By Raquel Bagnol
“’Tip of the Spear’ comes from a place of love— the love I have for my ancestors, family, friends, community and for Guåhan,” author Alfred Flores said, announcing the September release of his debut book.
Published by the Cornell University Press, “Tip of The Spear” turns the spotlight on CHamoru resilience, resistance and survival against the backdrop of the U.S. military. It celebrates the persistence of CHamoru knowledge and practices that challenged the military.
In the book, Flores argues that the U.S. military occupation of Guam was “based on a co-constitutive process that included CHamoru land dispossession, discursive justifications for the remaking of the island, the creation of a hierarchical labor system, and the military’s policing of interracial intimacies that was enabled by settler militarism.”
All of these factors combined created an infrastructure of empire crucial to the establishment and maintenance of military bases on the island. During WWII and the Cold War, Guam became a launching site for U.S. military operations throughout the Asia-Pacific region.
"The phrase ‘tip of the spear’ usually refers to a military combat unit that punctures the enemy’s first line of defense. In this instance, the entire island is the combat unit,” said Flores, assistant professor of Asian American Studies at Harvey Mudd College in Claremont, California.
“Tip of the Spear” is a revised version of Flores’ dissertation that took him about 10 years to complete. “The research and writing process is a whirlwind. At times, I was able to conduct research every day, and at other times I would have to wait until I had secured funding to help pay for my research,” he said.
He consulted with his book editor, Sarah Grossman, at Cornell University Press and his former doctoral advisor, Keith L. Camacho.
Flores said the book was inspired by his visit to his grandparents’ ranch in Perris, California. “As a CHamoru and diasporic Korean who grew up in southern California, my time there had a profound impact on my life because it was the foundation for my understanding of CHamoru culture,” he said.
At the ranch, Flores saw ináfa’maolek (to make good) being practiced at social events such as fiestas, rosaries and other small acts of reciprocity and care. He became oriented to the sights, smells and sounds of the Mariana Islands, including the ranching of livestock such as pigs and chickens.
“It is these memories that influenced the research of my book, which is centered on the relationships between people and the land,” said Flores, whose research included oral-history interviews with Guam’s manåmko’.
“The stories they shared about their ancestors who endured some of the most traumatic moments in our island’s history helped me a lot. These interviews also revealed to me that their memories are examples of survival, which I found most inspiring. I hope my book helps motivate readers to seek out and remember the stories of their elders, as well,” he said.
“I’m excited that the book is finally done. I view the book release as a celebration of everyone who helped me write it – my family, friends, colleagues, archivists, community organizers, and interviewees that supported and informed my work.”
While getting ready for the release of “Tip of the Spear,” Flores has begun conducting research for his second book project, which will examine the CHamoru and Marshallese diaspora in southern California. He hopes his second book will help bring the histories and contemporary experiences of the two communities closer together through public health programming in the diaspora.
“Tip of the Spear” will be released in September 2023. The book will be available at Cornell University Press, Barnes and Noble, and Amazon.