Tag Archives: American Samoa

‘SAILING WITH IMPUNITY’ BY MARY E. TRIMBLE

‘Sailing With Impunity’ is Mary E. Trimble’s memoir depicting the voyage through the islands of Polynesia that she set out on together with her husband, Bruce.

SAILING WITH IMPUNITY

Summary

Longing for a change and following the dream of an offshore sailing, Mary and Bruce make a decision to quit their jobs, sell their house, buy a boat, and spend some time cruising the Pacific Islands. After weeks of meticulous preparations, they are finally ready to leave the marina.

They make their first landfall in French Polynesia. The country surprises them with enchanting beauty, the sweetest scents of flowers, and…an extremely nice gendarme trying (unsuccessfully) to buy their gun. Together with other yachties, Mary and Bruce tour the islands, savouring every minute in this picture-perfect paradise.

When the blissful days in the Marquesas, Tahiti, and Bora Bora come to an end, the couple continue their adventure. They agree to moor in the Pago Pago harbour to wait out the hurricane season. The capital of American Samoa turns out to be a safe yet very dirty harbour, especially after the country gets clobbered by Cyclone Ofa.

Before heading home, Mary and Bruce sail to Tonga, which definitely lives up to its friendly reputation, and then to Hawaii. The last leg of their journey isn’t as smooth as they would expect it to be.

Review

The Blue Continent is a perfect destination for…for everyone, I think, but sailors in particular. They have favoured this part of the world for a very long time. Who can blame them? Those tiny islands scattered over the Pacific Ocean are delightfully reminiscent of paradise (at least on the surface), so cruising from one little slice of heaven to another is a dream come true. And when in paradise, it’s a sin not to share all those paradise-ish experiences. Hence the almost countless amount of different memoirs and travelogues – some good, some not so much – that you may choose from to ‘travel’ (or no, in case of the bad ones) to the South Seas without leaving the comfort of your home. Will you be able to ‘visit’ the islands while reading Mary E. Trimble’s book? Oh, absolutely!

‘Sailing With Impunity’ makes for a very engaging read, mostly due to the fact that the author managed to maintain the right balance between the descriptions of their life aboard the craft and the descriptions of the places they had a chance to see. Before you go on land with the Trimbles, you will encounter fierce winds and rough waters; you will know what it’s like to cook on a rocking boat while battling a bout of seasickness; you will have to come to terms with the idea of sleeping no more than 4 hours at one time (let me tell you, you can feel exhausted just reading about it). Mrs Trimble is very truthful in recounting her and her husband’s journey. She spares no details, so those of you who have thought that sailing is an easy activity might get disillusioned. It is fun, yes; but it’s definitely not child’s play.

If you ‘survive’ the voyage, you will be rewarded with some wonderful stories about the islands and their inhabitants. The author’s vivid and surprisingly objective portrayals of the visited countries show them as they really are – ravishing, romantic, but not sugar-coated; filthy, unpleasant, but not repulsive. The memoir doesn’t present a one-sided view of Polynesia – and it’s worth remembering that all the opinions clearly reflect the author’s personal feelings and judgements – but rather the actual state of things. There is no criticizing, no comparing, no saying that something is better or worse. Mary E. Trimble made sure to stay open-minded throughout the journey and, most importantly, throughout her book. Even if she wasn’t free from cultural bias, she hid it extremely well.

The story is told in a lovely manner. Every page is written with passion only keen travellers possess. Detailed yet not overdone descriptions seize the imagination, arousing an abundance of different emotions. One minute you are green with envy, the next happy and relieved that you’re safe in your abode. And that’s exactly the way it should be.

This concise book is a very impressive piece of travel literature. But it isn’t only an engaging memoir. It is a tale about chasing your dreams and believing that everything is possible, especially if you have someone you love and can rely on by your side.

A CHAT WITH… LYNN PULOU-ALAIMALO

Lynn Pulou-Alaimalo is a) a thoroughly wonderful person (and I mean WONDERFUL!) and b) a very talented writer. She has recently published two books, one of which is a short non-fiction work about the village of Lauli’i in American Samoa. If you want to know why Molioleava holds a special place in the author’s heart, read the interview.

LYNN PULOU-ALAIMALO

Pasifika Tales: You wrote a very interesting book – a short story, to be exact – about the village of Lauli’i, American Samoa. Why did you decide to do it? 

