American Son is a novel that was written by American author Brian Ascalon Roley and published by W. W. Norton & Company Publishing in paperback format in May 2001. It was originally published exclusively in the English langauge, but was later translated to Filipino because of the subject matter of the novel.
The book chronicles the lives of two Filipino brothers and their semi-successful attempts to assimilate into the culture and society of Southern California. One brother, Tomas, has chosen the rough way of life. He dresses in the style of Mexican gangsters, and he breeds attack dogs and sells them to Hollywood celebrities for a living. The other brother, Gabe, does the opposite. He tries to maintain his good grades, while also attempting to keep his mother from knowing about Tomas' dangerous illicit activities. Despite his attempts to distance himself from the way that Tomas lives, Gabe finds himself increasingly drawn towards it. The struggles of both of the brothers are told throughout the book.
This story is told with a keen purity that expertly weaves together a powerful message about foreign inhabitants of the United States of America and an engrossing tale of two brothers doing all that they can to survive. It is because of these traits that the book received the handful of awards that it did. It received the Best Book Award in the Los Angeles Times and the Association for Asian American Studies Book award, both in 2001. It was also a notable selection in a 2001 issue of the New York Times.
There is no denying that the number of awards that American Son has received, although most are fairly prestigious, is small, and this is in no part indicative of the novel's quality. Many speculate that because the book was written by a wholly unknown author, few people saw it, which led to few critics reviewing it. If this book has been more popular, it likely could have won many more awards than it did.
The story of the two brothers presented in American Son is a powerful one that resonates with readers who can relate to their struggles. It speaks to the difficulties of being an immigrant and of assimilating into an unfamiliar culture. The book is packed with moments of tension and drama as the brothers try to cope with their individual circumstances. It is also a heart-warming story of family, of loyalty, and of brotherly love.