Interview: Lysley Tenorio at The Rumpus

Rumpus: Filipino parents are often unsupportive of their children’s pursuit of the arts. Were you conditioned, like me, to become a doctor or lawyer? What did your parents think of your English major in college, and what does your Mom and siblings think about your work now? Did they read your book?

Tenorio: My parents certainly liked the idea of my becoming a lawyer or a doctor, but they never sat me down and said I had to become one. For the most part, they were really hands off and that was a real saving grace for me. When I was in graduate school doing my MFA at the University of Oregon, I don’t even know how much my mother understood what I was doing.  She knew that I was trying to write a book, and that was it.  She was thinking, ‘My son’s getting a master’s,’ and that made her really happy. I love that. That’s all she needed to know.

My family has been nothing but supportive. When the book came out, they were really happy. My mother dropped out of school in the sixth grade in the Philippines, and while she can speak English, reading my work would be really tough for her. But my sister told me when my mother saw my book at the bookstore, she got weepy and kissed it.

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