Lysley Tenorio

Press and Praise


The Paris Review
The San Francisco Chronicle
The Fiction Writers Review
The Rumpus
Other People (podcast)
Grist Journal 


“Tenorio’s characters are zany, witty, and beautifully is the unassuming pitch of these stories that makes [Monstress] so exquisitely deadly.”
Slate (Book of the Week)

“..refreshingly off-kilter…his stories are impeccably constructed, leading us calmly but insistently through the characters’ external and internal landscapes.”
The New York Times Book Review

“Tenorio’s stories, set amid mingling nationalities and generations, prompt comparisons to the works of Junot Díaz and Jhumpa Lahiri, who mine similar questions of how a life set apart (via immigration, nerdiness or other myriad reasons) seeps into a person’s sense of self. But the refreshingly wry stories in “Monstress” are rangier and less concerned with documenting the specific experience of emigrating. Instead they’re focused on uncanny moments when a character realizes that something essential to his or her life might be as false and frightening as that bucket of blood.”
The Los Angeles Times

“Tenorio…has taken a uniquely Filipino-American perspective, polyglot and glittering with cinema dreams, and used it to make a bold collection of stories of the rejected, the helpless and the lost. Montress is the debut of a singular talent.”

“Tenorio’s stories are built on unique – even outrageous – premises. Yet he manages to make fabulous setups plausible through his meticulous crafting, deeply imagining the lives of a memorable cast of eccentrics…When you read a lot of contemporary fiction, you become hard to satisfy. You crave something new and original, but you also want a narrative command typical of more experienced authors. “Monstress” fulfills both needs. For readers who shy away from short stories on the grounds that they’re often quiet or uneventful, lacking the depth of character or range of tone of novels, Tenorio might make a convert of you.”
The San Francisco Chronicle

In Monstress, Lysley Tenorio gently but precisely uncovers all the ways in which people suffer longing and, in some cases, still find reasons to hope. There late 60’s horror movie directors and 1940s hotel employees, modern day waitresses and present day psychic surgeons. One of the traits making Tenorio’s work such a delight is how he’s able to convincingly render all of those unalike characters from so many eras.  Because of that, he’s able to harvest a bounty of literary richness.”
The California Report (KQED)

 “Tenorio… is a hybrid… and from that dual nature comes the strength of the stories he tells.”
The Boston Globe

“Tenorio…writes with precision as well as a natural elegance…that quality of easy spontaneity that almost always requires a painstaking process of tinkering and re-balancing behind the scenes. For readers, though, it’s a real treat: salute the effort and then enjoy.”
The Rumpus

‘There are times when one encounters a new talent so luminous and striking, it makes your head hurt and you have to turn away from the brightness.  That is the sensation one gets upon cracking open Monstress.

“[Monstress] takes you on the emotional journey of [Tenorio’s] characters and, despite their monstrosities, I wanted to make fun of Doris Day with them in a darkened Manila movie theatre, cry out our broken hearts listening to a record of “Johnny Angel” over and over again, look out at the night sky of San Francisco and contemplate our dreams, and slap the stupid out of them when they start dating losers. I can’t wait to see what Tenorio comes up with next.”
Hyphen Magazine

“Tenorio’s writing ― assured, economical, often lyrical ― zings from the outrageous to the hilarious to the tenderly wise…Don’t expect happy endings, but do expect to be moved, dazzled and surprised.”
The Washington Independent Review of Books

“Spanning several decades and diverse settings, Lysley Tenorio’s debut story collection is a vibrant survey of Filipino-American immigrant history. The tales are tragic, but Tenorio makes the most of his gift for black humor. “Save the I-Hotel” follows friends Vicente and Fortunado, going back to their meeting 43 years before in Manilatown, San Francisco, in the 1930s, when the law forbade Filipino men from bringing their wives to America and pursuing white women was a dangerous enterprise. At a leper colony in the Philippines, a young Filipina who spent time in America before her disease appeared begins a relationship with an infected AWOL American soldier in “The View from Culion.” Reva Gogo, a famous actress,looks back on her early days in Manila making horror movies with her struggling director, Checkers Rosario, and the trip they made to Los Angeles, where he expected to break into the big time. In “Felix Starro,” a quack doctor travels to San Francisco to perform his famous Extraction of Negativities, involving fake blood and chicken livers, while the grandson who accompanies him must decide whether to continue in the family business or take the money and run. This question—to exploit one’s own or to be exploited—is shrewdly evoked by the author’s blend of the harrowing and the absurd.”
Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)

