Tag Archives: Lynn Pulou-Alaimalo

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.

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.

THROUGH MY EYES: ‘HEROINE OF MY OWN WORLD’ BY LYNN PULOU-ALAIMALO

My frantic schedule as a tina (mother) compels certainty that I am a heroine of my own kind. A heroine of my own world. Not the mother who wakes up to the sound of birds in her garden with violin playing in the background. Or one who would snap her finger and the kids would form a formation while singing Do-Re-Mi before single filing out to the car for school. As a heroine of my own world, I persevere through the opposite of that.

When I reflect back to legendary myths about heroines across the Pasifika, I marvel at their strength, preservation, and dauntless examples as warlords. Like Ka wahine ‘ai Honua, or the goddess of fire Pele – she shaped and sheltered the Hawaiian lands. In Samoa, I admire the Siamese twin sisters Taema and Tilafaiga’s journey that procured titles and proverbs presently used by the Samoan people. They profusely left behind tales which not only contributed to histories of lands and the ocean, but also influenced the growing mana of the tina in the family.

As a mother, I find strength to cope with every responsibility through the eyes of my family. My mom has. Grandmothers, great grandmothers and every woman in our lineage of ancestors did. My gratitude extends far out to pillars who appraised the value of culture and family. I wouldn’t be embracing much now, without the restless mothers and goddesses who instilled courage into the feats I now battle with as, “Mom, mommy, ma, Momma, Mummy, Momsy…mummified!”

I remember the tale of the Siamese twin sisters Taema and Tilafaiga, whose breeding voyage knitted a foundation of the Samoan culture. They are known in real stories as the sisters who sailed between Fiji, Tutuila (American Samoa), Manu’a, Savaii and Samoa. Tilafaiga is the mother of a mighty war goddess by the name of Nafanua. Nafanua’s supernatural powers have no equal. Her immortal influences crafted systems currently embraced by the Independent Samoan government.

In the course of an endless hardship in Falelatai village, Nafanua sailed out to save her people from slavery. When Nafanua arrived unaccompanied with her war clubs, there wasn’t a presumption that she’ll drive a force of warriors away from her village. She didn’t have an army. However, her scorching powers formed an army of dragonflies and insects that fought beside her. Although men outnumbered her, Nafanua killed a numerous count during battle. At the wake of dawn, a breeze swept her upper apparel, exposing her breasts to the men. The Warriors were embarrassed and immediately fled out into the forest.

Relatively, my contemporary dream is some sort of power that’ll someday lure my imaginary Edward Scissorhands to organize plates, spoons and laundry around the house. Or perhaps a wand gadget devised to hold all the chores while the other arm is sitting at the drive-thru of Starbucks awaiting a Venti-sized caramel macchiato with two shots of espresso and less foam.

Every tina, or mother is a heroine in many ways. A tina is a representation of her own kind, a legend of her own story and a descendant of heroine ancestors. I am a heroine in my own world who still wakes up to the sound of the fire alarm because my better half has left the toaster notch at 5. A mother who is always relieved to be the first at the school drop off zone, and in the latter discovers a peanut butter face with a missing pair of shoe. Echoing in the hallway some mornings are numerous complaints to start my day: Mommy, the dog ate my science project! Mommy what am I going to wear? Where’s my catcher’s mitt? These mind-boggling occasions happen so often that all I can reminisce about are the days when there was no Starbucks, no toaster or a car; but a dear mother who wakes up before sunrise to grind the Koko Samoa (Samoan cocoa beans) and gather pandanus leaves to weave a fine mat for my family.

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.