Leaving Yesler is Peter Bacho’s first coming-of-age novel. The plot follows the tumultuous life of Bobby Vicente, who in 1968 is almost eighteen. Bobby is hoping for a better future beyond Seattle’s Yesler Terrace housing project. He dreams of going to college. However, in aquick order, he has to confront a tragic trifecta – the deaths of his beloved Creole mother and his protective older brother Paulie (killed in Vietnam) – and the looming death of his Filipino father. In his journey to adulthood, Bobby faces the questions about his ethnic and sexual identities, a body-hungry draft board eager to snatch up boys from the underclass, and a relationship with a beautiful young woman by the name of Deena.
I’ve been reminiscing my youth after seeing all these back to school ads and overachieving Asian teenagers flocking to the nearest Barnes & Noble to get a head start on their school work. To add on to that, reading Peter Bacho’s Leaving Yesler made me realize how much I wanted to read a book like this back in high school or junior high. Although the main protagonist’s ethnicity is up for questions as the story progresses, Leaving Yesler is about being a Fil-Am at the heart of its story. What I really enjoy about Leaving Yesler is the relationships between the main characters and the Filipino-American men in his life. It’s a breath of fresh air to actually see Asian-American male characters depicted in a positive light in American novels (please refer to YOMYOMF’s post on this topic). Among my favorite characters in the novel is Paulie Vicente, the deceased older brother of the main character who appears again in spirit. I knew I was hooked into the story after his appearance in the story, especially his relationship with his younger brother Bobby. Also, did I mention that there is tons of fighting and sexual situations in the story? As Bacho stated in one of his interviews, the young adult genre is getting edgier and more interesting.
The Filipino-American author’s first young adult novel is among the many books on my nightstand, which includes W.P. Kinsella’s Shoeless Joe and Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. Everyone can relate to some of the problems the main protagonist faces throughout the novel. For some of us it means that the experiences we faced growing up sucked, but we are better people for surviving through our adolescence. This is not a review, but more of a book recommendation as I got a lot going on my end at the moment. The following is a list of book reviews (beware of spoilers) for Peter Bacho’s Leaving Yesler and you can check out my interview with the Fil-Am author in Maryland here.