I was so excited when I heard about An Ocean In A Cup. There is an unreasonably small selection of literature being published from Guam. It is not for lack of talent. I know some amazing writers and poets. The opportunities for them to shine just haven’t been flowing abundantly. But it seems like that might be changing. I’ll elaborate more on that in a future post.
Right now I want to talk about this great read. The story is set in the 1890s, when Guam was still a Spanish colony and it presents the timeless themes of passion, tradition, and power through wealth, as well as themes reflecting the loss of sanity and the supernatural. Readers are treated to a roller coaster ride weaving back and forth throughout the life of the main character, Tomas. While Tomas encounters interesting circumstances through out his life, there are a host of other characters that provide comedic relief and other perspectives of the time period. Some of my favorite acquaintances of Tomas are the brutally honest and outspoken Candido, the lighthearted Ambrosia, and the unnamed exiled royal turned botanist.
“If I help a child on the road, suddenly there is a complicated and fantastical cultural reason I helped. If we chew pugua around each other, then they will say it is some complicated expression of our people.” – Candido to Ambrosia, An Ocean In A Cup
Tenorio uses the characters in the story to paint this picture of life, in this period of Guam’s history, with a mixture of impressionism, surrealism, and cubism, and at the end of the book you’re thinking “Whoa! What just happened?!” And you love it.
fun fact about the author: Before Stephen Tenorio Jr. became a lawyer, a Judge Advocate Officer in the Army reserves, an author, or an exhibiting artist, he was a substitute teacher at Untalan Middle School. Seriously, whenever one of our teachers would decide to retire, in the middle of the school year, he would pick up the slack. This happened twice, my eight grade year. He also coached rugby and was the advisor for our drama club.
Bonus: Tenorio’s artwork is on display at the CAHA gallery. It will be up for the rest of April. It is definitely worth seeing!