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Banana Heart Summerby Merlinda Bobis
Synopses & Reviews
For those who love to love and eat
For those who long to love and eat
When we laid my baby sister in a shoebox, when all the banana hearts in our street were stolen, when Tiyo Anding stepped out of a window perhaps to fly, when I saw guavas peeking from Manolito's shorts and felt I'd die of shame, when Roy Orbison went as crazy as Patsy Cline and lovers eloped, sparking a scandal so fiery that even the volcano erupted and, as a consequence, my siblings tasted their first American corned beef, then Mother looked at me again, that was the summer I ate the heart of the matter.
So how did it all begin?
With this lesson about the banana heart from Nana Dora, the chef of all the sweet snacks that flavored our street every afternoon, except Sundays.
Close to midnight, when the heart bows from its stem, wait for its first dew. It will drop like a gem. Catch it with your tongue. When you eat the heart of the matter, you'll never grow hungry again.
From the site of her remark, I will take you through a tour of our street and I will tell you its stories. Ay, my street of wishful sweets and spices. All those wishes to appease stomachs and make hearts fat with pleasure. And perhaps sweeten tempers or even spice up a storyteller's tongue.
Let's begin with appeasement, my first serious business venture long ago. Let's begin with a makeshift kitchen, a hut with no walls, under banana trees in bloom. Here, Nana Dora parked her fragrant wok at two in the afternoon. By three, the hungry queue began.
Turon: the melody
The sound of deep frying was a delectable melody. Instantly loud and aggressive when the turon hit the pool ofboiling coconut oil, then pulling back. The percussion was inspired to be subtle.
Ay, it sounds and smells like happiness, I said, nose and ears as primed as my sweetened tongue. Happiness that is not subtle at all, I could have added. Such is the fact about the turon, which is half a slice of sugar banana and a strip of jackfruit rolled in paper-thin rice wrapping, then dusted with palm sugar and fried to a crisp brown. How could such fragrance be subtle? My nose twitched, my mouth watered, my stomach said, buy, buy.
So you're an expert on happiness? Nana Dora asked. Her face glowed with more than sweat and the fire from her stove.
Believe me, your cooking is music, Nana Dora.
Hoy, don't flatter me, Nenita. She made a face. But I could see the flush deepening on her cheeks, the hand patting wisps of hair in place and the coy turning of the neck, as if a lover had just whispered sweet nothings to her ear. So you want to burn your nose or flavor my turon with your grease? she scolded. I'm just saying hel
Over the course of a hot Philippine summer, twelve-year-old Neris is inspired by the myth of the banana heart to find a way to appease her family's hunger and win her mother's love, in a poignant novel set against the backdrop of a small, poverty-stricken town near an active volcano. A first novel. Original. 40,000 first printing.
In her lush, luminous debut novel, Merlinda Bobis creates a dazzling feast for all the senses. Richly imagined, gloriously written, Banana Heart Summer is an incandescent tale of food, family, and longing—at once a love letter to mothers and daughters and a lively celebration of friendship and community.
Twelve-year-old Nenita is hungry for everything: food, love, life. Growing up with five sisters and brothers, she searches for happiness in the magical smell of the deep-frying bananas of Nana Dora, who first tells Nenita the myth of the banana heart; in the tantalizing scent of Manolito, the heartthrob of Nenita and her friends; in the pungent aromas of the dishes she prepares for the most beautiful woman on Remedios Street. To Nenita, food is synonymous with love—the love she yearns to receive from her disappointed mother. But in this summer of broken hearts, new friendships, secrets, and discoveries, change will be as sudden and explosive as the monsoon that marks the end of the sweltering heat—and transforms Nenita’s young life in ways she could never imagine.
About the Author
Merlinda Bobis has received numerous awards, prizes and fellowships for her fiction, poetry and plays, among them the Prix Italia for Rita’s Lullaby, the Steel Rudd Award for the Best Published Collection of Australian Short Stories, the Judges’ Choice Award (Bumbershoot Bookfair, Seattle Arts Festival) and the Philippine National Book Award for White Turtle, or The Kissing, and the Philippine Balagtas Award, a lifetime achievement award for her fiction and poetry in English, Pilipino and Bicol. Her plays have been performed in Australia, the Philippines, France, China, Thailand and the Slovak Republic. Banana Heart Summer is her first novel; its Australian edition was short-listed for the Australian Literary Society Gold Medal. Her second novel, The Solemn Lantern Maker, will be released in the U.S. in 2009. As a performer for stage and radio, Merlinda works with artists from various genres. She lives in Australia where she teaches creative writing.
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