“Walang hiya” means “(you have) no shame,” in the Tagalog language. You can probably guess that translation when reading this story, since this is a story about Filipino-Americans trying to fit in with America while maintaining their culture and honor. What surprised me was finding out that “walang hiya” is one of the worst insults of that language. It’s said between family members almost casually within these pages. Then again, I suppose “motherfucker” would be one of the worst English language insults, and that’s not such a big deal in some circles.

Our story is told by Patricia, a college-grad turned photographer. Her brother considers her a large question mark. “You’re nothing but a question to me,” (Sipin, 40) says her brother Ben, who got a tattoo of a question mark for that reason. Ben, under pressure from his immigrant family, is marrying for money. He actually plans to divorce his bride years down the line and run off with what he can. “Walang Hiya, Brother” takes place before and during the wedding, with a quick epilogue after all the twists and turns of the story play out.

There’s a general sense of inevitability throughout “Walang Hiya, Brother” as Ben’s big day approaches, and I’m not sure if that works in the story’s favor. As enjoyable as Patricia is as a protagonist (she’s insightful, perceptive, and just plain likeable), there’s no getting around the fact that this is not her story. The fact that Ben’s marriage will be temporary lowers the stakes— his plan is to marry and divorce and reap in the money. True, this plan is against Ben’s wishes, but he’s not exactly throwing his entire life away. When the reader only has Patricia’s perspective to go on, then there’s even less reason to care. Then again, that may be part of the point Sipin was going for: conflict arises from Patricia trying to hold onto innocence in the midst of a cynical gambit. All the family members are feeling shame for different reasons. The wedding itself is not as important as the characters trying to live through it.

There’s not much to say on this one— it’s all right, wouldn’t be a waste of time to check out.

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Published by Nick Edinger