July/August Pick 2012

by Lysley Tenorio
monstress book cover

Our July/August pick, Monstress, introduces a bold new San Francisco writer who explores the clash and meld of disparate cultures. In the National Magazine Award-nominated title story, a has-been movie director and his reluctant leading lady travel from Manila to Hollywood for one last chance at stardom, unaware of what they truly stand to lose. In "Felix Starro," a famous Filipino faith healer and his grandson conduct an illicit business in San Francisco, though each has his own plans for their earnings. And after the Beatles reject an invitation from Imelda Marcos for a Royal Command Performance, an aging bachelor attempts to defend her honor by recruiting his three nephews to attack the group at the Manila International Airport in "Help." Lysley Tenorio reveals the lives of people on the outside looking in with rare skill, humor, and deep understanding, in stories exploring the fantastical and the realistic, the familiar and the strange.

Book Club Discussion Guide


About The Author

Lysley Tenorio's stories have appeared in The Atlantic, Zoetrope: All-Story, Ploughshares, Manoa, and The Best New American Voices and Pushcart Prize anthologies. A Whiting Writer’s Award winner and a former Stegner Fellow at Stanford University, he has received fellowships from the University of Wisconsin, Phillips Exeter Academy, Yaddo, The MacDowell Colony, and the National Endowment for the Arts. Born in the Philippines, Lysley currently lives in San Francisco, and is an associate professor at Saint Mary’s College of California.


"Tenorio…has taken a uniquely Filipino-American perspective, polyglot and glittering with cinema dreams, and used it to make a bold collection of stories of the rejected, the helpless and the lost. Montress is the debut of a singular talent." –NPR
"Tenorio’s stories are built on unique – even outrageous – premises. Yet he manages to make fabulous setups plausible through his meticulous crafting, deeply imagining the lives of a memorable cast of eccentrics…When you read a lot of contemporary fiction, you become hard to satisfy. You crave something new and original, but you also want a narrative command typical of more experienced authors. "Monstress" fulfills both needs. For readers who shy away from short stories on the grounds that they’re often quiet or uneventful, lacking the depth of character or range of tone of novels, Tenorio might make a convert of you." –The San Francisco Chronicle
"Spanning several decades and diverse settings, Lysley Tenorio’s debut story collection is a vibrant survey of Filipino-American immigrant history. The tales are tragic, but Tenorio makes the most of his gift for black humor. "Save the I-Hotel" follows friends Vicente and Fortunado, going back to their meeting 43 years before in Manilatown, San Francisco, in the 1930s, when the law forbade Filipino men from bringing their wives to America and pursuing white women was a dangerous enterprise. At a leper colony in the Philippines, a young Filipina who spent time in America before her disease appeared begins a relationship with an infected AWOL American soldier in "The View from Culion." Reva Gogo, a famous actress,looks back on her early days in Manila making horror movies with her struggling director, Checkers Rosario, and the trip they made to Los Angeles, where he expected to break into the big time. In "Felix Starro," a quack doctor travels to San Francisco to perform his famous Extraction of Negativities, involving fake blood and chicken livers, while the grandson who accompanies him must decide whether to continue in the family business or take the money and run. This question—to exploit one’s own or to be exploited—is shrewdly evoked by the author’s blend of the harrowing and the absurd." –Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)
"If Filipino-Americans need a Junot Díaz, they’re not likely to come closer than much-lauded author Lysley Tenorio, whose blackly humorous and exquisitely rendered stories, finally compiled in Monstress, depict transnational misadventures in touchingly absurd tones." –The Village Voice
"[Monstress] introduces a writer of great promise, whose stories can illustrate tenderness at one minute and human cruelty not much later. Lysley Tenorio’s writing is immediate, visceral even, and illustrates how human beliefs, principles, and drives are complicated by the choices people make… a vital addition for short-fiction collections." –Booklist
"Monstress is a wondrous clutch of stories that pits the customs and superstitions of Philippines against the fads and fetishes of America. Set in Manila, Hollywood, and San Francisco, these yarns feature a faith-healing grandfather, a washed-up monster-movie director, and a transgender brother, among other memorably endearing eccentrics." –Elle Magazine
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