Miguel Syjuco Article On The Wall Street Journal
After being rejected by dozens of agents and publishers, Miguel Syjuco, 33, is emerging as one of this year's most surprising literary Cinderella stories.
His novel, "Ilustrado," a postmodern mystery set in New York and the Philippines, won the prestigious Man Asian literary prize two years ago, when it was still a manuscript with no publisher attached. Farrar, Straus & Giroux snapped it up shortly after. Now "Ilustrado," which came out in the U.S. last week, is being translated into 13 languages and published in 18 countries.
Mr. Syjuco says he was expected to go into business or politics (his father, Augusto Syjuco, served as a cabinet member under President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, and his mother, Judy Syjuco, is a member of Congress). Much to his parents' disappointment, he flunked out of his economics classes and majored in English.
He took odd jobs to make ends meet after receiving his master's degree in creative writing at Columbia University in 2005. He bought designer purses for $10 at sample sales and sold them on eBay for $100, rented himself out as a medical guinea pig in psychological experiments, tended bar, painted apartments and worked as an assistant bookie at horse tracks in Adelaide, Australia. He wrote fiction in his free time, and gathered a stack of rejection slips from agents and literary magazines. "Ilustrado" was rejected by every one—one agent advised Mr. Syjuco to read E.M. Forster's "A Passage to India" and try again.