cover image Halina Filipina: A New Yorker in Manila

Halina Filipina: A New Yorker in Manila

Arnold Arre. Tuttle, $14.99 trade paper (224p) ISBN 978-0-80485-544-0

Is it still culture shock when the culture is supposed to be your own? That’s the question at the heart of this charming fish-in-new-waters love story from Arre (The Mythology Class). Halina Mitchell, a mixed-race Filipino American, takes a trip to Manila, where she meets Crisostomo, a snarky but sweet movie critic who is native to the Philippine capital city. He opens her to new experiences, but meanwhile, her connection to home grows ever more tenuous. Her boyfriend in New York City doesn’t return her calls—while her Filipino family embraces her as one of their own. Still, Halina’s “foreignness” shows in her limited familiarity with Tagalog and Filipino food and customs, and it’s literally put on display when she appears on a hyperactive television game show. (Tagalog is sprinkled throughout the book without translation, though some is understandable from context.) The black-and-white art brings Manila to life with uniquely Filipino settings such as crowded jeepneys and sari-sari convenience stores. The graceful linework makes for appealing and expressive characters in both broad comedic scenes and quietly dramatic moments. While the story relies heavily on the trope of pairing a regular schlub with a beautiful woman, in this rare case it proves a winning formula for readers looking for a fresh twist on romantic comedy. (Aug.)