After her plans for the future are disrupted by an unexpected breakup, Benni, born and raised in northern Ontario, seeks escape from her everyday routine by visiting her father in the Philippines – the fantastical land of ghosts and glamour that her parents described to her as a child. In the Philippines, Benni is captivated by the luxurious lifestyle of the wealthy members of her mother’s family. Canada, in comparison, is a bleak world of work, work, and more work, and Benni cannot understand why her parents ever left. During her visit, Benni finds much more than she bargained for: she discovers a world of poverty that supports the rich and the social restrictions that even the rich experience; she learns to value the honest, human relationships that come from seeking and reconnecting with family; and she comes to understand the importance of the stories we tell ourselves to construct and maintain our identity.
“Set in the tumultuous, vivid world of modern day Philippines, Shade explores such diverse issues of identity, multiculturalism, celebrity television culture, poverty and wealth, with prose that is as bright and brilliant as the country it depicts. Poignant but never sentimental, serious yet humorous, Mia Herrera follows in the great novelistic tradition of depicting characters who needs to get away in order to find out where they come from.”
—David Layton, author of The Bird Factory and Motion Sickness
“He’s a Razon,” Lisa says, stressing the last name again.
“What does it matter if he’s a Razon?”
“It matters because he’s part of the second-richest family in the Philippines.”
“How do you know how wealthy he is?”
“You just know these things here. Plus Forbes publishes the list each year. The Razon’s have $7.5 billion to their name.”
“What?” I splutter at the figure. I can’t even imagine that much money.
I glance across the pool to see if Abe is still there, feeling a pang of regret at not being nicer. “So, who’s the richest family?” I ask.
“The Sanchezes.” She wrinkles her nose. “I hate the Sanchezes.”
“Maybe all the richest families are made up of pricks.”
“I hope not, because we’re on the list.”
“Oh,” I say, not knowing how to react. “Well, I’m sorry if I ruined things for you with that guy, Lisa.”
“It’s fine. He was clearly more interested in you. And there’s plenty more where that came from anyways. What is your type, though, Ate Benni?”
“You mean what is my type if not featureless, spineless men with lots of money?” I ask, pulling my lounger over to sit beside her in the shade. I order another mango slushy and consider her question. I only liked Filipinos when I was in high school, trying as hard as possible to disassociate myself from the hostility I encountered when people assumed I was Chinese. But Filipinos were scarce, and I was turned off of Filipino men after one told me that Filipinos were the “blacks of the Asian race in Canada,” whatever that meant. In university, I preferred white men. If I wasn’t Filipino or Chinese, then I could at least be North American. But my own insecurities got the best of me. I always assumed a white man could never want me, what with all the embarrassing stereotypes floating around. Whenever one did, I wondered if he was only curious about being with an Asian woman. Finally, after university, I ended up with Tom. He was Asian, but was as Canadianized as I was, with a family still cultural enough to eat rice regularly. Above all, I loved the security I felt with Tom – as though I’d found someone in between, like me.