Lynn Pulou-Alaimalo: Thank you. Yes, I did. When I explored publishing options, I garnered a feeling of exemplification. I wanted to write about something I knew rather than something I could have explosively created with imagination. So, I wrote about this crater. For years, I called Molioleava ‘the life of American Samoa’. Without it, there wouldn’t be any telephone services, cable networks, television services and communication among the local territory. But there was another thing that no one knew about Molioleava. Molioleava is also the burial grounds of my ancestors. In sacrificing their resting grounds, surrounding them are antennas serving the territory.

PT: What does the place mean to the islands? Why is it so important? 

LPA: The Molioleava or Harbor Light in the village of Lauli’i, American Samoa is a huge point of infrastructure for the island of American Samoa. Because of the elevation of this crater, majority of the antennas and telecommunication lines are seated on the crater. Installed on this crater also is the harbor light that guides ships and boats into the inner wharf or port of the territory.

PT: There are quite a few ghost stories about Molioleava. Can you share some of them?

LPA: There’s quite many for visitors and guests. From the blonde hair lady who stands by the lone coconut tree in the mountain to an appearance of people waving from the harbor light when ships pass by at night. There’s a track of sand that leads far up the road to the harbor light before sunrise, that most elders used to call ‘a path for spirits’ (ala o’o.) As a true flesh and blood of this land, I can only imagine the stories that people convey. I also think that there are unordinary things beyond our control or those who had once occupied the lands still guarding lands and family. I only think of sudden neck hairs standing up as guardians just passing by when I’m in the area.

PT: Your family comes from the village of Lauli’i. Can you tell me something more about this place?

LPA: The harbor light, or Molioleava, is a general name for the crater or the mountain. In Samoan, the word moli means light, ava is the deep-sea. To my family, this crater has its own name and meaning. This land is called Namumeaavaga, a Samoan word meaning ‘the fragrance’ or odor of the deceased. This land was the very first area our ancestors first settled from the island of Manu’a to have their ava (kava) upon arrival. The two sons of the King of Manu’a (Tuimanu’a), Sua and Vaifanua, sailed out and found the village of Lauli’i. When they settled by the crater, they bid farewell from one another. Vaifanua went to Vatia, my ancestor Sua stayed in Lauli’i. This mountain was the focal point where Tuimanu’a could see his sons from Ta’u, Manu’a. It is also an area very dusky at night, almost like a hindrance to ships when they sail in. Another remarkable history behind this mountain are the colonization days when the United States Naval artifacts and artilleries were placed by the Breaker’s Point and on the obverse end of crater. Those monuments are still sitting there today and managed by the National Park. Starkist, one of the biggest manufactory in the territory hosts many licensed fishing vessels annually. Some Korean ships that encountered hardships with the crater sunk and are still seated on the outskirts of the Molioleava.

PT: Is this your favourite place on the Planet Earth?

LPA: Molioleava would be my most favorite place on Earth. As many people say, ‘Home is where the heart is.’ Molioleava or Namumeaavaga surrounds my humble abode in Lauli’i.

PT: What does American Samoa mean to you? 

LPA: It is my home and a respective title I epitomize everywhere I go. I have roots in both Samoan archipelagos, but American Samoa is where I was born and raised. I always think of the territory as a remote dot on the map, with power to its lands and its own facilitated Constitution. My homeland is like a gem carted in my journeys and milestones. While not many people know where American Samoa is, the only way they’ll be able to remember American Samoa is through the NFL players Marcus Mariota, Domata Peko, Joey Iosefa and many more. Another way the world would easily remember American Samoa is by its beauty of turquoise beaches, lush mountains, annual cruise ships, and tourism – the cannibalism memorial in Aoloau, the outrigger and long boat races, the Tale of the Turtle and Shark, the inner wharf that guarded US Navy ships in during the Tripartite Convention, preservation of the Samoan culture, the rides to Aunu’u Island, quiet Sundays, the family oriented people and a homeland with a huge quota of American Samoans serving in the United States military. Essentially, American Samoa is my home.

PT: Do you feel more American or Samoan?

LPA: I always feel that I could blend in with any ethnicity and feel happy with an open mind than share a faction of where I represent. However, I feel that there is more of me in both. For instance, while English is still my second language, I use both English and Samoan to communicate and translate anything to better understand it. I practice my Samoan culture everywhere I go. I excuse myself when I walk by people. I fathom the word, Faafetai – meaning thank you. There is respect rendered for anyone. And no matter where I venture out to, I never forget where I am from. On the American side, I am a proud veteran of the United States Army. I served this country and went to wars and protected the freedom of not only this country, but also my homeland of American Samoa. If there is one thing I’m most proud of in my life, it would be this sacrifice for world peace, freedom for mankind facing genocide, and the love for people. With my Samoan culture manifested in all that I do, I find the best in both worlds as a citizen of good faith.

