Alumit, Noel 1968-
Alumit, Noel 1968-
Born 1968, in Baguio City, the Philippines. Education: University of Southern California, B.F.A.; studied playwriting at the David Henry Hwang Writers Institute at East West Players. Hobbies and other interests: Long-distance running and kung fu.
Home—Los Angeles, CA. E-mail—[email protected]
Actor, writer, and performance artist. Asian Pacific AIDS Intervention Team, Los Angeles, CA, beginning c. 1998. Has played parts on the television shows Beverly Hills 90210, The Young and the Restless, and in the movie Red Surf, 1990. Has performed in Los Angeles stage productions, including the world premiere of Chay Yew's A Language of Their Own and Who's Afraid of Edward Albee.
Los Angeles Weekly Award for ensemble work, for Chay Yew's A Language of Their Own; Pen Center USA West's Emerging Voices fellowship; University of California, Los Angeles Community Access scholarship to UCLA's Writer's Extension.
Letters to Montgomery Clift (novel), MacAdam/Cage Publishers (San Francisco, CA), 2002.
Talking to the Moon (novel), Carroll & Graf (New York, NY), 2007.
Author of plays, including one-man shows The Rice Room: Scenes from a Bar, and Master of the (Miss) Universe, and one-act play Mr. & Mrs. La Questa Go Dancing. Contributor to anthologies, including Tilting the Continent: Southeast Asian American Writing, New Rivers Press, and Take Out, Queer Writing from Asian Pacific America, Asian American Writers Workshop/Temple University; contributor to periodicals, including USA Today, Advocate, DisOrient, Frontiers Magazine, Filipinas, IN Los Angeles, and Noodle. Columnist for Arts and Understanding, America's AIDS Magazine.
In 1986, while Noel Alumit was a freshman at the University of Southern California, his father left his family to return to his birthplace in the Philippines. His father eventually returned to the States and to his family twelve years later, but his absence deeply affected Alumit and influenced the topic of his first novel, Letters to Montgomery Clift.
Alumit was born in the Philippines, but his family immigrated to the United States and created a home for themselves in Los Angeles. Alumit suspects that his father's departure, as he stated in a commentary about his novel for the online publication Our Own Voice, had something to do with his father's need to "recapture a bit of himself that had vanished. That bit of himself secured somewhere on an island in the ocean." Due to this ever-present theme in Alumit's life, he thought that the writing of his novel would help him explore various "forms of disappearing." He explained that in the novel, he tried to look "at people and things that managed to slip away: friends, family, and ideals that vanished over time. More importantly, I illustrated the desperate attempts to retrieve some of those people or things."
Letters to Montgomery Clift is told through the eyes of the protagonist Bong Bong Luwad, who becomes fascinated with a 1950s movie starring Montgomery Clift. Bong Bong had been sent from the Philippines to the United States to live with his aunt after his mother had been beaten by government officials loyal to the Marcos regime and his father had been taken away. Bong Bong's aunt, in an attempt to help the young boy come to terms with his longing for his parents, tells him to write letters to saints or to dead relatives to ask for favors, such as returning his parents to him.
Bong Bong had, early on, learned to escape his sorrows by watching old black-and-white movies on television. His favorite movie was The Search (1948) in which Montgomery Clift helps a young boy find his mother. Due to his fascination with this movie, Bong Bong eventually convinces himself that the deceased movie star is the perfect person to whom to write letters and plead for his parents' safe return.
It is through his evolving admiration for Clift that Bong Bong begins to create an image of himself. As he approaches adolescence, his fantasy world deepens. He escapes, in his mind, with Clift to exotic locations like Hawaii, the Nevada desert, Europe, and small cabins in the woods—places he visits through other Clift movies. Any place is better than his present-day Los Angeles, which reminds him that his parents are not with him. Bong Bong thus grows up using Clift as a sort of surrogate parent.
"This occasionally radiant coming-of-age tale," wrote a Publishers Weekly contributor, "crams human rights violations, the cultural and emotional turmoil of immigrant life, self-mutilation, family ties, abortion, coming out and the ubiquitous search for self all into a brisk, sometimes jarring read."
Although Alumit's story is compelling for his revelation of human drama, he does not forget his sense of humor. As an example, Ghalib Shiraz Dhalla, in a review for the online publication Asian Week, relates one of the humorous parts of the story, in which Bong Bong becomes extremely curious about the sounds of lovemaking that are emitted from his neighbor's apartment below. Bong Bong's aunt warns him that the neighbor is evil and that he should completely ignore him. Contrary to his aunt's wishes, Bong Bong, one day, hides in the laundry room, waiting for the neighbor to appear. After Bong Bong sees the young man, he returns to his own apartment and writes his own conclusions in his next letter to Clift. If that young neighbor is evil, Bong Bong writes: "Evil is real good-looking."
Alumit has also written and performed in two one-man shows, The Rice Room: Scenes from a Bar, which explores the lives of gay Asian men, and Master of the (Miss) Universe. After a very successful tour with these two shows, he wrote a one-act play, Mr. & Mrs. La Questa Go Dancing, which was produced by Teatro Ng Tanan in San Francisco. All of these works have been critically acclaimed, especially by the California press.
In his second novel, Talking to the Moon, Alumit writes of a hate crime and a family tragedy. Inspired by a real-life 1999 shooting in Los Angeles, the story begins with mailman Jory Lalaban being shot because he is Philippine-American. The story is told by four main characters: Jory; his wife, Belen; his son, Emerson; and Emerson's ex-boyfriend, Michael. Through these characters eyes, the reader learns of the death of the Lalaban's son Jun, Belen's growing concerns of finances and the belief that she has been cursed by her mother angry over her shotgun wedding, and Emerson's estrangement from his mother because of his homosexuality and the strange phone calls he receives from his dead brother.
Talking about the book with Michael Leonard in an interview on the Curled up with a Good Book Web site, Alumit noted: "The book I wanted to write would explore Love and Hate and how they are so intertwined, particularly in a family. I don't know any family where some member doesn't loathe another member. Regardless, those members are forever bonded, whether it be parent/child, nephew/aunt, cousin/cousin." Several reviewers praised Alumit's effort. "Alumit can stage a satisfying scene, and many of those scenes … take surprising but compelling turns," wrote Paul Russell in the Lambda Book Report. "By the novel's end something rare, delicate and shimmering has been conjured." A Publishers Weekly contributor noted that "Alumit keeps the historically rich story moving."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Kirkus Reviews, November 15, 2006, review of Talking to the Moon, p. 1139.
Lambda Book Report, spring, 2007, Paul Russell, review of Talking to the Moon.
Publishers Weekly, January 28, 2002, review of Letters to Montgomery Clift, p. 270; November 27, 2006, review of Talking to the Moon, p. 30.
Asian Week,http://www.asianweek.com/ (March 30, 2003), Ghalib Shiraz Dhalla, "For Saints and Sinners."
Curled up with a Good Book,http://www.curledup.com/ (July 25, 2007), Michael Leonard, "Noel Alumit Talking to the Moon" (interview with author) and review of Talking to the Moon.
Gay Asian Pacific Support Network,http://www.gapsn.org/ (July 25, 2007), "GAPSN Member, Noel Alumit."
LA Weekly,http://www.laweekly.com/ (February 28, 2007), Gendy Alimurung, "Noel Alumit at Vroman's and Book Soup."
Our Own Voice,http://www.oovrag.com/ (June 17, 2002), Noel Alumit, review of Letters to Montgomery Clift.