Filipino American community in Louisiana offers a much-needed primer on a neglected history as he works to ‘restore what we can / from fragments / of cultural memory.’ Whether bringing to life the bayou in a riveting extended narrative of St Malo, the lost Manilamen fishing village on Lake Borgne, or highlighting the use and abuse of a people by documenting the denial of U.S. citizenship to his great-grandfather who served the US government, including the Navy, for 18 years, Gonzales shapes an intimate and original contribution to documentary poetics.”

Rebecca Morgan Frank, author of Oh You Robot Saints!

“The poems in Settling St. Malo challenge us to rethink the American narrative in all its narrowness, to rethink poetics we are comfortable with, even complacent about. These poems pushback and respond to the presumptions of the systems that lay claim to agency of identity and history even, but they are so much more. These poems echo writers and artists like Langston Hughes, Gwendolyn Brooks, and Romare Bearden. Not unlike the poems of Natalie Diaz and Joy Harjo, these poem shift and shape the new essential story of who we truly are.”

Darrell Bourque, Louisiana Poet Laureate, 2007-2011

Settling St. Malo is one of the most unique and compelling poetry collections I’ve read in a long time. Part history, part narrative poetry, the book tells the story of the Filipino population in Louisiana and how this group of people shaped the state’s rich legacy. Stroll down memory lane with the speaker’s grandmother as she recollects “Filipino Mardi Gras” where “Uncle Sam the white bearded symbol / of imperialism” occupies their float. Discover “Manila Village” in Barataria Bay where Filipinos settled and dried shrimp. Taste the melding of cultures, languages, and flavors in the numerous “recipes” that unfold in verse. Settling St. Malo is a deep look into the past of a region and celebrates the diversity of the Gulf Coast.”

Katherine Hoerth—author of Flare Stacks in Full Bloom.

Settling St. Malo is a beautifully rendered story of a Filipino American community in coastal Louisiana spanning several generations. Randy Gonzales’s poems capture the challenges, both natural and societal, posed to his ancestors and the steadfast faith and determination with which they were faced and overcome. The poems are stark, powerful and at times breathlessly beautiful, making for a compelling read.”

Ron Rozelle—author of Leaving the Country of Sin.

“Through poetic images and historical details, Randy Gonzales weaves the beauty of the Louisiana gulf region with the stories of past generations who made this place their home. The focus on his Filipino heritage brings the poems to life through stories that are both personal and universal.”

Gretchen Johnson—author of Single in Southeast Texas.

Recognition and Awards

Selected one of The FilAm.Net Books of 2023.

In the Media

Interview by Bruce Magee. Louisiana Anthology Podcast. 5 January 2024.

“Pagpupugay Sa Pinoy” TV Patrol, TFC News. 30 December 2023. (see below)

New book honors first Filipino settlers in U.S.TV Patrol, TFC News. 22 December 2023.

Interview by Tony Robles. Listen & Be Heard. 2 November 2023. (starts at 15:50)


Selection from “When Manilamen Fished at St. Malo (1840s-1906)” adapted and recorded for Disappearing St. Malo, 2022, a public art exhibit by Cheyenne Concepcion.

A version of “Do-bo appeared in The Philippine Star, 28 July 2022, and The Ultimate Filipino Adobo: Stories Through the Ages, Claude Tayag, Foreign Service Institute, 2022, 150.

An early version of “A Filipino American Life in Letters to/from US Institutions” appeared as “(Un)Documented, a Narrative of M— in Letters to/from US Institutions” in Proceedings from the Document Academy: 4.1 (2017).

An early version of “Become” appeared as “Becoming” in Redactions 20 (2016): 18-19.