PT: Do you plan to visit the islands anytime soon?

LPA: I just returned a few months ago. Since I left home in 2000, I’ve always traveled back to visit family. It’s so hard to board the plane after weeks of eating German buns and round pancakes in Fagatogo. Everything moves rapidly in the world. Like in Bulgaria, you’ll never find someone walking as if they’re walking in a park. In Heidelberg, every one counts down to Oktoberfest like it’s nothing. And then there’s old sweet Wisconsin, where time just flies right over the marshes of cranberry country. When that Hawaiian Airline lands in Pago Pago International Airport, everything goes on pause. Vacation hashtag goes up!

‘MOLIOLEAVA’ BY LYNN PULOU-ALAIMALO

‘Molioleava’ is the story of Lauli’i, a village in American Samoa, as told by the author, Lynn Pulou-Alaimalo.

MOLIOLEAVA

Summary

To most unitiated people the hill that stands guard over the inner wharf of American Samoa may just be a source of light that guides ships safely to the harbour. But to Lynn Pulou-Alaimalo, Molioleava is the life and heart of the country.

This beautiful part of the village of Lauli’i is the abode of her ancestors – their burial grounds. It’s a place where the present interlaces with the past; a place that requires remembrance and respect.

Review

Hardly ever do we think about that, but every book – whether it’s fiction or non-fiction – must possess certain elements. It needs, for example, a main character – an individual around whom a story revolves. It also requires a setting, that is a location where the aforementioned character experiences his or her adventures. But what if the main character and the setting are one and the same thing?

It happens; sometimes a place indeed is the protagonist and the absolute focal point of the book. But in ‘Molioleava’, the described location is even more than that. This is the reason why this short publication is quite an oddity; a rare bird that appears in the sky to amaze people. It may be just a few pages long, but it is a substantial volume that provides readers with a great deal of information regarding one of the most important and – as it turns out – fascinating sites in American Samoa.

Lynn Pulou-Alaimalo relates the story in a somewhat journalistic manner. Very quickly you get an impression of reading a newspaper article, in which the author reports bare facts, adorning them occasionally with a little more personal tales. The text skips nimbly from one subject to another, painting a very thorough picture in your head. Everything, from the geography of the place to its history and mythology to the significance for the island’s infrastructure, is comprehensively covered. You feel well versed when you finish the last sentence. And you certainly feel intrigued to get to know Molioleava even better, for this work really sparks interest. As befits a fine writer, Ms. Alaimalo pulls readers into a unique world and then leaves them wanting more.

Now, despite the abundance of information, the book is one of those that you may think end before they really start. It is a very slim volume, a ‘quick read’ in the purest form. It seems that Lynn Pulou-Alaimalo is a lady of few words, because the brevity of her story is quite surprising, especially when juxtaposed with the amount of knowledge it presents. Well, don’t let the length fool you – it may be a slim volume, but it is extremely pithy. The author hit the right note – the book is complete without being mundane. And boredom, let’s be honest here, would not be so difficult to achieve taking into account the very specific subject matter.

The substance definitely satisfies, but the style is equally good. Unnecessary descriptions have been left out, and yet the place is depicted so vividly you have no troubles conjuring it up in your imagination. The harbour light and the crown of antennas appear right before your eyes, and you can sense a subtle aura of mystery. Skillfully written in clear and concise language, this story is a real pleasure to read.

Books like this are not being published every day, which is reason enough to reach for this title. It’s arresting and enlightening. It’s simply unique.

‘THE HAPPY ISLES OF OCEANIA: PADDLING THE PACIFIC’ BY PAUL THEROUX

‘The Happy Isles of Oceania: Paddling the Pacific’ is Paul Theroux’s memoir-cum-travelogue that documents his journey across the Blue Continent.

THE HAPPY ISLES OF OCEANIA

Summary

What does a man do when faced with a failing marriage and the possibility of having skin cancer? He starts his fight. He’s determined to win the battles. Or he gives up and does nothing. Or – just like Paul – he runs away; as far from his home as he can. Is there a better destination that the alluring islands of the Pacific? Absolutely not.

Beginning in Australia and New Zealand, he gets his first taste of Oceania. The mysterious Blue Continent and an overwhelming need to be alone in the wilderness makes him grab his collapsible kayak and venture into the great unknown. Trying to immerse himself in the indigenous cultures of the region, he travels from Papua New Guinea to the Solomon Archipelago, from Vanuatu to Fiji, from the islands of south Polynesia to heavenly Hawaii. Each of these places lets him escape his bitter reality, until – finally – he rediscovers the flavor of life anew.

