F. Sionil José or in full Francisco Sionil José (born December 3, 1924) is one of the most widely-read Filipino writers in the English language. His novels and short stories depict the social underpinnings of class struggles and colonialism in Filipino society. José's works - written in English - have been translated into 22 languages, including Korean, Indonesian, Russian, Latvian, Ukrainian and Dutch.
José was born in Rosales, Pangasinan, the setting of many of his stories. He spent his childhood in Barrio Cabugawan, Rosales, where he first began to write. José was of Ilocano descent whose family had migrated to Pangasinan before his birth. Fleeing poverty, his forefathers traveled from Ilocos towards Cagayan Valley through the Santa Fe Trail. Like many migrant families, they brought their lifetime possessions with them, including uprooted molave posts of their old houses and their alsong, a stone mortar for pounding rice.
One of the greatest influences to José was his industrious mother who went out of her way to get him the books he loved to read, while making sure her family did not go hungry despite of poverty and landlessness. José started writing in grade school, at the time he started reading. In the fifth grade, one of José’s teachers opened the school library to her students, which is how José managed to read the novels of José Rizal, Willa Cather’s My Antonia, Faulkner and Steinbeck. Reading about Basilio and Crispin in Rizal’s Noli Me Tangere made the young José cry, because injustice was not an alien thing to him. When José was five years old, his grandfather who was a soldier during the Philippine revolution, had once tearfully showed him the land their family had once tilled but was taken away by rich mestizo landlords who knew how to work the system against illiterates like his grandfather.
José attended the University of Santo Tomas after World War II, but dropped out and plunged into writing and journalism in Manila. In subsequent...
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