“I grew up in El Monte being half white and [half] brown, half happy, half sad, half in trouble half the time, and half searching, but always curious…”
–Benita Bishop, from “Lost Girl from El Monte”
Having narrowly escaped death, what Benita had to say couldn’t wait. The day she found her old journal in a taped-up box in her father’s garage, she hurried home to type up the sweet, unfiltered diary of an El Monte high school girl.
Benita Morgan Bishop self-published “Lost Girl from El Monte,” comprised of diary entries written between 1975 and 1977, just a few weeks after she walked out, unharmed, from a car wreck in 2003. At the same time, her father was in the hospital, dying from complications from a severe fall. In the midst of so much fear and loss, Benita worked on her first book knowing every day was precious.
Benita beautifully captures the raw innocence of her youth in the memoir and its follow up, “Escape from El Monte.” The book covers feature juicy old English typeface, a surfer girl emerging from the ocean, and a photo of Benita as a 1970s pin-up girl in a Bob Mackie bathing suit, posing in front of a shuttered theater.
The storyteller of Benita’s books is a girl with frizzy brown hair, an Anglo father, a Mexican mother, and a dozen potential boyfriends lurking around every Crunch bar. With uncut urgency, the stories in both books will make you laugh out loud at Benita’s hijinks. She documents those endearing moments when she just doesn’t understand why people are so mean and rude to a girl who’s just trying to find true love. She has an indestructible hope and good nature that cushions various rejections. She personally deals out a few to handsy surfers and a fake cholo who draws her portrait (featured on the book cover). Even when people are jerks to her, Benita is sincere and earnest.
“Mr. Stewart told me that my braces looked good and that they should keep me out of trouble. What does he mean by that?”
Before other El Monte writers like Salvador Plascencia, Toni Margarita Plummer, and Michael Jaime-Becerra claimed their places in the publishing world, Benita was writing down stories about sneaking in to the Odyssey Disco in a Montgomery Ward dress. With an impetus that’s hard to explain, Benita insisted on writing and sharing her childhood before it completely disappeared. Read Rest of Article Here