Review

Have you ever had a love/hate relationship with a book? I have. And this is THE book.

Yes, I absolutely love it. This is one of the best titles in the travel genre, hands down. It’s funny, engaging, and it shows rather than tells. But it also annoys me beyond words. Literally, it makes me utterly mad. As it is quite rude to commence with the downsides, let’s start with the positives, shall we?

It cannot be denied that Paul Theroux possesses the literary genius. His prodigious talent with words captivates readers, compelling them to devour page after page until they swiftly reach the end of his more or less irritating yet extremely intriguing story. And even though he states at the end of the last chapter that he is not a travel writer, this personal account proves otherwise – it is the very epitome of the ‘been there, wrote the book’ genre; and a terrific one at that!

It is impossible to miss his flowing prose that is thoroughly appealing, impeccable language, or the authentically funny (at least more often than not) sense of humour. The author doesn’t bother readers with detailed and vivid descriptions of the places he travels to. Instead, he devotes his attention to people – mainly native inhabitants – and their ways of being. He absorbs everything that surrounds him – from the atmosphere of the so-called paradise to the idiosyncrasies of the cultures he encounters. He explores, he observes, he draws his own conclusions. He is not afraid to ask even the most personal questions, and the more honest the answer the more happy he seems to be. Because the islands clearly cheer him up. What started as a great escape, turned out to be a great and often amusing adventure. Which, by the way, should surprise absolutely no one – when in paradise, you can’t help but beam with sheer happiness. Even if that paradise sometimes uncovers its darker side.

Yes, let’s be frank here, no corner of this globe can be given the label of ‘a wonderland’. But if there is one place on our planet Earth that can be regarded as the slice of heaven, this is Oceania. With its kind, smiling, welcoming people it is the closest thing to paradise you’ll be able to find. And yet Paul Theroux failed to notice that. Throughout the book he proudly displays his sardonic attitude, throwing around disgustingly subjective comments about the locals that are genuinely hard to read at times. He writes, for example, that the prettiest women he saw in the Pacific were in Tonga; only to add in the very same sentence that they were also ‘the ugliest, hairy things with bad skin’. Additionally, you may learn that the people of Tanna were (I consciously retain the past form; after all, we don’t know if this viewpoint still holds true for Mr Theroux today) ‘small, scowling knob-headed blacks with short legs and big dusty feet’. Samoans – on the other hand – are lovingly described as ‘rather gloatingly rude’. It seems that only the inhabitants of the Cooks deserved some compliments. In Theroux’s eyes they weren’t ‘greedy or lazy’; actually, they were ‘hospitable, generous, and friendly’. I can understand having your own opinions. But I can’t understand being a xenophobe.

Is this book worthy of your time and attention? Absolutely. It is an outstanding piece of travel literature. It is entertaining and…well…very informative. It lets you discover that one may be a terrific writer, but a not so terrific person.

‘BULA: SAILING ACROSS THE PACIFIC’ BY BRYAN CARSON

‘Bula: Sailing Across the Pacific’ is an adventure book that tells the story of Bryan Carson’s three-year-long voyage through the islands of the South Seas.

BULA SAILING ACROSS THE PACIFIC

Summary

At the age of 29, Bryan comes to the realization that working for the corporate world is not his calling. He dreams of an escape, something new and exciting. As he doesn’t want to waste any more time, he buys a boat and decides to sail across the Pacific Ocean.

Along with his friend Figman, Bryan makes a safe passage to French Polynesia. After spending some quality time in Tahiti, he travels up north and visits the islands of Kiribati. Then, on his way to Hawaii, he gets caught in the ferocious storm but eventually manages to reach the archipelago. There he meets a girl named Misty, who accompanies him to Palmyra and American Samoa. In Pago Pago, the pair is joined by Muzzy, a sailor from New Zealand willing to show them the dark passage to the Kingdom of Tonga.

In the Friendly Islands, the boys say goodbye to their female crewmember, then leave Polynesia behind and sail to Fiji and New Caledonia, before ending their adventure in beautiful Australia.

Review

This book is basically a written version of ‘The Hangover’, except that its story takes place on a boat which leisurely drifts through the warm waters of the Blue Continent. By no means is this a piece of serious literature. This title was created to entertain, to enthral, to give readers a little pleasure and enjoyment. I can assure you, if you grab this travelogue, you will get it all.

