Dogeaters By Jessica Hagedorn

3.5 96 Ehn. Been reading too many of these 'hip' post-colonial novels. Enough is enough! Why can't we all just get along??? (Poco lit, Prof B; 300 pages) 96 okay so this is amazing? the way everything is at first foreign and then slowly becomes intertwined? genius. it’s simultaneously heartwarming and heartbreaking. 96 I hated the novel, but liked the play because the format forced Hagedorn to form a coherent and accessible story - and perhaps limit my time with these unlikable characters. I am glad the Book Riot reading challenge (play by an author of color) prompted me to seek out this adaptation. 96 I was disappointed by this book. I really wanted to read a book to help me get a better understanding about life in the Philippines. I found the various characters/situations difficult to keep track of and for the most part I found the characters unlikeable. Amazingly I read the book to the end. Not recommended. 96


This book is really intense and deals with complicated issues such as the politics of colonization, imperialism, race, class, gender, sexuality, and religion in a thoughtful and creative writing style. Not your typical novel or format. That takes some getting used to but I really enjoyed it! 96 I read the play on hoopla while watching the online reading from Two River Theater.

Dogeaters takes place in 1982 from multiple perspectives of life in Manila, Philippines under the Marcos regime. At first, the large cast of characters is overwhelming, but the performances helped me get into its flow, especially in Act 2. Many of its themes ring relevant today: colonial exploitation, power, celebrity, the effects of American influence. Same story, different cast.

One day I hope to watch the the play in-person. Also, this provides a good foundation to approach the novel and a glimpse into this time in history that I know too little about. 96 Actual rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

This play is going to haunt me for a while. A violent dissection of what it means to be Filipino, the power of gossip, and the dark humor of a nation full of sexual violence unfolds in Dogeaters, and the world of 1982 Manila is one impossible to forget. Some of the characters felt underdeveloped, but most of them are fascinating and represent so many interesting areas of life. 96 This is more like a book reflection, rather than a book review.*

“Can you hear me, my fellow Filipinos? They cannot silence me. They cannot silence you. No more! Tama na! Let us wake from our centuries of sleep. We must act now!” (An excerpt from DOGEATERS, the play, by Jessica Hagedorn)

DOGEATERS, the play adaptation of Jessica Hagedorn’s novel with the same title, explores topics of class, the effects of colonialism, and the effects of long-term elitism and corruption. Set in 1982, Jessica Hagedorn’s diverse characters explore difference social facets of Manila (aside from 2 scenes). There are affluent politicians, powerful commanders, celebrities, beauty queens, exiles, the outcasts, and rebels. Through these characters, Jessica Hagedorn explores the limitations of accessing relevant information through mainstream media. How the media can delude the masses to their country’s harsh reality. And the agony of loving one’s country that continues to be brutalized.

With that said, I feel like I’m experiencing a political awakening. Not just after reading DOGEATERS, but also after reading IN THE COUNTRY by Mia Alvar and even with my ongoing reflection of GUN DEALERS DAUGHTER by Gina Apostol. All these stories talking about the Marcos administration really got me thinking, why didn’t I know much about this growing up in the Philippines? Yes, I was young but still.. I participated in protests to impeach former president Joseph Estrada. Did I really understand what I was protesting when at 11 years old? Was I just trying to be part of a movement?

I feel like I’ve been “asleep” for so long. And now that I’m realizing the heaviness of the injustices and ongoing corruption in the Philippines, I feel that I can’t un-know what I have come to realize. I feel a deep sadness (& love and yearning) for the Philippines. The guilt of being privileged that I wasn’t forced to wake up sooner. That I was able to leave my country easily, when so many people can’t. When so many people are drowning in poverty, dying, being being murdered, being erased. I think about Araw ng mga Bayani (National Heroes’ Day in the Philippines). Who are the “heroes” we celebrate? Who has died for the Philippines that continues to be unrecognized? I finished this book and cried deeply reflecting on this.
96 A colorful, interesting play that would have been better if the tone didn't clash between the comedic and dark parts, and if the characters all got equal resolution. 96

Jessica Hagedorn has transformed her bestselling novel about the Philippines during the reign of Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos into an equally powerful theatrical piece that is a multi-layered tour de force. As Harold Bloom writes, Hagedorn expresses the conflicts experienced by Asian immigrants caught between cultures . . . she takes aim at racism in the U.S. and develops in her dramas the themes of displacement and the search for belonging.

Jessica Hagedorn is a performance artist, poet, novelist and playwright, born and raised in the Philippines. Her novels include Dogeaters (Penguin 1990) which was nominated for a National Book Award and The Gangster of Love (Penguin 1996); a short story collection, Danger and Beauty (City Lights 2002). Dogeaters

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