With the Supreme Court recently upholding the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which provides a path to legal status for qualified undocumented immigrants, Lysley Tenorio’s funny and poignant second novel, “The Son of Good Fortune,” couldn’t come at a better time. Concerning an undocumented Filipino American family living in Colma, the book portrays the murky ethics of America’s treatment of the illegal immigrant.
Excel is a 19-year-old TNT, tago ng tago, Tagalog for “hiding and hiding.” His mother, Maxima, gave birth on the plane to the U.S. Neither American nor Filipino, Excel is a true nowhere man. “I’m not really here,” he says to his girlfriend, Sab.
Both Excel and Maxima are denied a path to legal status and live a life on the margins. Hotels and passports are foreign to them, and acronyms like TSA require Googling to be decoded. Maxima, a former actress in bad Filipino action movies, is relegated to scamming lonely white men online, while Excel works under the table at a spy-themed pizza joint named The Pie Who Loved Me, whose tyrant owner whimsically decides when and when not to pay Excel. Stifled and lovesick, Excel follows Sab to Hello City, a desert artist community, where his life only gets more complicated, driving him back to Maxima for help.