Of course, you may assume that any three-year-long voyage would be an exciting experience worth documenting in one way or another. That’s probably true; although personally I think this largely depends on a sailor. And Bryan… Well, Bryan is not your ordinary person. His jovial personality and ever-present eagerness to have fun is exactly what makes this account so extremely interesting. He had a blast during his journey and he didn’t mind writing about it in detail. So you’ll get to know the good, the bad, and the ugly; along with the hot, the steamy, the scary, the frightening, the strange, and the oddly bizarre. Each and every tale is spiked with his unique sense of humour, so you’ll definitely have quite a few laughs while reading about his South Seas frolics.

Now, Bryan’s memoir is predominantly about sailing. However, if you expect it to be a technical guide, you might be disappointed. It is nothing like this. You won’t find any useful tips, any practical advices here. But you will find a tremendously engaging narrative that will take you to the rough waters and magical islands of the Pacific Ocean, letting you discover some of the most fascinating cultures in the world. Without leaving your home, you’ll be able to walk on the white beaches and swim in pristine lagoons. You’ll be able to meet local inhabitants and a bunch of crazy tourists. In other words, you will have a hell of a good time.

So if you want to become a member of Bryan’s crew, simply read his book. I highly recommend it. It is a decently written account of a great voyage and I’m positive it will keep you entertained from the very first page. And who knows, maybe it will even inspire you to chase your own dreams?

‘NEW TALES OF THE SOUTH PACIFIC – PARADISE NOT’ BY GRAEME KENNEDY

‘New Tales of the South Pacific – Paradise NOT’ is the first book written by Graeme Kennedy. This collection of five stories, which describes the reality of life in the Pacific Islands, is based on Kennedy’s own observations as well as his incredible knowledge of the region.

NTOTSP 1

Summary

Travelling through the Blue Continent, Graeme Kennedy gets a chance to visit some very interesting places and encounter even more interesting characters.

In the village of Aka’aka (Wallis and Futuna), he meets a man whose only dream is to return to the hustle and bustle of a big city. In Pago Pago, he spends his time at the hot and steamy bar with quite a few attention-grabbing individuals. He then escapes to Niue, where a middle-aged New Zealander changes his life, teaching everyone a lesson. After that he finally departs to Samoa to talk to a French priest who has chosen to serve God by helping people in Lepea village.

Review

The first thing you’ll notice about this book is how fantastically written it is. As a former journalist, Kennedy definitely knows how to put thoughts and feelings into words. His writing style – elaborate yet very clear, attractive but not overwhelming – makes the stories a pleasure to read while his imagery – powerful, vivid, and precise – makes the stories come alive. As everything, from landscapes to neighbourhoods, is depicted in the slightest detail, you’ll get a chance to ‘explore’ the surroundings. It doesn’t matter if it’s a luxury resort, a stunning beach, or a sleazy bar – you will ‘see’ it all. You will even feel the heat and humidity slowly surrounding you… Ah, that tropical paradise!

Speaking of which, are those islands really heaven on earth? In the eyes of Graeme Kennedy, they are not. After starting the book with a wide-ranging commentary on the history of Polynesia and its current situation, the author makes a great comparison between the so-called Eden and the actual South Pacific, which – just like any other place in this world – has its dark side. You’ll suddenly discover that not every street resembles the picture-perfect images from travel brochures, ever-so-friendly natives need to deal with their own problems, and tourists do not always get what they came for. But somehow the Blue Continent is still fascinating and magical. Even if it’s shown from a different perspective.

The stories in Kennedy’s compilation vary widely. Some of them are tragic, some are sad, some are simply hilarious. But they all have one thing in common: they are deeply thought-provoking; they change the way we perceive that blue land of bliss. Mind you, they change the way we perceive our world.

The book is short and can be read very quickly. It’s just perfect for a lazy evening spent at home or an even lazier afternoon spent at the beach. I am sure you will love it, especially if you enjoy travel writing with a twist.

‘PACIFIC TSUNAMI GALU AFI’ BY LANI WENDT YOUNG

‘Pacific Tsunami Galu Afi’ is an account of the 2009 Pacific Tsunami that hit the countries of Samoa, American Samoa, and Tonga on September, 29th. It was penned by a Samoan writer, Lani Wendt Young.

GALU AFI

Summary

The morning of September 29th is like any other day in Samoa. Some people are getting ready for work, others are still asleep. They don’t know yet that their lives are soon going to change forever.

At 6.48 a.m. the earth begins to tremble; violently. Things are falling off the shelves; coconuts are falling off the trees; rocks are falling off the cliffs. A short while later, the sirens can be heard blaring out.

Most people, busy with their morning routines, don’t even notice the ocean receding. But the birds know. They know something is coming, so they take off. They take off before the first black wave starts rushing to the shore.

