Category Archives: BOOK RECOMMENDATIONS

PACIFIC WRITERS YOU SHOULD KNOW (PART 3)

Chantal T. Spitz

Of all native Tahitian writers, Chantal T. Spitz is probably the best-known. She is a pioneer of indigenous French Polynesian literature and one of the widely acclaimed authors from the Pacific Islands.

Her enormous gift for combining poetry and prose to describe even the most difficult or delicate subjects is unequaled. But don’t let those lyrical narratives mislead you – the author’s books are controversial and quite ‘strongly worded’. If you want to read something that will make you think, Chantal T. Spitz’s works are an excellent choice.

Sam Lala

This Fijian author may not be the most prolific, but he is definitely one of the most interesting literary figures in the Pacific region.

His novel, ‘Sandalwood Blood’, displays his unusual talent for retelling historical events in the most compelling way. He has a gorgeous way with words, so it is a great pity that we cannot enjoy more of his writing.

Stephen Tenorio Jr.

Stephen Tenorio Jr. is not only an extremely gifted writer; he is an artist – his beautiful painting adorns the cover of his book ‘An Ocean in a Cup’, attorney, and a former JAG officer. Quite the Renaissance man, isn’t he? And a busy one at that!

Mr Tenorio’s debut novel is the only book he has published so far, which is something every reader should regret, because this son of Guam has the talent to be one of the top interpretive fiction writers in the Pacific region. And I’m positive this is exactly what the future holds for him!

Lynn Pulou-Alaimalo

Lynn Pulou-Alaimalo is an emerging author, who comes from American Samoa, was raised in Hawaii and now lives in the continental US.

She charmed readers with the first instalment of her Aiga series, entitled ‘Lovefolds of Our Upbringing’. Let me tell you, her talent is unquestioned, her writing style delightful, her stories thoroughly engaging. Read one of her books, and you’ll come back for more.

Tracey Poueu-Guerrero

Of Samoan and Tokelauan origin, Tracey Poueu-Guerrero is a contemporary romance and young adult fiction writer, whose debut novel ‘Gravity’ received nothing but positive reviews from the readers.

Evidently proud of her ancestry, the author promises that her books ‘will always have a sprinkle of her cultural background’. The much-anticipated second instalment in the Michaels Family series still hasn’t been published, but hopefully we won’t have to wait long for the continuation of Eva and Carlton’s story.

 

BEST BOOKS BASED ON PACIFIC MYTHS, LEGENDS, FOLK TALES

The Telesa Trilogy by Lani Wendt Young

This highly acclaimed series is a modern take on Pacific mythology, which makes it a perfect read for teenagers.

The thrilling story of Leila Folger is a passionate romance based on the legends of Teine Sa, the spirit women of Samoa. The popular ancient beliefs are masterfully incorporated into the narrative – they constitute a considerable part of the story, yet they are not overwhelming.

The trilogy may be perfect for juvenile audiences, but you’ll love it even if you’re past your teenage years!

‘Sirena: A Mermaid Legend from Guam’ by Tanya Taimanglo

The story of Sirena, Guam’s legendary mermaid, is so well-known in the Pacific region that there is probably not a single person who wouldn’t be acquainted with it. This is one of the reasons why every Pasifika aficionado should read, and possess, Tanya Taimanglo’s book.

This particular retelling of the famous folk tale is a real beauty. Embellished with the most gorgeous illustrations – created by the author’s brother, Sonny Chargualaf – it will be an absolute treasure in your home library. Plus, it will definitely draw children’s attention!

‘Princess Hina & the Eel’ by King Kenutu

This is another wonderful book, especially for older children and teenagers.

The story of genuine, eternal love between a princess and a commoner is one of the better-known folk tales in Polynesia. It is captivating, thought-provoking, and timeless in its message. King Kenutu’s version is not only beautifully told but also full of passion that can be felt in each and every word.

The Niuhi Shark Saga by Lehua Parker

Lehua Parker’s saga is a brilliant example of engaging middle grade/young adult literature that’s deeply rooted in the local Polynesian mythology.

Although the series is not based on one particular myth, legend, or folk tale, it draws inspiration from old Hawaiian stories of a shapeshifting shark-man, Nanaue. It is not a retelling of the legend, but you may certainly find some similarities. Who knows, maybe Zader’s adventures will encourage you to delve into ancient tales from the Aloha State…

‘Turtle Songs: A Tale for Mothers and Daughters’ by Margaret Wolfson

This book tells the ancient Fijian myth – especially popular on the island of Kadavu – about the Turtle princess and her daughter.

It’s a classic retelling, gracefully narrated and adorned with lovely – absolutely lovely – watercolours. The illustrations make the story come alive before the reader’s eyes, so even young children will read or listen to this tale with great interest.

ON THE TWELFTH DAY OF … MY TRUE LOVE SENT TO ME:

‘Princess Hina and the Eel’ by King Kenutu

Who doesn’t know this old folktale? The enduringly popular story can be regarded as a Polynesian equivalent of ‘Romeo & Juliet’. Or rather… ‘Romeo & Juliet’ should be treated as an English equivalent of ‘Princess Hina and the Eel’.

In the South Pacific kingdom, two people fall deeply in love with each other. One of them is the beloved daughter of the king; the other – a simple commoner. Although their hearts are meant to be together, cruel fate starts to play its part.

