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.
“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
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).