Review by Lannie Stabile
“The begonias are brighter every year.”
The begonias first appear, hopeful and determined, in the opening poem of Keana Aguila Labra’s collection, No Saints. Labra goes on to talk about the strength and resiliency of three generations of Filipinx women. She also highlights their habit of undermining their own accomplishments. And, here, we encounter the stubborn begonias again.
I could engage an old metaphor of a flower growing in concrete. How it perseveres when in the face of adversity. But I think, instead, we should consider the concrete. Maybe the hard, unyielding material is not mankind’s intolerance of what is other, as we have always thought. Listen, again, to the poet when she says, “My mother is currently reading a book she claims is not a book, ‘it’s too thin, anak, but it’s easier for me,’ and I wish she wouldn’t shrink herself so.” Listen, again, when she says, “Girls can resist domesticity, but as the eldest, you are chained to it.” Perhaps the concrete is the expectation of a grandmother. Of a mother. Of a daughter. Who are both proud and ashamed of their roots.