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The Gangster of Love Paperback – October 1, 1997


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 311 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books (October 1, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140159703
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140159707
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.7 x 7.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #836,301 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Jessica Hagedorn received high praise for her debut novel, Dogeaters, which took place in Manila. Her second book shows that Dogeaters was no fluke. The Gangster of Love opens in Manila but the action quickly moves to San Francisco and then New York before turning full circle. Hagedorn's worlds are peopled with a maelstrom of jostling, exuberant characters. The focal point of this storm of humanity is Raquel (Rocky) Rivera. The arc of her journey from Manila to the United States and back will include a boyfriend named Elvis Chang (with whom she plays in a rock band called Gangsters of Love), a daughter, a flock of drag queens, and jobs as receptionist at an acupuncture clinic and waitress at a French-Vietnamese bistro. Original, exhilarating and electric, The Gangster of Love takes a fresh look at family and questions of race, culture and identity. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Hagedorn's long-awaited but ultimately disappointing second novel (her first, Dogeaters, was a finalist for the National Book Award) is the mostly first-person account of Rocky Rivera, who has emigrated from the Philippines to the United States along with her mother and her emotionally disturbed brother, Voltaire. Rocky has a hippyish adolescence in 1970s San Francisco, then moves to New York City with her boyfriend, Elvis Chang, and her best friend, a photographer named Keiko. Rocky and Elvis form a band, while Keiko enjoys huge (and rather improbable) success as an artist. While Hagedorn's first novel utilized multiple perspectives and collage techniques to great effect, here her occasional shifts in point of view seem motivated mainly by an inability to keep her somewhat meandering novel moving along. Offering little in the way of plot, the book's narcissistic characters and bohemian milieu soon begin to wear thin. Hagedorn does remain a sharp observer of cross-cultural identity as her Filipino characters adjust to life in the U.S.; the novel is at its best when dealing head-on with issues of assimilation. But on the whole, this feels like apprentice work in comparison to what Hagedorn achieved in her debut.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Customer Reviews

My only problem was that the book became really confusing once in the middle.
painthesunblack
The Gangster of Love is a book about a Filipino girl, Raquel or Rocky Rivera, who moves to San Francisco from Manila, Philippines.
Catherine
The layers of irony in the first page of this novel is a testimony to the story that follows.
Aurelia Lorca

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By JCB VINE VOICE on June 12, 2001
Format: Paperback
It's not surprising that people are left confused after reading Hagedorn's _The Gangster of Love_. In many ways, it embellishes the postcolonial nightmare of Filipinos, embodied in Rocky Riveras's family, that non-Filipinos may not understand. As a Filipino American, I must confess, there were parts of the novel that confused me as well. The read felt cumbersome at times, almost contrived, and cliche. Rocky Rivera's journey into the American landscape seemed too incredible for a first generation Filipino American to experience. The novel excels in destabilizing boundaries--ethnic, racial, gender, and sexual--and challenging convential narrative schema. If her unorthodox construction of chapters and narrative structure was meant to symbolize the dystopic, fragmented, or neocolonial mindset of Filipinos, I don't think Hagedorn was successful. I don't doubt Hagedorn's innovative talents as an artist and writer. Her novel _Dogeaters_, is brilliant. _The Gangster of Love_, unfortunately doesn't compare.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Catherine on October 24, 2002
Format: Paperback
The Gangster of Love is a book about a Filipino girl, Raquel or Rocky Rivera, who moves to San Francisco from Manila, Philippines. She moves to San Francisco with her brother who had unusual depression moods and her wild mother, leaving behind her father and her older sister in Manila. Rocky's mother and father had an unusual on and off relationship that caused Rocky's mother, Milagros, to leave her father and oldest daughter. Her mother is a wild person who enjoys cooking lumpias and she starts her own store to make a living called "Lumpia X Press." Rocky's brother becomes depressed on and off and he sometimes has temper tantrums in the middle of the night. One of the things he really wants to do is spend time with Rocky.
Rocky is a young woman who enjoys writing poetry and songs. She meets her boyfriend, Elvis, who is starting a band. Rocky and Elvis are introduced together by her brother and they become very close in their relationship. Rocky is in a point in her life where she wants to "find herself." By finding herself, Rocky sets out on a road trip with her boyfriend, and two other band mates, to New York to find a record deal there. She is overcome with some obstacles like leaving her mother to move to New York, not spending time with her brother, making decisions about life, sex, and drugs.
I enjoyed this book because it had some humorous parts. The author didn't want their readers to be bored so she included some jokes to lighten up the story. Most of the book was humorous to me because many of her jokes were Filipino-related and I could relate to them. I don't think people who don't understand the Filipino culture very well will understand many of the jokes, but others non-Filipinos will find some of her jokes amusing.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 11, 1999
Format: Paperback
This book hooks you immediately and rarely lulls. The female characters are fascinating, but the male characters seem 2-dimensional (although, this may not be unrealistic). The main character's best friend Keiko is one of the wildest, most interesting characters I've seen in print! It reads more like a poem, gritty and brilliant and chaotic, with the voice often changing from character to character, giving an even broader portrait of the dynamics at play. My only complaint was that the story seemed to wander, giving it an almost Kerouac-type feel, seeming more incidental than integral, more like a biography in poem than a novel. Overall, it was a great read which I devoured in two days, and I look forward to more of Ms Hagedorn's work.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By L. A. Vitale on August 24, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I enjoyed reading this novel a lot, which had a lot to do with the Hagedorn's writing style. "The Gangster of Love" is a fast paced, edgy novel filled with great writing, interesting characters and lots of drama. This novel is anything but DULL!

This novel seems to be a cross between a coming of age story and a cultural identity story. The novel starts/opens in the 1970s and moves from that point forward based on the life of lead character, Raquel (Rocky) Rivera, Raquel's family, her boyfriend Elvis Chang, Rocky's band and her best friend, Keiko. Sex, drugs, rock and roll, along with references to Jimi Hendrix & Imelda Marcos, as well as the Filipino-American experience are all touched upon in this novel.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Juniper Sanae on February 24, 2007
Format: Paperback
I read this book for an Asian American history class and I (as well as my entire class) really enjoyed it. Unlike other Asian American literature, Jessica Hagedorn does not FOCUS on her character's Fillipina identity but instead offers it as part of a more complicated whole. This may put some people off but for me it made Rocky's character less one dimensional and much more interesting. True, as one critic has already complained, this book is not going to go on long, nostalgic descriptions of well-loved aspects of Fillipino culture, but that's not the point. This is a fast-paced novel about a Filipina growing up in the punk scene (first in San Franscisco, then New York); it is a coming of age story. However I disagree that this book does not deserve a place in Fil-Am literature. Quite oppositely, I believe this book depicts Fil-Ams in modern American culture and how they relate to others "on the fringe" of society. That Hagedorn does not focus solely on the how ethnic her characters are helps to see them as people rather than just representatives of an ethnicity. The switches in perspective help the reader to step back from Rocky and see what life is like from the perspective of other people living in her life. This allows the reader to create a more objective understanding of Rocky and the world she lives in.
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