November 6, 2019

Patron Saints of Nothing by Randy Ribay

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , at 8:32 pm by suebe2

Patron Saints of Nothing
by Randy Ribay
Kokila

For years Jay and his cousin Jun wrote each other — not e-mails, not texts but real paper letters.  Jay was born in the Philippines but raised in the US while Jun remained in the island nation, growing up in an exclusive gated community.

Jay has started to hear back from colleges when he learns that his cousin has been killed.  Although his Filipino father refuses to tell him anything, his mother reveals that Jun had been using drugs.  His death was one of many sanctioned by Philippine President Duterte in the nation’s war against drugs.

Jay knows this can’t be true.  Jun was ridiculously smart and often at odds with his father, a high ranking police official who rules the family with an iron fist.  Jay decides to give up his spring break to travel to the Philippines and find out what really happened.

I’m not going to spoil the plot. If you want to know what happened, you will have to read the book. Suffice it to say that Jay’s eyes are opened when he returns to the country of his birth.

Author Randy Ribay has done an excellent job in creating a complex situation that is not as simple or straight forward as many people would believe.  In Jay, he has also created a character that defies stereotype.  Readers will realize just how little they know about the Philippines, both historically and in terms of the geography and culture.

What authority does Ribay have to write this book?  Like his character, he was born in the Philippines but grew up in the Midwest.

One thing that would have helped me was a Tagalog glossary since phrases in this Filipino language pepper the text.  Then again, the omission of a glossary may have been intentional since its absence left my floundering alongside the main character.

While mature middle school readers could deal with the content, I’m not sure they would find Jay’s concern about his college applications interesting or relatable.   This book is definitely worth sharing in the classroom as it is sure to spark discussions on diversity, media, and more.   An excellent choice for book club reading.

–SueBE

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