ecocriticism, ecofeminism, activism, Filipino American literature, LGBTQ literature


Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Studies | Literature in English, North America, Ethnic and Cultural Minority | Other Arts and Humanities

Document Type

Critical Essay (Special Topic)




Many of the challenges faced by environmental activists are issues of scale. How can vital changes be enacted and sustained over the necessarily long time scales of environmental restoration? Elaine Castillo’s America Is Not the Heart (2018) illuminates a possible avenue for activists engaged in environmental justice work. Parts of the book contains extensive flashbacks to Hero’s, the protagonist’s, time as part of a cadre of the New People’s Army in the Philippines during the Marcos dictatorship. Though the NPA is not strictly an environmental activist group, the organization takes their cues from queer ecofeminist frameworks and the intersections between class, gender and sexuality, and exploited landscapes. At these queer ecofeminist intersections, the NPA can be read a family of choice, as the group comprises several unrelated individuals who chose to live, work, and learn together, akin to a family. One particular aspect of familial relations that the NPA takes on is an attention to generational storytelling and knowledge inheritance. New members are encouraged to share their family legends, regional mythos, etc., to build up the cadre’s stores of knowledge. In this way, the group’s efforts can continue on, even if members leave or are forcefully removed. Family of choice structures are reflected in the small, daily choices on which these long-term changes are built, as Hero's considerably smaller, quieter life after the NPA contains echoes of her life during the height of her activist work.