Joel Donato Ching Jacob’s Wing of the Locust is rich in fantastic details: from the reimagined wonders of the pre-colonial Philippines to the vibrant cultural and historical references spread all throughout the book.
Tuan, a young boy who is apprenticed to a charming barangay wiseman called Muhen, escapes his mundane life to become a mambabarang. As he dives deeper to become a person who practices applications in espionage, sabotage, and assassinations, Tuan is overcome by conflicting emotions that cause him to question his new life.
The winner of the 2018 Scholastic Asian Book Awards (SABA) doesn’t only offer a coming-of-age story told with boldness and grace, Wing of the Locust is more than just a YA book—it teaches values and offers new perspectives to life which young and even mature readers could relate to.
Appreciate your body, flaws and all
In Fully Booked Chats with Joel Donato Ching Jacob, the author revealed that Tuan is mostly inspired by his experiences living with body dysmorphia. Unfortunately, Jacob did not have any support when he was a teenager and would turn to self-destructive behavior to cope because he did not like what he saw in the mirror. This is one of the most critical things he wanted to get across in his debut novel.
“I think that adults should be present for young people, but even if they are, I think they [young people] should have materials like Wing of the Locust; where they can see themselves and express this issue of body dysmorphia.”
The pressures of beauty is harmful
True enough, Jacob had difficulties in being at peace with his body, with himself. In some way, basing a lot of Tuan’s insecurities on his own is like an act of self-acceptance. Now that he has mostly overcome these struggles (because everyday is still a battle for him), Wing of the Locust also became an avenue for him to encourage young people to accept and love themselves for who they are.
“Body issues… there’s a lot of body horrors in the story. I feel that I want readers, young people, to take that to heart: the pressures of beauty are harmful. Love, family, and community exist beyond beauty," he said.
"The existence of beauty is a commercial capitalist pursuit. I was even asked at one point if learning Pambabarang will make Tuan beautiful and the answer is no. Tuan will stay ugly forever but he will learn to love himself even if he is ugly.”
Your existence is valid
While Jacob heavily included queer elements in his writing, he knew that “desire” for a significant other wasn’t going to be part of the narrative. Jacob made sure that the book will have a non-romantic take on what it means to be gay; Wing of the Locust is a testament that queerness doesn’t have to be associated with lust or love-based attraction.
“Somehow, all these romances, I feel like they are valid if they are validated by the affection of an ‘other.’ There are messages such as “love wins,” that sort of invalidates the experiences of people who aren’t looking for that; who don’t feel the necessity for affection. Even without a significant other, your gender identity and gender expression are valid. You are valid.”
When asked what would Jacob like to see more when it comes to queer literature for young adults, he only had one thing in mind: “We need more stories about winning, not just in love, but the success stories of the community helping each other as extended families.”
Watch Fully Booked Chats: Joel Donato Ching Jacob with guest host Vida Cruz and learn more about Wing of the Locust. You may also purchase a copy of Wing of the Locust on Fully Booked Online.