From Versailles to China and back
Author's local connection showcased in new release

Wanda English Burnett- Editor

Inspiration for Linda Furiya’s first published book came from her childhood memories growing up in Versailles. The new release titled "Bento Box in the Heartland: My Japanese Girlhood in Whitebread America", is a story about a girl trying to balance the outside world of Midwestern America with the Japanese traditions of her home life.

Furiya’s parents, James Ichiro and Teruko Furiya, migrated from Japan and while insisting their children speak English in public, they carried on traditions from their country in their modest home on Perry Street.

In her book, which revolves around food, Furiya tells how food made her realize the difference between her and other classmates at Versailles Elementary. She talks about her first day of school when she longed for a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, but had to deal with the rice balls and chopsticks her mom had packed for her. After each chapter she shares recipes from the homeland.

The accomplished author is well versed on the subject of Asian cuisine from her first-hand life experiences. She tells how her parents would have to drive several miles to find some of the ingredients to make dishes, but when it was all said and done, they would be worth the effort.

Furiya has carried on the tradition of fine culinary dining, having taught cooking classes, writing a food column for the San Francisco Chronicle, and having attended a Chinese culinary school while in Shanghai. She notes her first recipe development actually took place at the Ripley County 4-H Fair where she took home a blue ribbon for her chocolate chip cookie recipe.

A life far removed from the sleepy community in southeastern Indiana, Furiya has many experiences to share from her many travels. She is a talented writer with her work showcased in a self-syndicated column “From Where I Stand” that was published for five years in Japanese American and Canadian newspapers in San Diego, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Sacramento, Seattle, Montreal and Toronto Canada.

She moved to Beijing China in 1996 where she wrote travel and food related articles as well as a sex advice column. She then moved back to the San Francisco area where she says she got her “lucky break” and began writing for the Chronicle. In 2000, Furiya returned to China, this time to Pearl of Asia, Shanghai, where she wrote her food column, travel articles, attended a Chinese culinary school and began her first draft of what would become "Bento Box In the Heartland: My Japanese Girlhood in Whitebread America". She returned to the states in 2004, along with her son and in 2005 moved to Vermont. Her first book was released in January of 2007 and is now making its way to her hometown.

Kelly Garcia of Versailles, was a classmate and friend of Furiya and has remained in contact with her over the years. “We lost contact for a while, but have been in touch over the past few years,” Garcia noted. The two graduated from South Ripley High School in 1984 after going through their entire school years together.

While growing up, Furiya’s parents insisted she and her older brothers, Alvin and Keven, speak English. She writes that she and her brothers “shared a unique bilingual interchange with our parents.” She explained that their parents would talk to them in Japanese and they in turn would respond in English. The author’s father would speak English at work, but Japanese at home.

When Furiya was 12 years old, she said her mother offered to take her to Japan if she could learn to read and write hiragana and katakana. With a workbook from her uncle, George Furiya, she learned enough to gain the trip. In later life, the Purdue University graduate took a class to “better learn how to communicate the Japanese language with her parents and future children.”

The Bookshelf, located at 101 N. Walnut Street in Batesville, has Furiya’s book in stock. “We’ve sold quite a few of them. If we don’t have it, we can get it in just a couple of days,” noted Chris Fairchild, owner of the store. You can contact the book store at 934-5800 or 1-800-803-4400.

Described as an “insightful and reflective coming-of-age tale, "Bento Box in the Heartland" is “beautifully written, each chapter accompanied by a family recipe of mouth-watering Japanese comfort food.”
Stop in at The Bookshelf to purchase a copy of this extraordinary compilation of childhood memories, recipes and more.

Nestled among hundreds of other titles to choose from, Chris Fairchild, owner of The Bookshelf at Batesville, holds her latest book for purchase, "Bento Box in the Heartland: My Japanese Girlhood in Whitebread America." The book is written by a former Versailles resident, Linda Furiya (pictured below) and gives a glimpse of what it's like to grow up in the only Asian family in Versailles.


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