Following the publication of The Quiet Is Loud, editor Bryan Ibeas discusses the revelatory experience of working with an author who shares his heritage, and the multi-layered search for belonging in Samantha Garner’s debut novel.
I’ve already had plenty of conversations elsewhere about how life-changing it was for me, an editor of Filipino-Canadian heritage, to work with Sam Garner, an author of Filipino-Finnish-Canadian heritage, but I’ve never tried to put the experience in writing until now. So here’s the first thing that comes to mind:
Editing The Quiet is Loud, and having endless discussions with Sam about stories—the one she’d written, the ones she wanted to write about, the ones our dads told us at night, the ones we lived—was like having my mom’s spaghetti. Mom’s spaghetti hits different. There are flavours I grew up with that most people won’t notice, some ingredients a lot of people might not get, but to me these elements are as integral to my understanding of spaghetti as sauce and noodle. I love all kinds of spaghetti, don’t get me wrong. Al pesto? In my mouth please. Carbonara? Same. Let us bond over oregano, over the merits of canned tomatoes. I have, by necessity, become an expert in other people’s spaghetti—in part because I never, in over a decade in publishing, in over a decade of expanding my palate, thought I could have Mom’s spaghetti as part of my work with books.
Y’all take it so for granted, but you have no idea.
Obviously the brilliance of The Quiet is Loud goes beyond the heritage I share with the author, the stories we have in common. I work on a couple books a year, so a manuscript really needs to resonate with me because I’m literally going all in with it if I choose to acquire it. Which this book does—it resonates.
And this is where all my talk of Mom’s spaghetti and building bridges becomes more relevant. Because the idea of finding home—of realizing there is a place for you—cuts right to the heart of Freya Tanangco’s story. As much as I identify with the Filipino aspects of her life, I identify more with her search for belonging: specifically, her need to ensconce herself in the routines of her present even as she recognizes that those routines have closed off an entire side of herself.
And that’s credit to Sam. In Freya, she’s created a character who rings true, who—despite her remarkable abilities, or perhaps because of them—feels like someone you’re familiar with. Similarly, the world of The Quiet is Loud rings true, even at its most fantastical, because it operates on the same human principles. Freya’s journey resonates so much because it’s the kind of journey we all have to make. As with all great speculative fiction, The Quiet is Loud uses the never-was or never-will-be to a shine a profound light on something that is: even something as humble as Mom’s spaghetti.
Bryan Ibeas is an editor for Invisible Publishing.