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Bento Box in the Heartland: My Japanese Girlhood in Whitebread America

     by Furiya, Linda

Bento Box in the Heartland: My Japanese Girlhood in Whitebread America

In this memoir, Linda Furiya recalls her childhood growing up in the only Asian family in Versailles, Indiana. In each chapter she recounts a particular experience and concludes with a recipe for a Japanese dish that relates to the experience, especially fitting because food played a very large role in her family’s life. Stories she relates include her embarrassment at being the only child at school who had rice balls and chopsticks in her lunch box and having to reciprocate a sleepover which she puts off for fear of what her friend will learn about her family. Other episodes are more humorous such as a family trip to catch crabs in Florida and having to write notes to her own teachers because of her mother’s limited English. Two adventures, Linda’s trip to Japan with her mother at age 10 and visiting Americanized relatives in New York at age 15, contribute greatly to her understanding of herself and her first-generation Japanese parents. Despite minor conflicts growing up, she has tremendous love and respect for her family which becomes especially apparent after she lives home. 

This is a delightful and sensitively told memoir of a young girl growing up very much as an outsider in her community. It reveals much about Linda’s experiences and perceptions but also much about the past lives of her mother and father. Fans of Amy Tan's The Joy Luck Club and other cross-cultural intergenerational stories will enjoy this memoir.

Reviewed by ch, 5/07. Other reviews by ch.