This is such a beautiful, moving, and thought-provoking tale! Fantastic for children, teenagers, and adults alike – because we are never too young or too old to learn what’s the greatest value in life.

ON THE ELEVENTH DAY OF … MY TRUE LOVE SENT TO ME:

‘Island of Shattered Dreams’ by Chantal T. Spitz

‘Island of Shattered Dreams’, penned by an indigenous Tahitian writer, created a little scandal in French Polynesia. Now, isn’t it the best recommendation?

This is the life (and love) story of Tematua and Emere who, together with their children, enjoy a relatively untroubled existence on a beautiful island in the Blue Continent. Relatively, because even in paradise not everything is picture perfect.

Chantal T. Spitz wrote a very eye-opening book that deals with controversial and sensitive issues regarding colonialism and France’s nuclear testing in the Pacific among other things. Although it’s definitely not a light-hearted piece, it reads very well (provided that you get used to the author’s highly poetic language and tone).

ON THE TENTH DAY OF … MY TRUE LOVE SENT TO ME:

‘Tales of the South Pacific’ by James A. Michener

When you think of the South Seas genre, you must think of James A. Michener. His ‘Tales of the South Pacific’ – a Pulitzer Prize-winning classic – is a masterpiece every Pasifika lover should read.

In this compilation of loosely connected vignettes the author takes readers to the war-torn Pacific region, where he shares the life stories of various people. Despite all the dramatic occurrences, they search for love and try to find joy in the smallest things.

It’s always risky when a writer combines such different themes as war, death, love, and romance. It’s even riskier when he adds to that a little bit of paradise. Such book may turn out to be either a disaster or a true gem. Michener’s title is a gem; something you will most probably want to come back to again and again.

ON THE NINTH DAY OF … MY TRUE LOVE SENT TO ME:

‘Where We Once Belonged’ by Sia Figiel

Sia Figiel is one of the most interesting Pacific authors, whose books you just want to read from cover to cover.

‘Where We Once Belonged’ concentrates on Alofa Filiga, a 13-year-old girl living in Samoa. As any other teenager, she has her joys and sorrows, problems she tries to deal with, and great expectations towards her future. Navigating through the restrictions of her culture, she makes the most of each day.

It’s a powerful coming-of-age novel. It reads extremely well, even though it is full of Samoan words and phrases some people will have trouble understanding. The storyline may surprise you a few times, so be prepared to have some of your emotions stirred up pretty well.

ON THE EIGHTH DAY OF … MY TRUE LOVE SENT TO ME:

‘Secret Shopper’ by Tanya Taimanglo

A romance novel always makes a nice gift, especially during Christmastime. And ‘Secret Shopper’ is definitely the best pick in this category!

The book revolves around Phoenix, a young woman who is suddenly left alone after finding out about her husband’s infidelity. Forced to find a job, she steps into the world of secret shopping. While on assignment, she meets Thomas.

This is not one of those cheesy, easy to predict love stories. Oh no! Tanya Taimanglo managed to create a heart-warming tale with quite a few surprising twists and turns. It’s a book that inspires and makes you believe that you and ONLY you are responsible for your own life. Highly, highly recommended!

ON THE SEVENTH DAY OF … MY TRUE LOVE SENT TO ME:

Materena Mahi Trilogy by Célestine Hitiura Vaite

Célestine Hitiura Vaite’s series is a perfect way to transport yourself to Tahiti – one of the most extraordinary places on the planet Earth.

Materena Mahi lives together with her man (not yet husband), Pito, and their three children. It may seem that she leads an ordinary life, but the truth is, in the town of Faa’a not a day, an hour, a minute goes by without some flurry of excitement.

A trilogy written for women. This is how you could sum this series up. It’s about love, hope, and courage to chase your dreams. It’s about commitment and discovering what’s truly important in life. It’s a beautiful and immensely engaging piece of literature that will make you both laugh and cry!

ON THE SIXTH DAY OF … MY TRUE LOVE SENT TO ME:

‘Sandalwood Blood’ by Sam Lala

Sam Lala’s book, although a work of fiction, familiarizes readers with the sandalwood trade in the Pacific region.

The story takes place in the 19th century. Captain Lovat Mellon travels to Fiji with hopes of collecting sandalwood for the Chinese market. Accompanied by other passengers of the ship, he sails the high seas, making occasional stops at various ports. One of them are the islands of Tonga.

This is such a good book! Captivating right from the very first page, it is perfect for both men and women. It’s a beautifully written love story, a gripping adventure tale, and an extremely informative history lesson that really gets you hooked.

ON THE FIFTH DAY OF … MY TRUE LOVE SENT TO ME:

‘Leaves of the Banyan Tree’ by Albert Wendt

Albert Wendt is a legend among Pacific writers. His books are either very good or excellent. ‘Leaves of the Banyan Tree’ belongs to the latter category.

This beautifully written family saga tells the story of Tauilopepe Mauga and his aiga. Living in mid-century Western Samoa, they struggle to combine traditional values of their ancestors and the papalagi way of being.

This novel is definitely one of Albert Wendt’s best works. It’s engaging. It’s rich in both style and substance. It’s emotionally and mentally challenging. But most importantly, it presents a theme that is as true now as it was then.