Interview: Marivi Soliven – Author of The Mango Bride

Mango Bride Interview Header

Marivi has authored 17 books. Her debut novel The Mango Bride (Penguin, 2013) won Grand Prize at the Palanca Awards, the Philippine counterpart of the Pulitzer Prize, and has been translated into Spanish and Tagalog. The film adaptation is in production and will premiere in 2020. She is a fierce advocate and organizes literary fundraisers for immigrant survivors of domestic violence, and these efforts have helped, nine immigrant women gain legal residency and escape their abusive marriages. She continues to advocate for immigrant rights and concerns in her day job as a phone interpreter.

What was your favourite part of the writing process behind exploring different perspectives in the Filipino diaspora in The Mango Bride? Are there any other parts of the diaspora experience you’d like to explore in future?

My favourite part of the process was reconstructing the Manila of my childhood – the food, the homes, the women who smoked like chimneys while looking impossibly chic.  I’m still intrigued by the many aspects of the Filipino diaspora and am working on a second novel that portrays the first diasporic wave of Filipino farmworkers in the 20s and 30s.

Did you work as an interpreter impact or change the way you write?

My day job as an interpreter definitely influences the way I write because it gives me a better ear for language, and how Filipinos speak English as their second language.

What was the most challenging part of writing or publishing The Mango Bride?  

Writing the scenes of domestic violence was incredibly hard. After that, promoting the book and setting up my own DIY book tour, because my publisher offered no help, was also challenging, albeit ultimately rewarding.

What would you like to see more in the publishing landscape (in any country?) 

More books by people of color telling own voices stories.

You’ve mentioned in previous interviews that the book had a powerful impact for immigrant survivors of domestic violence. How can readers support immigrant survivors of domestic violence? 

The then Filipino consul general in New York said that the book enabled folks to begin a conversation about domestic violence, and various readers have informed me that the book resonated with their own fraught ordeals.  The terrible thing about DV is the shame and secrecy that protects and enables its continued existence, so I would say, if a reader knows someone who they believe may be suffering from DV, the first step might be to offer them a copy of my book and hope that it helps them open up about their own difficulties.

What are you working on now? What should readers (or film-goers) look out for in the future?

The film adaptation of The Mango Bride is in process, and filming is set to begin early next year, so there is that to look forward to.  My current project is a love story complicated by anti-miscegenation laws, set in taxi dance halls in Depression Era California. 

Do you have any book recommendations for our readers looking for more books by Asian authors?

The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen, The Body Papers by Grace Talusan, First Comes Marriage by Huda El-Marashi — there are lots more, but these three should serve as a good start.

Thanks so much Marivi! Readers can find Marivi Soliven on her website, Facebook and Twitter.

Interview conducted by Lit CelebrAsian team member: Glaiza 

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