“If Filipino-Americans need a Junot Díaz, they’re not likely to come closer than much-lauded author Lysley Tenorio, whose blackly humorous and exquisitely rendered stories, finally compiled in Monstress, depict transnational misadventures in touchingly absurd tones.”
The Village Voice

“[Monstress] introduces a writer of great promise, whose stories can illustrate tenderness at one minute and human cruelty not much later. Lysley Tenorio’s writing is immediate, visceral even, and illustrates how human beliefs, principles, and drives are complicated by the choices people make… a vital addition for short-fiction collections.”

“Monstress is a wondrous clutch of stories that pits the customs and superstitions of Philippines against the fads and fetishes of America. Set in Manila, Hollywood, and San Francisco, these yarns feature a faith-healing grandfather, a washed-up monster-movie director, and a transgender brother, among other memorably endearing eccentrics.”
Elle Magazine

“[An] intimate and admirably controlled debut story collection…dealing with lost innocence and heartbreak.  Lysley Tenorio has talent to burn.”


“Lysley Tenorio is a writer of sly wit and lively invention—these are stories bursting with wonders (from monster movies and leper colonies, to faith-healers and superheroes)—but most wondrous of all is his intimate sense of character. Each story is a confession of love betrayed, told with a mournful, austere tenderness as heartbreaking as it is breathtaking.”
–Peter Ho Davies, author of The Ugliest House in the World and The Welsh Girl

“Lysley Tenorio’s characters walk tightropes strung between the Philippines and America, between illusions and reality, between family ties and the need to strike out alone. Monstress is a wonderful read: poignant, imaginative, somehow sad and funny all at once.”
–Anthony Doerr, author of The Shell Collector and Memory Wall

Lysley Tenorio’s darkly funny stories capture the contradictions and complexities of being both Filipino and a citizen of the world. Tenorio is a deep and original writer, and Monstress is simply a beautiful book.
–Jessica Hagedorn, author of Dogeaters and Toxicology

“With Monstress, Lysley Tenorio gives us a wonderful story collection that’s as wide and rich and complex as the geography it spans…Tenorio is that rare breed of writer who mines gold from the impossible. He sees everything—the absurd and the tragic, the funny and profound—and delivers stories that are as true to life as any you will ever read.”
–Ben Fountain, PEN/Hemingway award-winning author of Brief Encounters with Che Guevara

Monstress is an exhilarating rollercoaster of a book. Deeply funny, heartbreaking, hopeful, philosophical, bawdy, and wise, Lysley Tenorio’s stories, written from the underbelly of the American Dream, present one brilliant portrait after another.”
–Sabina Murray, PEN/Faulkner Award–winning author of The Caprices and Tales of the New World

“What I love about Lysley Tenorio’s stories is the absence of nudge-nudge-wink-wink faux-irony that imbues so much contemporary fiction writing grounded in pop culture. The films of Ed Wood echo in the title story, and—in other stories—the Green Lantern and the Beatles and psychic surgery charlatanism and the grotesque circus of Jerry- Springeresque talk shows. But these are the backdrops for dramas that are profoundly human and humane. Outsiders and oddballs, outcasts and rejects—all are brought to vivid and affecting life in these stories. Tenorio never condescends, never goes for the easy joke or punch line. Tenorio’s wit is understated; his writing is deft and self-assured; his dramas don’t shout, but whisper, seductive and heartfelt. Monstress is one of the wisest and [most] heartfelt collections I’ve read. I’ve waited a long time for this book. To quote one of Tenorio’s own characters: ‘Jackpot—Eureka! This is the real deal.’”
–Daniel Orozco, author of Orientation and Other Stories

“In these fantastic stories, Lysley Tenorio skillfully blends the unlikely and the emotional, the bizarre and the humane. His writing portrays the universal human condition through unique specificity, and is very deserving of attention.”
–Rishi Reddi, author of Karma and Other Stories