Tag Archives: Sieni A.M.

THAT ONE BOOK

My Pacific Literature adventure began when I first read Albert Wendt’s book. I read it and I fell in love – with his creativity, writing style, talent. Then, years later, I discovered other authors from the region: Lani Wendt Young, who is the voice of contemporary Pacific women. Tanya Taimanglo, a very gifted lady whose tales accompany me in my daily life. Epeli Hauʻofa, for works of whom I reach whenever I need a bit of laugh. There is also Sia Figiel (The greatest). And Célestine Hitiura Vaite (Oh how I regret she hasn’t written anything since her charming Materena Mahi Trilogy). And Stephen Tenorio Jr. (Joyce, Hemingway of the Blue Continent?). And Chantal T. Spitz (She proves that poetry can convey a powerful message). And Lehua Parker (I had never thought I’d be interested in the adventures of a teenage boy, but I was!). And… I could go on and on about the writers from the South Seas. All outstandingly talented, most virtually unknown.

But if there is one author and one book that truly touched my heart, it’s Sieni A.M. and her ‘Scar Of The Bamboo Leaf’. This is such a superb novel, that it’s impossible to simply describe it, as no amount of words could ever truly show its beauty.

The (love) story of two young people, both physically or emotionally ‘flawed’ (I hate this word!), is technically aimed at young adults. However, it should be read by all – regardless of age, sex, social status, etc. At this moment you are probably wondering why. Let me explain.

Sieni A.M. created a moving narrative and filled it with extraordinary, extremely believable characters. Especially Kiva, the heroine of the book, is someone we should look up to. By modern standards, the girl is not perfect. Her visible limp makes her less worthy. She gets laughed at; she gets called names; she gets bullied. Just because she doesn’t meet the standards of beauty. What is beauty anyway? Well… Beauty is Kiva. A girl so strong, so understanding, so compassionate that you can’t help but be amazed at her fortitude. She proves that nothing can break you unless you let it. That you are not ‘without your strengths’, even if you ‘have flaws and insecurities’. That each and every one of us ‘belongs to something greater than our physical body and the physical world around us’. That if we can ‘walk, crawl, or limp toward our dreams, it is enough’.

How often do we forget about this? How often do we ask for more than we already have? How often do we treat ‘people like Kiva’ with not enough respect? ‘Scar Of The Bamboo Leaf’ is a wonderful reminder of what’s really important in life. It lets us understand that if we are good people, we are all perfect – even if the rest of the world keeps telling us otherwise. The colour of your skin, the structure of your hair, the length of your legs don’t matter. Dream, fulfill your potential, and help others do the same.

I have already read this novel quite a few times and it’s still not enough for me. I know that this book will stay with me till the rest of my life. Because it is beautiful, thought-provoking, inspiring, and moving. Every time I immerse myself in this story, it touches my heart. It gives me hope and encouragement. And it makes me cry (and you must know that I am not an easy crier – quite the contrary).

Such phenomenal piece of literature could have been created only by an enormously talented writer. That’s Sieni A.M. – a truly perfect woman.

MOST INTERESTING CHARACTERS IN PACIFIC LITERATURE (PART 1)

Simone, The Telesa Trilogy by Lani Wendt Young

Just imagine… An exuberant fa’afafine who is an absolute ideal of a best friend and who seems to always know what to say and do. Don’t you wish you had a person like this around you? Yes, Simone is…well…just shamazing!

Lani Wendt Young created a character who’s far more interesting and compelling than the protagonists of the novels, but – what’s important – doesn’t steal the whole spotlight. The bright and bubbly personality she bestowed upon him makes the occasionally serious story exude humour and Polynesian cheerfulness.

Materena, The Materena Mahi Trilogy by Célestine Hitiura Vaite

Materena is the real heroine of the trilogy. A devoted wife, an excellent mother, a star. She is, as teenagers would say, the coolest ever.

The author managed to develop a dynamic female character who is, first and foremost, a woman strong enough to fight for herself and do as she pleases. This powerful feminist voice is a reminder that you can never forget about your own needs; and that your dreams are just as important as everybody else’s.

Kiva, ‘Scar of the Bamboo Leaf’ by Sieni A.M.

The most fascinating people are the ones who have a story to tell; the ones who are not perfect (what does it mean to be perfect, anyway?); the ones who can teach us something. And because we usually want the novels to reflect the real world, the same goes for literary characters.

Kiva, the protagonist of Sieni A.M.’s book, instantly becomes your best friend. She isn’t flawless (although for me she is!), she has her struggles, and yet she is determined to lead a happy and meaningful life. She is a true role model every one of us – regardless of age – should look up to and at least try to emulate.

Tomas, ‘An Ocean In a Cup’ by Stephen Tenorio Jr.

Stephen Tenorio Jr’s literary debut, ‘An Ocean In a Cup’, is a wonderful example that it is indeed possible to create a multi-layered character who can not only attract but also hold readers’ attention.

Tomas is a leading figure of the book. Although at first he seems like an ordinary – extremely gifted, yes, nonetheless completely average – young man, you quickly realize there is more to his personality than what you see on the surface. The inexplicable darkness within him makes you contemplate psychological mechanisms that define human nature.

Uncle Kahana,  The Niuhi Shark Saga by Lehua Parker

In Middle Grade/YA genre characters are probably the most important element of the story. They may be an inspiring example for the youth; they may provide them with guidance; they may impart the words of wisdom. But most of all, they may entertain.

