I am so loving all the new books with brown girls on the covers! Today, I bring you a book written by a Filipino author about the drug war in the Philippines from the perspective of a ten-year-old girl. It might seem like a scary story to tell (and it is!) but Gail D. Villanueva has filled this book with love and compassion and takes the chance to teach readers about complexity of the Philippines culture.
Hopefully, by the end of the book, you’ll be craving some yummy kwek-kwek to snack on!
MY FATE ACCORDING TO THE BUTTERFLY BY GAIL D. VILLANUEVA
When superstitious Sab sees a giant black butterfly, an omen of death, she knows that she’s doomed! According to legend, she has one week before her fate catches up with her — on her 11th birthday. With her time running out, all she wants is to celebrate her birthday with her entire family. But her sister, Ate Nadine, stopped speaking to their father one year ago, and Sab doesn’t even know why.
If Sab’s going to get Ate Nadine and their father to reconcile, she’ll have to overcome her fears — of her sister’s anger, of leaving the bubble of her sheltered community, of her upcoming doom — and figure out the cause of their rift.
So Sab and her best friend Pepper start spying on Nadine and digging into their family’s past to determine why, exactly, Nadine won’t speak to their father. But Sab’s adventures across Manila reveal truths about her family more difficult — and dangerous — than she ever anticipated.
Was the Butterfly right? Perhaps Sab is doomed after all!
Trigger Warning: Substance abuse, drug use, colorism, police brutality
My Fate According to the Butterfly is so genuine, and unapologetically Filipino in every page. There is a scene with Filipino street foods, the summer love for dirty ice cream, the uncomfortable MRT, the shouting vendors, the resorts in the Philippines, and the comfort foods we love like sopas. Yet even with the goodness of the Philippines, the author showed us the unpleasant side of our colonial mentality and economic inequalities.
In this book, Gail D. Villanueva tackles complex themes from the perspective of an eleven-year-old. It is not resentment or anger that accompanies Sab’s observance, but confusion. Why does her white best friend get treated better than her? Why do Filipinos idolize a fair complexion but not a darker complexion? What is privilege and how does it affect the minor communities?
Through Sabrina, Gail D. Villanueva explains to her younger readers how colonial mentality works, she also explains drug abuse and mental health in a very simple but non-judgemental way. This greatly impressed me because when I read it I knew that this was not something to scare readers away from but rather to allow them to empathize and understand how the drug war is not an answer.
Superstitions play a very big role in Filipino culture so much so that many things we do are governed by our beliefs. For Sab who is only ten years old, the superstition of the Black Butterfly is not to be taken lightly. Her fear drives Sabrina to investigate why her father and sister, Ate Nadine, no longer speak with each other. She hopes that before she dies her father and sister’s relationship would be mended so that they could have Sab’s eleventh birthday party at their father’s resort.
Be mindful that while My Fate According to the Family highlights the drug abuse and violence here in the Philippines, it also educates readers on the possibility of rehabilitation. Just like the symbolism of the black butterfly, which could possibly be a metaphor about the drug war and its death toll, addiction is not the end for there are chances to change, to be rehabilitated, to be forgiven. That, I believe, is the core of this book. It is coming to understand that love and support help people out of their darkest days.
And this, we so beautifully see in the relationship between Sab and her best friend, Pepper, and Sab with her sister, Ate Nadine. Despite their disbelief in the black butterfly’s meaning, Ate Nadine and Pepper remained by Sab’s side. Being the oldest in my family I related a lot to Ate Nadine’s stern nature, how she would also have to play the role of the mother when Sab needed it.
This book is warmer than a bowl of sopas on a cold day. I loved the characters, the plot, and the writing which made me feel as though this book had a bit of magic realism to it. Overall, My Fate According to the Butterfly is one of those books that is a necessary read for children and teens.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Gail D. Villanueva is a Filipina author born and based in the Philippines. She’s also a web designer, an entrepreneur, and a graphic artist. She loves pineapple pizza, seafood, and chocolate, but not in a single dish together (eww). Gail and her husband live in the outskirts of Manila with their dogs, ducks, turtles, cats, and one friendly but lonesome chicken.
My Fate According to the Butterfly is her debut novel.
I received a free copy of MY FATE ACCORDING TO THE BUTTERFLY BY GAIL D. VILLANUEVA via Edelweiss in exchange for my participation in the Butterfly blog tour. The Butterfly blog tour is hosted by Cara from Little Miss Bookworm, Kate from Your Tita Kate, and Shealea from Shut Up, Shealea. As always, this review is my own subjective opinion.
Also, please do join us for the Butterfly Tour twitter chat this July 27 at 9:00PM Philippines time!
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