Carlos Bulosan

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Carlos Bulosan
Bulosan Marker in Binalonan.jpg
Historical marker of Bulosan in Binalonan, Pangasinan
Carlos Sampayan Bulosan

(1913-11-24)November 24, 1913
DiedSeptember 11, 1956(1956-09-11) (aged 42)
Seattle, Washington, United States
OccupationNovelist, essayist, labor union organizer

Carlos Sampayan Bulosan (November 24, 1913[1] – September 11, 1956) was an English-language Filipino novelist and poet who spent most of his life in the United States. His best-known work today is the semi-autobiographical America Is in the Heart, but he first gained fame for his 1943 essay on The Freedom from Want.

Early life and immigration[edit]

Bulosan was born to Ilocano parents in the Philippines in Binalonan, Pangasinan. There is considerable debate around his actual birth date, as he himself used several dates, but 1911 is generally considered the most reliable answer, based on his baptismal records, but according to the late Lorenzo Duyanen Sampayan, his childhood playmate and nephew, Carlos was born on November 2, 1913. Most of his youth was spent in the countryside as a farmer. It is during his youth that he and his family were economically impoverished by the rich and political elite, which would become one of the main themes of his writing. His home town is also the starting point of his famous semi-autobiographical novel, America is in the Heart.

Following the pattern of many Filipinos during the American colonial period, he left for America on July 22, 1930 at age 17, in the hope of finding salvation from the economic depression of his home. He never again saw his Philippine homeland. Upon arriving in Seattle, he met with racism and was forced to work in low paying jobs. He worked as a farmworker, harvesting grapes and asparagus, and doing other types of hard work in the fields of California. He also worked as a dishwasher with his brother and Lorenzo in the famous Madonna Inn in San Luis Obispo.

Labor movement work[edit]

Bulosan was active in labour movement along the Pacific coast of the United States and edited the 1952 Yearbook for International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 37, a predominantly Filipino American cannery trade union based in Seattle.


There is some controversy surrounding the accuracy of events recorded within America Is in the Heart. He is celebrated for giving a post-colonial, Asian immigrant perspective to the labor movement in America and for telling the experience of Filipinos working in the U.S. during the 1930s and '40s. In the 1970s, with a resurgence in Asian/Pacific Islander American activism, his unpublished writings were discovered in a library in the University of Washington leading to posthumous releases of several unfinished works and anthologies of his poetry.

His other novels include The Laughter of My Father, which were originally published as short sketches, and the posthumously published The Cry and the Dedication which detailed the Hukbalahap Rebellion in the Philippines.

One of his most famous essays, published in March 1943, was chosen by The Saturday Evening Post to accompany its publication of the Norman Rockwell painting Freedom from Want, part of a series based on Franklin D. Roosevelt's "Four Freedoms" speech.[2] Maxim Lieber was his literary agent in 1944.

Death and legacy[edit]

As a labor organizer and socialist writer, he was blacklisted. Denied a means to provide for himself, his later years were of flight and hardship, probably including alcoholism.[3] He died in Seattle suffering from an advanced stage of bronchopneumonia. He is buried at Mount Pleasant Cemetery on Queen Anne Hill in Seattle.

Bulosan's works and legacy is heralded in a permanent exhibition, "The Carlos Bulosan Memorial Exhibit," at the Eastern Hotel in Seattle's International District. Its centerpiece mural is titled "Secrets of History"[4] and was created by Eliseo Art Silva.[5]



  1. ^ There is disagreement over the date of his birth, as his baptismal papers list it as November 2, 1911; see Zhang, Aiping. Huang, Guiyou, ed. Asian American Short Story Writers: An A-to-Z Guide. 2003: Greenwood. p. 23. ISBN 9780313322297. Retrieved 15 September 2014. Some sources say 1914; for a list of references on this problem, see San Juan, Jr, E. "Carlos Bulosan: Critique and Revolution". Balikbayang Sinta: An E. San Juan Reader. Ateneo de Manila University Press and Flipside Publishing. ISBN 9789719951551. Retrieved 15 September 2014.
  2. ^ Chris Vials (2009). Realism for the Masses: Aesthetics, Popular Front Pluralism, and U.S. Culture, 1935-1947. Univ. Press of Mississippi. p. 21. ISBN 978-1-60473-349-5.
  3. ^
  4. ^ Mack, Kathy. "Carlos Bulosan Mural". Pink Chalk Studio-Flickr. Retrieved Nov 1999. Check date values in: |accessdate= (help)
  5. ^ Magalong, Michelle. "My HiFi.Day 16 of #FAHM: Read Carlos Bulosan". Archived from the original on 2015-06-23. Retrieved 2015-06-17.


Further reading[edit]

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