Fascination with Jewish culture distinct in new collection of short stories

Prolific writer Gene P. Del Carmen and his third book of short fiction.

Prolific writer Gene P. Del Carmen and his third book of short fiction.

By Maricar CP Hampton

It’s not often that a Filipino author writes fiction featuring Jewish characters.

In “Anna and the Exodus Moon… and other Stories,” Gene Del Carmen breaks ground through the narratives of Anna whose family languishes in a concentration camp, and the teacher Mr. Cohen whose happy-go-lucky son does not appreciate the value of education.

“It was a very kind and compassionate Jewish couple who helped me migrate to the U.S., and since then, my admiration and respect for them and the Jewish people started,” said Gene, an accountant who lives in New Jersey, and has published two collections of short fiction. “I have also worked with other Jewish people, including one Holocaust survivor, who narrated some of her sad experiences which I will never forget.

His friendship with Jewish people remains strong to this day. He and his wife, Arielita, find Jewish Americans friendly and easygoing, who appreciate hard work and loyalty, and attach importance to family.

The book opens with the story of Anna, a 17-year-old Jewish girl, whose innocence is shattered when the Germans threw her family into a concentration camp during the holocaust. True love, faith, and patience free her from the wretched slavery she has witnessed.

In “May You Flourish,” Gene explores the complex relationship between father and son. Lando Cohen, a Jewish-born teacher who believes in the value of education and hard work as key to success, is frustrated that his son Richie lives a complacent life.

The inspiration to write short stories comes naturally to the author.

“Ideas constantly come as words and sounds that are unique. It later turns into a situation that quickly becomes a story,” he said.

“Anna and the Exodus Moon…and other Stories” is a collection of 10 stories each with a cliffhanger ending. A story tends to start slow but picks up pace quickly and leads the reader toward where it becomes hard to put the book down. Each story offers a diverse genre, such as crime and mystery, romance, and political drama.

“I think readers want to read romance, personal struggles, and light farce, plus a true story, all in one book,” he said.

Gene is a prolific writer. He has the broad strokes of a story within two to three hours. He edits when new ideas come to mind, which may take a couple more hours.

His two collections of short stories: Catchy title is important

His two collections of short stories: Catchy title is important

Choosing a title is what slows his process. “It’s a serious task.”

“I pick nicely titled stories as my lead. My other books titles, ‘The Pork Bun Heist’ and ‘The Manny Pacquiao Effect’ grab the attention and curiosity.”

He continued. “I have been praised for my story titles like: ‘Londonderry Tenderloin,’ ‘Blueprint for a Bordello,’ ‘The Pork Bun Heist,’ etc. I take time mulling over possible titles until I get it right.”

He believes the setting of a story is equally important.

“This book also has my first story where the setting is an unfamiliar country like Brazil.” The crime thriller in “Chocolateland” details the agrarian conflict set in the country noted for its cacao industry.

“I thank the Internet for having all the information available for me to feed my curiosity,” he said.

Churches and ancient cathedrals are the setting of three stories: “Who Will Play Barnabas?” “Regalos Para Los Muertos,” and “Lilacs at the Cloister Abbey.”

“I am always in awe of churches and the human mourning, celebrations, and sanctuary they hold.” He worked as a Sacristan for a century-old church where he said, “I felt the stillness and loud singing and they could be both deafening. Churches are very good settings for stories.”

Gene writes from deep conviction in “Doubt and Faith” and “Caligula.”

“They are relevant stories of today and I could not ignore the need to speak up on their subjects. They are my personal thoughts and feelings.”

A light romantic story is the theme in “Dream a Little Dream of Me,” inspired by a 1960s love song by The Mamas & the Papas. It is a story of a man who immerses himself in the current dating scene following his divorce.

“Thieves” is the story of two tragically orphaned young men who attempt to trace the insurance money they believe is owed them.

Before migrating to the U.S. in 1984, Gene worked in an advertising agency in Manila. He had written scripts for television, among them “Pira-pirasong Pangarap” and “Tambakan Alley” and stories for illustrated comics like “Pilipino Komiks” and “Liwayway.”

© The FilAm 2019

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