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Seattle author turns bad childhood memory into a valuable lesson about inclusion

Teased for bringing her favorite Filipino food to school, author celebrates her heritage in children's book. #k5evening

SEATTLE — When Hannah Arp moved to Seattle she knew exactly what neighborhood she wanted to live in: the Chinatown International District.

"I love the diversity of this neighborhood," Arp said. "And the food, of course. The food is amazing! And I love being able to walk to the grocery store and finding the food that I make at home, which is Filipino food." 

Filipino food like the purple yams known as ube. They are super trendy these days, but back when Arp was the only Filipina in her elementary school, they were the subject of ridicule.

"'Ew! Why is it purple? Ew! What's that called? I've never seen that before? Is that moldy?' I'm like no!" she laughed.

As Arp grew up, becoming an artist and a pre-school teacher at a Filipino community center, she realized something about that encounter.

"I figured out that a lot of people have the same story," she said. "And I didn't want that to happen to other children so I wrote a children's book about it."

Purple Ube is the story of a little girl named Nori whose mom sends her to school with her favorite food, ube pandesal.

Arp read from her book:

"'Ew! Why is that purple? Food is not supposed to be purple' a boy said scrunching his face at it. Everyone was looking at Nori and her ube bread. Nori felt alone in a room full of new faces."

Eventually, Nori convinces a classmate to try ube. 

"'All of their classmates were watching,'"  Arp read. "'Yum! I've never had anything like this before!'"

Arp's book comes at a time when  Asian Americans have been targeted in crimes and by hateful comments like the one former KING 5 anchor, Michelle Li got in St Louis.

Arp sighed deeply.

"Oh! it makes me so sad thinking about how other people use the term "very Asian" or so this, so that. I've gotten that quite a bit," she said. "And I think that now there's more writers, more Asian voices out there and we're getting heard and that's a beautiful thing"

Food is a great gateway to learning about other cultures. If you've never had ube cookies before, they are sweet and chewy and, yes, purple.

"If I were a kid I'd love these cookies," reporter Saint Bryan said. "And I'm a grown-up kid and I love these cookies".

They are just one sweet example of how different cultures make this a more vibrant community for all of us.

"What a great way to end the story," Bryan said. "With cookies. I think all stories should end with cookies. So good!"

Hannah Arp's book, "Purple Ube," can be found on Amazon and other retailers including the gift shop at the Wing Luke Museum.

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