A Village in the Fields, a Novel
It is 1997. Fausto Empleo is the last of the retired farm workers living at Agbayani Retirement Village. As his life draws to a close, Fausto expects a visit from a relative. But before his arrival, Fausto insists on sharing his life story to the nurse caring for him. His account reflects the hopes and dreams of Filipinos seeking a better life in America amid hardships. Enrado’s debut novel aptly captures the trials and tribulations of Filipino-American life, especially for farm workers fighting for justice during the epic yet turbulent Delano grape strike.
Rising author and storyteller Patty Enrado raises awareness to a portion of history that is often overlooked and not well represented in literature. While her third-person narrative focuses on the account of her fictional character, Fausto Empleo, Enrado tightly weaves in the plight of Filipinos (1920s-1970s) striving for the American dream. Enrado has created a well-developed cast, many who function in foiled roles in the life of one stubborn, yet courageous man. Fausto, who is a fierce representation of Filipinos’ perseverance for dignity, constantly faces racial inequality and is forced to make difficult decisions within a flurry of undermining circumstances. The results—many times—are harsh, especially to his family.
Enrado’s writing style immediately draws readers into Fausto’s gripping tale from the get go with an opening scene in the historic Agbayani Retirement Village. Enrado punctuates her plot with Filipino and Spanish language and uses conversational scenes to develop her characters and story, as well as to reenact the tension felt by immigrants trying to plant roots in a new country. Alternating between the present and flashbacks to Fausto’s life experiences, Enrado pays special attention to the camaraderie and strife between manong (brothers) while lacing historical references from the early to mid 20th century. Enrado closes with a note listing historical deviations that have been made to suit her text.
Earmarking the 50th anniversary of the Delano grape strike, A Village in the Fields is not only a timely must read, but also a welcome addition to Filipino-American literature!
Eastwind Books of Berkeley