America Is in the Heart

Adapted from the classic novel by Carlos Bulosan

Directed by Frank Chi • Starring Hasan Minhaj, Ivy Quicho & Junot Díaz

Presented by

Over 45 million immigrants have become Americans since Carlos Bulosan's America Is in the Heart was published in 1943. The novel captured his life as a Filipino American then, but his words still resonate with the greater immigrant experience today.

This film, created by Frank Chi and presented by the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center, features a passage read by comedian Hasan Minhaj, community organizer Ivy Quicho of AF3IRM National, and writer Junot Díaz, and snapshots of immigrants throughout the United States.

Special thanks to all the community groups that partnered with us for this film, including Carlos Rosario International Public Charter School, FASA sa UW, and NextDayBetter.

From the Filmmaker – Frank Chi

I never quite found community in college. Instead, I found myself in books – and one of them was Carlos Bulosan’s America Is in the Heart. Bulosan didn’t have much of an education. At 17, he came to the U.S. from the Philippines during the Great Depression. He worked the fields, washed dishes, and was met by intense racism. But when he had time, Bulosan wrote down words as beautiful and as American as anyone who went by Twain, Hughes, or Angelou.

When you’re an immigrant, and Asian-American, you’re bombarded by attempts from everywhere that say you don’t belong. For me, Bulosan’s words helped repel that poison. He helped teach me how to be an American in my own way, on my own time. For a man who died in 1956, it’s safe to say that Bulosan lives on in almost every person who’s touched his book.

These past few months, I traveled the country with the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center to put together this video tribute to America Is in the Heart. It features immigrants from across the country, and is narrated by Hasan Minhaj, Ivy Quicho and Junot Díaz. And, most personally, every single person reading the book is holding my copy of America Is in the Heart, the one that helped get me through college. I hope it can help serve as a reminder during these trying times that at the core of our creed, America is an idea, and in the words of Bulosan, "America is in the heart."

From the Curator – Adriel Luis

My high school was so woke in the 90's, it already offered Asian American Studies classes. I didn’t take them, because I figured the essence of my own being meant I already knew what I needed to know about my own identity. So it wasn’t until my freshman year at UC Davis that I took an Asian American History class, only because all my required courses for my computer science major were filled up. Within the first lecture I was hooked. By the end of that year I had entered the world of community organizing, and I eventually graduated with an Asian American Studies minor.

Throughout my whole college career, I had no idea what I was going to do with these ethnic studies courses, or the library of books I had collected. It was 15 years ago when I picked up Carlos Bulosan’s America Is in the Heart for that first class that changed my life, and I feel so honored to share that moment of inspiration with the world now. Bulosan's book was one of my first encounters with an American history that actually included experiences I could identify with. I’m so proud of this project and I hope it introduces a whole new generation to this masterpiece.