Confession, Hybridity, and Language in Gina Apostol’s Gun Dealers’ Daughter By Cecilia Nina Myers Gina Apostol’s multiple languages are reflected in her experiences. She divides her time between New York, Massachusetts, and Manila, speaking English, Filipino, and Waray in all locations, though she publishes her fiction only in English. Her Gun Dealers’ Daughter (2012) was released in two nearly simultaneous editions in both the Philippines and United States. It won the Pen Open Book Award in 2013 in the United States. Its release in the Philippines followed her winning the Filipino National Book Award in 1997 and 2010 for her previous novels Biolepsy and The Revolution According to Raymundo Mata, respectively. The worlds that Apostol inhabits emerge in Gun Dealers’ Daughter, which takes place in numerous locales and over many decades, and it signifies a location of possible tensions among the Philippines and the United States. In particular, the novel contributes to current debates within the Philippines regarding development of Filipino English as distinct from American English. Apostol creates a first-person narrator, Soledad Soliman, who is literally the daughter of a gun dealer prominent among the country’s elite, including Dictator Ferdinand Marcos. The Filipino edition of the book bears images of coins on its cover, highlighting Apostol’s concern with the economics of war and reminding readers of the economic toll that Ferdinand Marcos’ dictatorship had on the country. In the United States, by contrast, the book cover features an abstract image of a woman’s face on both its hardbound and paperback versions, accentuating the novel’s focus on Soledad’s narrative voice and her plight, which is presumed to interest American readers more. Soledad struggles between the privileged life she enjoys with parents who have benefitted from the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos, and her own increasing knowledge of the injustices of his regime. She eventually joins a group of revolutionaries with an overtly anti-Marcos agenda. However, Soledad’s experiences are never entirely free of ambivalence. She calls herself “a martial-law baby,” referencing the declaration of martial law in 1972, which ensured that Marcos prolonged his reign over the Philippines (Gun Dealers Daughter 45-46). She also recalls spending part of her childhood hiding in the United States with her gun-dealing parents (45). However, most of her early life is spent in the Philippines, going with her parents to events at which they ingratiate themselves with members of the Marcos regime, the elite of the country.
In Gun Dealers’ Daughter, Gina Apostol creates multiple tensions reflecting the relationship between the United States and the Philippines and among different linguistic codes. Languages mix throughout the text, set in the Marcos Era Philippines, as symbols of fluidity and disorientation. Other characters’ frequent complex linguistic mix proves alienating for protagonist and narrator Soledad Soliman. Apostol renders Soledad as a young girl disoriented by her inability to competently use native Filipino languages because she spent most of her childhood in the United States and simultaneously traumatized by her role as the daughter of a member of former President Ferdinand Marcos’s inner circle.
Myers, Cecilia Nina
"Confession, Hybridity, and Language in Gina Apostol’s Gun Dealers’ Daughter,"
Asian American Literature: Discourses & Pedagogies: Vol. 7, Article 10.
Available at: https://scholarworks.sjsu.edu/aaldp/vol7/iss1/10
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