The book “In the Country” by New York-based Filipino writer Mia Alvar is making huge waves in the international literary scene, touching multi-racial readers and gaining recognition from various prominent book reviewers.

'In the Country' has been named a New York Times Book Review Editor's Choice and received critical acclaim from the San Francisco Chronicle, Oprah Magazine, The Seattle Times, Chicago Tribune, and The Huffington Post.

A compilation of 9 stories about exiles, emigrants, and wanderers who begin new lives outside the Philippines, 'In the Country' has given voice to Filipinos in diaspora.

Alvar shared that she is overwhelmed that her book is positively received not just by Filipinos and Fil-Ams but also by a lot of people she calls 'citizens of the world.'

CITIZEN OF THE WORLD

Alvar was born in Manila to a Manilenya and a DavaoeƱo, moved to Bahrain when she was 6 years old and later on settled in New York.

Moving in and out a lot, Alvar said the experience inspired her to be a writer.

“Because I think when you’re having a casual conversation with someone in the elevator it’s very hard for people like me to answer the question ‘where are you from?’ in a very short sentence, so I found characters in books and stories where you could explore those issues a lot more and kind of get into the complicated things about identity and experience,” she said.

To encapsulate the stories of Filipinos moving out of the country, Alvar said it is important for her to show the mixed feeling of loneliness and joy, alienation and connection that Filipinos abroad experience.

“It was important to me in this book to show [some] sort of the displacement and the loneliness, the alienation, I think, that a lot of people feel who don’t fully belong in the place where they were born or maybe forced leave for reasons of work or family and live somewhere else but don’t fully assimilate in their new homelands either," Alvar said.

But it was important for her to show the joy of exploring new horizons.

"It was also important for me to show that it’s not all loneliness and alienation all the time. There are joys in being kind of a world citizen and there are connections that people make across borders with people who don’t share their background,” she added.

Among the 9 stories, Alvar said she enjoyed writing the story "Esmeralda," which is about a woman who cleaned offices in the World Trade Center in New York in 2001 and had a deep connection with one of her co-workers.

"It was important to me to kind of explore their stories beyond their job titles and what they do for work, so what their passions and secrets outside sending money home or serving people their meals," she said.

Alvar said she likes the fact that her book provides references that anybody who reads in English can enjoy and at the same time exposes nuances of the Filipino culture that Pinoys can easily recognize.

The author also has an advice to aspiring writers, saying “If it’s [writing] something that you are passionate about, just keep at it, everybody has that rejection slip pile.”