Merlinda Bobis was born in the Philippines but went to Australia in 1991. Banana Heart Summer, the novel she published in 2005, is a truly original piece, very different from her previous works. What at first seems to be a collection of exotic recipes (most of its chapters have titles such as ‘Shredded heart in coconut milk’, ‘Tomato lemon carp with hibiscus’, and ‘Clear clam soup’, to give but three examples), turns out to be a touching, funny and elegiac story. Namely, the fictive autobiographical account of the summer in which Nenita, a poor twelve-year-old Filipina girl, decides to quit school and employ herself as a maid and cook in order to desperately try to appease her family’s hunger and, what is even more important, to win her violent mother’s love.
Herrero, Dolores, Merlinda Bobis’s Banana Heart Summer: Recipes to work through trauma and appease the human heart’s everlasting hunger, Kunapipi, 32(1), 2010.