Allison's Book Bag

Philippines by Anne Schraff

Posted on: June 11, 2014

Over twelve million Filipinos live overseas, comprising one of the world’s largest diasporas or scattered populations with a common origin in a smaller geographic area. Given that statistic, you’re more than likely at some point in your life to meet someone who is Filipino, and therefore it might benefit you to know something about the Philippines. Anne Schraff has written an introductory book, simply titled Philippines, for the Country Explorers series which is worth checking out.

To evaluate nonfiction books, one must consider the content and the text features. With regards to the content, I appreciate first that Scraff provides basic facts about the Philippines. Of course, if all that Schraff offered was a summary of what can be found in an encyclopedia online, what would be the point in reading her book? That question could open up an entirely different discussion which I won’t get into here, except to say Schraff also offers information not found with a cursory online search. Details about families are more likely to be found only through more focused searches, ones which requires some idea of what topics to investigate. Hence, I also appreciate that Scraff has sifted through seven books and three websites to select that information which she felt would most interest and inform her readers. Should you wish to examine her sources for yourself, the titles and/or links are all listed in the back pages of her book.

The text features are also commendable. For example, there is a table of contents, a glossary, and an index, which provides a structure to Schraff’s book. Moreover, all of these features are in larger size, bolder type, and color, which gives them an inviting appearance. The entire book is similarly designed, with each section having headers, text in blocks, sidebars, and pullouts. The headers are a warm blue, the pullouts are a soft purple, and the sidebars are a pleasing yellow. All contain text of readable size. In addition to these multitude of features, there are numerous photos. Some serve as the background to a page, while others simply illustrate provided facts. Finally, statistical information such as fast facts and information about the Filipino flag are appropriately placed in the back pages.

Evaluating nonfiction books also involves one more consideration: accuracy. Of course, the difficulty for me in evaluating the correctness of a book about the Philippines is that I was born and raised in Canada. Moreover, I’ve never been to the Philippines. It helps to know that Anne Schraff grew up in a multicultural neighborhood which included Filipino-American friends. Even so, after researching Schraff’s biography, my second step was to browse online sites about the Philippines. These confirmed the basic facts. My third step was to turn to my step-mom, who is herself from the Philippines. I felt pleased not only to discover that the more in-depth content was reliable, but also to see my step-mom enjoy examining the photos. Although there were occasional topics with which she was unfamiliar such as a Philippines primate known as the tarsier, the fact that the majority inspired personal stories says to me that Schraff got her research right.

As such, I found myself wondering about the controversy leveled these days at Schraff. UrbanFiction reports that some readers feel that because Schraff is not a minority, her view is not genuine. Obviously, it’s a concern that even I feel. Why else would I question my ability to evaluate books about other countries? Moreover, why would I feel a need to question Schraff’s expertise? While I still adhere to those questions for fiction, I wonder about the validity of them for nonfiction? If the research is sound, how much does the author’s background matter?

Older readers might wish to follow their reading up with other books. Schraff covers each topic only with a couple of paragraphs or up to about ten sentences. Also, with her book having been published in 2009, some facts have started to become dated. However, Schraff’s book is an excellent starting place for those who know next to nothing about the Philippines and might be all that primary students need.

My rating? Read it: Borrow from your library or a friend. It’s worth your time.

How would you rate this book?

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