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Dogeaters (Paperback)

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Staff Reviews

Hagedorn's first novel is a brash, defiant, punk rock kind of a book, a technicolor collage of the Philippines in the 1950s. Rather than following a traditional novel structure, the chapters read like slaps in the face: quick, seemingly senseless, and also surprisingly intimate. We jump from the perspective of 10-year-old Rio, a privileged daughter of the upper-class Gonzagas; to a DJ named Joey Sands, who turns tricks at the club where he works; to starlet Lolita Luna who has become the kept woman of a notorious general; to the general's pious and long-suffering wife who hopelessly tries to atone for her husband's sins; and if you aren't feeling whiplashed yet, keep reading. The magic of this novel is in how gleefully it occupies all its narrators' voices, and in doing so sweeps us through a country of contradictions, of bloody legacy, of romance, and of revolution.

— From Lillian


“An original, raw, and wild novel that has held its power and demands to be read.” 
—Viet Thanh Nguyen, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Sympathizer 

Finalist for the National Book Award for Fiction and Winner of the American Book Award

Welcome to Manila in the turbulent period of the Philippines’ late dictator. It is a world in which American pop culture and local Filipino tradition mix flamboyantly, and gossip, storytelling, and extravagant behavior thrive.

A wildly disparate group of characters—from movie stars to waiters, from a young junkie to the richest man in the Philippines—becomes caught up in a spiral of events culminating in a beauty pageant, a film festival, and an assassination. In the center of this maelstrom is Rio, a feisty schoolgirl who will grow up to live in America and look back with longing on the land of her youth.

About the Author

Jessica Hagedorn was born and raised in the Philippines and came to the United States in her early teens. Her novels include ToxicologyDream JungleThe Gangster Of Love, and Dogeaters, winner of the American Book Award and a finalist for the National Book Award. She is also the author of Danger And Beauty, a collection of poetry and prose, and the editor of three anthologies: Manila NoirCharlie Chan Is Dead: An Anthology of Contemporary Asian American Fiction and Charlie Chan Is Dead 2: At Home In The World.

Praise For…

Praise for Dogeaters:

“Hagedorn unwaveringly paints a menacing world, one that should sound an urgent alarm to us now—but the book is so beautiful! It’s painted in the shimmering, fierce, lush colors of memory and longing; it has the radiant evanescence of a dream—and it leaves behind the lingering authority of a dream’s veiled warning.”
The New York Review of Books

“A surrealistically hip epic of Manila . . . Combines narrative drive with a lyric sensibility.”
The San Francisco Chronicle

“As sharp and fast as a street boy’s razor . . . a rich small feast of a book.”
—The New York Times Book Review

Dogeaters erupts from its pages, 50 percent voluptuous fever dream, 50 percent heart-stopping nightmare, 100 percent reality. The hallucinatory vision of this colonial world—the crucible of the innocent, the rapacious, the collaborators, the oblivious, the martyred—feels flawless, irrefutable.  Hagedorn writes with exhilarating stylistic dexterity, deep compassion, humor that ranges from gentle and affectionate to fire-breathing, and immense grace.  The book is every bit as astonishing as it was when it first appeared thirty years ago, and unfortunately much more pertinent—a piercing warning signal, now that we have installed a deranged and brutal pseudo-populist dictator in our own country.”
—Deborah Eisenberg, author of Your Duck is My Duck

“Possibly the most brutally, hilariously accurate portrait of post-colonial Jamaica I’ve ever read. And it’s a novel about the Philippines.”
—Marlon James, author of Black Leopard, Red Wolf 

“Unquestionably a classic, Dogeaters is a tour-de-force that remains as relevant and revelatory as it did when it first gut-punched the literary industry 30 years ago. Its restless prose, its collisions of peoples, cultures, and histories, and its resolute memory-keepers, such as Rio, have much left to say about our troubled times.”
—Rigoberto González, author of The Book of Ruin

“Jessica Hagedorn has been an inspiration to me for nearly thirty years, ever since I read Dogeaters. It is as remarkable now as it was then, an original, raw, and wild novel that has held its power and demands to be read.”
—Viet Thanh Nguyen, author of The Sympathizer 

“A shimmering, ferocious, funny, campy, disturbing, violent, benevolent, dazzling beast of a tale. Dogeaters was a joy to read the first time, but rereading it today made me realize Jessica Hagedorn is the divine mother goddess of novelists.”
—Sandra Cisneros, author of The House on Mango Street

Dogeaters is a fine achievement on a very serious scale . . . This is the definitive novel of the encounter between the Philippines and America and their history of mutual illusion, antagonism, and ambiguous affection. It is a rich and satisfying work and certainly among the best novels I have read this year.”
—Robert Stone, author of Dog Soldiers

“I still vividly remember when Dogeaters came out—it was instantly and rightfully hailed a groundbreaking American classic. Jessica Hagedorn has shaped our ways of understanding modern America and reading American literature. Her Dogeaters is indelible, and indispensable in the American canon.”
—Gina Apostol, author of Insurrecto

“Mixing real-life ghouls with phantoms from the past . . . Hagedorn captured that mixture of love, laughter and sadness that stirs in every Filipino's heart. [Dogeaters] is a mournful, obsessive ballad about Filipino lives left in postcolonial disarray.”
—Randy Gener, The New York Times 

“[Dogeaters] secur[ed] Hagedorn’s reputation as an important voice in Asian American letters. The narrative style impressed readers as well as critics: a multiple-character point of view that wove American pop icons into the Filipino cultural fabric, it illuminated the chaotic and wondrous post-colonial Manila of the 1950s.”
Los Angeles Review of Books 

“No nonfiction book is likely to capture the cultural psychosis of the Phillippines nearly as well as this exceptiona novel about growing up there.”
Entertainment Weekly 

“Entertaining and compelling. . . . At the end, you emerge from its intense, dreamlike world feeling as if you’ve been to the Philippines.”
The Philadelphia Inquirer

“Hagedorn transcends social strata, gender, culture, and politics in this exuberant, witty, and telling portrait of Philippine society.”
The San Diego Union

“A tour-de-force debut . . . A kaleidoscopic view of Manila society—high and low—in which sad and sordid realities are tempered by humor and immense vitality . . . A spicy stew of a novel.”
Kirkus Reviews

“The book succeeds on the strength of its characterization . . . Hagedorn's unflinching view of Manila . . . is leavened by ironic, often humorous observations.”
Publishers Weekly

Coverage from NPR

Product Details
ISBN: 9780140149043
ISBN-10: 014014904X
Publisher: Penguin Books
Publication Date: July 1st, 1991
Pages: 272
Language: English
Series: Contemporary American Fiction