A Filipino American short story writer, novelist, poet, and labor activist, Carlos Bulosan was born in Binalonan, Pangasinan, Philippines on November 24, 1913 (though his baptismal papers list November 2, 1911 as the birth date). The son of a farmer, Bulosan grew up in poverty. At the age of seventeen, he went aboard a ship for America and arrived in Seattle on July 22, 1930.
Despite his lack of English proficiency and money, Bulosan came with a belief that he would have a better life in America. The shocking discovery of the harsh realities, such as inequality, injustice, and hatred due to racial discrimination, did not diminish the great expectations in his heart. To survive, he worked at all kinds of menial jobs for years, from hotels and produce farms up and down the West Coast to the Alaskan fish canneries. In his constant search for employment, he encountered numerous obstacles and brutalities that were commonly directed at immigrants like him during those years and learned firsthand about the paradoxical nature of America, the “land of opportunity.”
His years of experience as a farm worker led him to the role of a labor activist during the 1930s, mobilizing his fellow workers into unions against labor exploitation, wage cuts, unbearable working conditions, and racist violence against immigrants. The hardship in his life and the intense involvement with the labor movement severely affected his health. In 1936, he had several lung operations for tuberculosis at Los Angeles County Hospital and spent two years in a convalescent ward. While recuperating from his illness, Bulosan, who had only three years of formal schooling in the Philippines, became an avid reader and gradually educated himself into one of the first Filipino writers to