Review

Imagine you’re watching one of those Hollywood-made disaster drama films. You know, the films with an all-star cast, great special effects, and a story that keeps you on the edge of your seat biting your nails in fear, excitement, or both. The films you’re watching thanking God it’s only a film. Well, ‘Galu Afi’ is such a film; only on paper.

You may think that this is just a book that recounts the tragic events of September 29th, 2009, but I can already tell you that it is not. This book is so much more. It shows us what’s really important in life. It proves that people can act like brothers, not enemies; that we can count on one another when the bad times come. It is, contrary to appearances, an unbelievably uplifting read; one that will stay in your head long after the book is closed.

Lani Wendt Young was given a tough job of putting together dozens of heartbreaking stories to document the disaster for Samoa and its people. It would be all too easy to create a volume full of sorrowful narratives, but she managed to avoid excessive sentimentality. Yes, the presented accounts are moving, poignant, at times even disturbing – and you might shed a tear or two. But you will also smile, because they are often laced with subtle, appropriate humour only Lani Wendt Young can deliver.

The emotions ‘Galu Afi’ evokes give you a true roller-coaster ride, largely due to the fact that you don’t stay in one story for a very long time. It seems as if the author had wanted all the voices to be heard. You meet one family, then you meet another, and another. There are so many characters, yet somehow you remember them all. You feel for them, admire them, wonder at their strength and resilience. And when you see their faces in the photographs, their tales become even more real. Suddenly you realize that this is not some Hollywood story, and that not everyone has a happy ending.

The book is written in a simple yet elegant style. Lani Wendt Young doesn’t show off her writing skills – she remains in the shadow, but she still gets to shine. The people’s voices are neatly stitched together with her own words, creating an absorbing read full of heart and soul.

Before I started reading ‘Galu Afi’, I had already known that Lani Wendt Young is an extraordinarily talented writer. But now I will say that she is a true literary artisan. This book isn’t good; it’s not even great. It can be described in one word only – a masterpiece. ‘Pacific Tsunami Galu Afi’ is a pure masterpiece.

A CHAT WITH… LYNN PULOU-ALAIMALO

Lynn Pulou-Alaimalo is a name you should know. This very talented lady – proud of her Samoan blood – is an emerging writer of both fiction and non-fiction. Her debut novel, ‘Lovefolds of Our Upbringing’, is not only an engaging story but also a wonderful introduction to the Samoan culture. Are you interested in learning more about this title? Read on.

 LYNN PULOU-ALAIMALO

Pasifika Tales: ‘Lovefolds of Our Upbringing’ is the first instalment in the Aiga series. Aiga is a very important word for Samoans. Is this why you chose it to interlink your stories?

Lynn Pulou-Alaimalo: ‘Lovefolds of Our Upbringing’ is my very first instalment focused on family life and customary norms in Samoa. Aiga means family in Samoan. Aiga is very important to the Samoan people. Whether it is a family that’s close-knitted or a crabs-in-a-bucket type of family, it is sacred and everyone belongs to one. The aiga in Samoa is also a core curriculum of its own, where a child experiences the good, the bad, the beautiful and the odds about family, but at the end of the day of course, ‘family’s all we got.’

PT: Could you describe briefly what the series is about?

LPA: This series is ultimately a reveling story about the Samoan life, a humble beginning and family values. It exhibits a humble upbringing of a Samoan family which depicts a relatable experience for most Samoans. My upbringing is a compendium of mannerisms, respect, strict discipline, the church, culture and a covenant of ‘family over everything’. ‘Lovefolds…’ depicts a viewpoint for each character about his or her upbringing, especially a close-knitted life in a Samoan family. This book is focused on the beginning especially. Which means every single extraordinary person got their start in a simple way. They all have something in common and that is the beginning.

The fluidity of Pintail ensembles a continuance of ‘Lovefolds…’, but differently in a way that when the children leaves home, they will adapt into the Westernized life in America. They will see places they’ve seen on TV commercials, huge airplanes, tall buildings and also experience a life without Mom and Dad nearby and open stores on Sundays – everything rare or doesn’t exist in the islands. ‘Pintail…’ describes a notable cliché that most Samoans have adapted to in a unique way. No matter where we are in this world – through distance, changes and Westernized influences, a foundation grounds us to remember that through it all, our lives were weaved from a structure of God, family and culture.

And then I have ‘Colorful deeds’ and ‘Blessings Unfold’ coming along which are going to be inspired by my adventures around the world.

PT: What (or who) was your inspiration?

