Asian Girl in a Southern World
by Dalena Benavente
Amazon Digital Services
American Dalena Benavente was born in a white town, in a white county, in a mostly white state (Tennessee), which meant that, being half-Filipino, she was not white. In fact, early in life she was the only Asian in her town, apart from her mother.
Unsure of whether she was a “Jap”, “Ching Chong”, Eskimo or something else, school bullies would call her the N word. But Benavente gave as good as she got, once cornering a know-it-all into eating a caterpillar on the pretext her clear-noodle lunch was made of the larvae.
She recounts these anecdotes with relish, literally, in her memoir-cum-cookbook, which includes recipes revealing of her mixed cultural heritage (dishes include the Filipino staple pancit and char-dusted chilli rib-eye).
Gaining acceptance in a town where Confederate flags flew and references to the Ku Klux Klan were not uncommon, she persuaded her father to allow her, at the age of 12, to drive herself to school, thus avoiding her tormentors.
Benavente’s Southern charm and humour permeate her stories, although most touching is her tale of a desperately poor girl (befriended when both were 10), whom she would love to meet again. That could be book two.