I was fortunate to meet award winning author Peter Bacho at the Asian American Literary Review’s 8: A Symposium. I had a great time having a conversation with Peter Bacho in Visaya and about his latest novel, Leaving Yesler. For those who don’t know Peter Bacho, he is an award winning Filipino-American author. Bacho is also an attorney and teaches at the University of Washington, Tacoma. His nonfiction book Boxing in Black and White made the Children’s Center for Books Best Book List in 1999. He also won an American Book Award for Cebu in 2006, a Washington Governor’s Writers Award and The Murray Morgan Prize for A Dark Blue Suit. Cebu was listed as one of the top 100 books written by a University of Washington writer over the past century. I was able to get my copy of Cebu signed by Peter Bacho and an interview with the Fil-Am author.
What can you tell us about your latest novel?
Leaving Yesler is about a mixed raced kid by the name of Bobby Vicente who confronts a tragic trifecta – the deaths of his beloved Creole mother and his protective older brother (killed in Vietnam) – and the looming death of his Filipino father. Bobby who is almost 18 tries to get out of Seattle’s Yesler Terrace housing project in 1968. He looks to make his way to a better life via college.
What made you decide to become a writer and educator?
I stumbled into it. In terms of fiction writing, I was doing a lot of factual work writing as an editorial contributor for Christian Science Monitor. I was doing that quite a bit in the 80s with a dream of some point in time to achieve a certain level there and going on to do literature. It was a natural progression.
Why do you think there is a lack of Filipino professors in the states?
I guess they’re off doing engineering or going into the medical field. Being a professor is a good job, except it’s not a very well paying job compared to the other professions.
How do you introduce Western audiences to your work like Cebu that explores the Filipino experience and has a lot of Visayan dialect in it?
They have to come into the world that I create. I don’t feel compelled to do too much of anything of that sort.
Do you have any upcoming novels in the works?
Leaving Yesler is my last one. I’m just tired.
Do you have any advice for Filipinos and Asian Americans who want to become writers?
Being a writer is an avocation. You know you got to keep your day job because there are actually very few people who can make a living as a writer. If this is passion enough, then I would suggest getting the basic books like Gardner’s The Art of Fiction and reading a lot. Also, you need to have a style that you can emulate and are comfortable with until you have your own style. At some point in time you will have your own voice. However, in the beginning you are going to be copycatting, but that’s ok because it’s a natural progression.