LPA: My inspiration is truly my upbringing and the ones who gave me that upbringing. By observation, the love Samoan parents invest in to see their children grow, helped me to not only write but to adapt well in a melting pot of diverse cultures and changes when I left home. I wanted to move away from the archipelago to seek opportunities and travel the world. Joining the military became my foot-in-the-door opportunity to transfer a canvas of what I was seeing into a mosaic of different settings in my stories.

PT: The first book of the series introduces readers to the Tala family. The way you portrayed the characters is quite marvelous. Did you base them on real-life people?

LPA: I did base them on a real setting from encounters and experiences around friends as well as families. Like the character of Iulia – she’s a combination of many Samoan mothers and neighbors in my upbringing. Lectures and earful sessions are quite frankly a common norm for the Samoan mother and that particularly inspired my Iulia character. I wrote a lot of what I experienced into most of my characters too. From things I’ve heard and experienced myself, I was able to mold my characters well in this book. These particular moments and experiences written into each chapter became a relatable aha moment for my readers. Common experiences helped me to shape a lot of the events in my book, while other familiarities exhibits events still remarkably withheld under taboos.

PT: The story of the Tala family is solidly anchored in Samoan culture. Could you explain – especially for those readers who are not familiar with the islands – the values that constitute the core of Samoan way of being?

LPA: Samoan values are relatable to most in mannerisms and dogmatic practices which surfaces among people. Respect is common. Basic etiquettes and the respective way of treating people professionally and personally are also common. Love, respect, and honor goes beyond values people embrace in the Samoan culture. These values are a representation of us, our ancestors as well as the Samoan culture.

PT: Would you say these values are still present in the everyday lives of Samoan people? As we all know, cultures constantly evolve.

LPA: I know that we are still able to practice and embrace our culture freely because of these core values. It has been 3000 years since the Samoan culture evolved around changes from the first explorer received on the shores to the European settlers who brought the word of Jesus Christ to the archipelagos. These values are very much present and still echo around the cultural functions, family events and ceremonies practiced by the Samoan people today.

PT: Now, your next book, the second instalment in the Aiga series, is due to be released in June. What can you reveal about it?

LPA: Yes, ‘Pintail Foundation’ is the second book of the Aiga Series. It is a continuation of the Tala Family’s voyage. Tala’s children are all leaving home, one after another, and most of their experiences is a cultural shock. I received several inquiries about its name. But it’s just my own modest title which follows a Samoan proverb. In Samoa, there’s a Samoan proverb that my people are well versed in that goes, ‘E lele le toloa ae ma’au I le vai.’ – ‘No matter where a gray duck flies, it will always return to its wetlands’. Wherever Samoans may pursue endeavors in this world, they will always remember the tides, biomes, and aura of their beginning. From cities, skyscrapers and countries afar… home remains unforgotten to Samoans.

PT: Apart from the Aiga series books, are you working on anything else at the moment?

LPA: I’m currently working on literary journals with my writer’s associations. Outside of that, I focus my writings on the growing issues in West Papua. I like to write blogs and short stories when time permits. Other times as a reviewer for the Asian & Pacific Islander American Scholarship, I review essays and stories by younger generations in our South Pacific ring, who shares stories and common goals about life as an Asian Pacific Islander and attending college.

‘LOVEFOLDS OF OUR UPBRINGING: A FAMILY’S JOURNEY IN LIFE’ BY LYNN PULOU-ALAIMALO

‘Lovefolds of Our Upbringing: A family’s journey in life’ is a contemporary fiction novel set in American Samoa. The book is Lynn Pulou-Alaimalo’s paperback debut and the first instalment in the Aiga series.

LOVEFOLDS OF OUR UPBRINGING

Summary

One cannot raise children without instiling within them a proper set of values. Helping youngsters establish their moral compass is a mission no parent can take lightly, and Iulia and Tala are keenly aware of that. With great passion and consequence they pass on the Samoan way of being to their sons and daughters, teaching them humility and respect for others in the hope that they will grow up to be considerate and caring people succeeding in their adult lives.

Review

As a writer you know that you only get one debut, and you should use it wisely. Create a book you will be proud of, and – preferably – a book people will want to read. Easier said than done, right? But if you are a Pacific writer (yes, you may just call me biased here), the chances are your debut will be fabulous; or even totally shamazing.

Such is the case with Lynn Pulou-Alaimalo, whose debut novel immediately shows what a gifted and engrossing storyteller she is. Part one of the Aiga series is so enjoyable and pleasant to read that it literally makes you impatient for the next title.

The story of an average Samoan family will resonate mainly with the author’s target audience. Pacific Islanders will surely find it easy to relate to the characters, their actions and behaviours. Being connected by cultures based on the same (or similar) values, they will understand each sentence significantly better, have more reasons to laugh and an excuse to cry. For them, this book will be a piece of home; something familiar, intimate, and recognizable. I cannot but take notice here, that despite the rising popularity of so-called ethnic literature, Pacific peoples are still under-represented in popular fiction genres. Why can’t we see in major bookstores bestsellers with a protagonist that comes from Samoa, Tonga, Niue, or Kiribati? Why can’t a person living in Europe or the East Coast of the United States pick up a novel with a Pohnpeian hero and not wonder what the word ‘Pohnpeian’ really means? (I will deliberately ignore the ignorance of some human beings, who don’t know – and what is worse don’t care – that on our planet Earth there is a region called Oceania, as that’s not the point here). Let me tell you why: because the very few Pacific books that get published are aimed primarily at Pasifika readers. Unfortunately, ‘Lovefolds of Our Upbringing’ is no exception in this regard.

I am all for incorporating indigenous vocabulary into stories, as this adds authenticity and is simply a beautiful adornment. However, if such book is to be accessible to a wider audience, the ‘foreign’ words and expressions should be translated. Lynn Pulou-Alaimalo uses Samoan almost as often as English, which – I want to emphasize this one more time – is utterly wonderful; for people who know both languages. If you don’t speak Samoan, you will have trouble comprehending a great number of lengthy passages. This is certainly a downside of this novel; the only one, nonetheless quite annoying.

Even though this first instalment of the series is bereft of a typical plot – where you can easily identify the purpose of the narrative – it draws you in. You feel as if you’ve been watching someone’s life through a peephole. The characters are remarkably plausible, their experiences solidly anchored in reality. As you travel through the pages, the principles of Fa’a Samoa (the Samoan way) charmingly unfold before your eyes, enabling you to understand the peculiarities of this amazing culture.

Reading Lynn Pulou-Alaimalo’s books is a real pleasure. She is an excellent writer who refuses to forget about her roots. ‘Lovefolds of Our Upbringing’ is a dream opening of the Aiga series. You can’t help but wonder just how good the second instalment will be.

‘TUTUILA’ BY ZE LIN XIAO

‘Tutuila’ is a collection of eight short stories written by Ze Lin Xiao, a Computer Science graduate from Stanford University. The book was inspired by her life in American Samoa.

TUTUILA

Summary

The reality of the Samoan Archipelago can be harsh and brutal. People – both young and old – are chasing their dreams, trying to satisfy their deepest desires and needs. But there are tribulations, and troubles, and everyday struggles they have to deal with. There is a young girl who tells the story of her family, an eight-year-old boy listening to the old Samoan legend, a pair of relatives attending a funeral, a teenager who discovers the importance of family, a palagi woman who gets into an argument with another female, and a Chinese boy who moves to a prettier place across the ocean.

Review

I’ll be honest here, ‘Tutuila’ is definitely not a masterpiece. The book is extremely short. Two of the stories are about three or four paragraphs long. They end before they even start, and you, as a reader, are left wanting to know more. But bear in mind that this narratives were created by a very young woman with no writing experience. Taking this into account,
I think she did a really good job.

The compilation revolves around American Samoa, and the country is ‘somewhat’ described. Not very vividly and rather cursorily. This doesn’t mean, of course, that you do not learn anything about the islands. You do. Through the eyes of the characters, through their personal stories, you get a sense what it feels to live in the corner of the globe most people consider a slice of heaven. But do you get acquainted with the country’s culture? Not really. Can you imagine the settings? Only scarcely. So if this is what you’re hoping to find in a book about the South Pacific, you should look for it somewhere else.

When it comes to the language, it is quite simple and rather plain. There is absolutely no poetry here; there are no beautiful phrases. Everything is very ‘raw’ and realistic, which is actually a big plus as it makes each story highly believable. I must say that authenticity is unquestionably the main strength of the book. Readers get to know the real place (at a very superficial level), not a tropical paradise from a glossy travel brochure. And, let me tell you, that place can be scary. Poverty, violence, diseases – in ‘Tutuila’, it’s all part of the package. But don’t get depressed. There are a few rays of light that dispel this gloominess. There is hope. And faith for a better tomorrow. There is also some humor that may bring a smile to your face. If you search carefully, I’m sure you’ll discover all these ‘treats’.

Is ‘Tutuila’ worth reading? Personally, I think it is. Ze Lin Xiao appears to be a very insightful observer; some of her depictions are quite interesting, especially for people fascinated with Pasifika. Maybe you won’t be struck by this book, but you might like a story or two. So, give it a try.