Uncle Kahana is a mysterious elder who knows more than he’s willing to show. Well versed in traditional knowledge, he represents ‘old Hawaii’, showing everyone that the ancient way of being is an integral part of the island life, and that indigenous culture simply must be respected.

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

‘Scar of the Bamboo Leaf’ by Sieni A.M.

I have probably recommended this title a million times. Yes, I know – you may be tired of my words by now. But I’ll be honest – this is a book I’m going to recommend over and over again, because it is absolutely worth it!

This is a story of incredible friendship and profound love between Kiva – a Samoan girl with a pronounced limp – and Ryler – a misunderstood American boy of Arab descent. While they help each other overcome their insecurities, a special bond starts to form under the Pacific sky.

‘Scar of the Bamboo Leaf’ is a book everyone – and I mean everyone, regardless of age or gender – should read. Not only is it beautiful and heart-warming but also extremely thought-provoking.

PACIFIC WRITERS YOU SHOULD KNOW (PART 1)

Sieni A.M.

Sieni A.M. is one of the best contemporary Pacific authors who seems to get better and better with every book she writes.

Her debut novel – ‘Illumine Her’ – is a wonderful YA paranormal romance, full of unexpected twists and turns that keep readers riveted from the very first to the very last page. But it’s the second book that fully reveals her talent. ‘Scar of the Bamboo Leaf’ simply delights, and it should be read by every single person, regardless of race, sex, or age. Keeping that in mind, you can’t help but eagerly await her next work.

Albert Wendt

A Samoan living legend. This is how you could describe Albert Wendt – unquestionably one of the greatest Pacific authors of all time.

His exceptionally well-written novels constitute a phenomenal, truthful portrayal of Samoan culture and way of life, so frequently romanticized by foreigners. More than often he broaches the subjects of Samoan diaspora and the relations between Pacific Islanders and ‘white people’, examining the effect the latter have on the traditions of his countrymen.

Lani Wendt Young

They say that talent runs in the family. In case of Albert Wendt and his niece, this is indeed very true.

Lani Wendt Young never ceases to amaze. Her writing style, fantastic sense of humour, and ability to turn great ideas into even greater stories is unmatched. Whether you’ll reach for her famous Telesa series, the new Scarlet trilogy, the collection of short stories, or the account of the 2009 Pacific tsunami, you will be taken on an unforgettable journey, because every publication with Lani Wendt Young’s name on the cover is a promise of something truly extraordinary.

Epeli Hau’ofa

Epeli Hau’ofa was a writer, poet, storyteller, thinker, and mentor, whose beautiful mind created some of the most amazing pieces about the Blue Continent, or ‘sea of islands’, as he used to call it.

Hau’ofa was a versatile author who could write anything, from fiction to short stories to essays to poetry, equally well. Every single of his works is not only highly engaging but also very thought-provoking and thus worth contemplating. It’s impossible to discuss Pacific literature without mentioning at least one (if not all) of his publications.

Célestine Hitiura Vaite

Célestine Hitiura Vaite is one of those authors who have their very own, distinctive style. Not everyone appreciates it, which is quite incomprehensible, because this lady definitely knows how to create a gripping narrative that is funny and poignant at the same time.

Her wonderful trilogy about Materena Mahi, a professional cleaner-turned-radio star, is a literary masterpiece, pure and simple, and a great example of contemporary Pacific fiction. Sadly, the three aforementioned books are Célestine Hitiura Vaite’s only published works, and no new book is on the horizon.

BEST READ-MORE-THAN-ONCE BOOKS

‘Scar of the Bamboo Leaf’ by Sieni A.M.

This incredible story of love between a physically-flawed artist girl and a troubled, misunderstood boy is nothing short of – I dare to say – a masterpiece.

Right from the very first page, the novel grabs your attention and doesn’t let go. A few chapters later, it touches your heart and starts messing with your feelings. The next thing you know, you’re officially hooked. Lush Samoan settings; more than believable characters; well-written, well-paced, thoroughly engaging narrative; words that make you think. What more could you wish for? It is a stunning book. Complex, poignant, thought-provoking, deeply moving. Just beautiful.

‘We Are the Ocean’ by Epeli Hauʻofa

This is an exquisite collection of exquisite essays, public lectures, and poems, in which Epeli Hauʻofa shares his thoughts concerning Pasifika – the great sea of islands.

Written with passion and genuine love for Oceania, the publication can be regarded as unique – truly unique – teaching material. It informs and educates. It enlightens. It inspires. The author’s words, opinions, and ideas are of great significance and should definitely be pondered upon. What can I say, this book is a keeper!

‘Attitude 13: A Daughter of Guam’s Collection of Short Stories’ by Tanya Taimanglo

Tanya Taimanglo’s tales offer a rare and most fascinating glimpse into the lives of various Chamorro people, who try to reconcile their traditions and heritage with modernity.

Even if you read this book hundreds of times, you always discover something new: an inspirational passage, a conveyed between the lines message, a hidden meaning of the story. The narratives are a great reminder of those eternal truths we tend to forget. But, most importantly, they are also a sheer delight to read. Beautifully written, embellished with vivid imagery and a gentle sense of humour, they take you on a wonderful journey to the island of Guam. And – I should mention this – it’s a journey you don’t want to end.

‘Sons for the Return Home’ by Albert Wendt

This story of a cross-racial romance between a Samoan student at Auckland University and a girl from a wealthy pālagi family is one of the most important works in the history of Pacific Literature.

It is a cleverly constructed page-turner, which keeps you riveted from the very first to the very last sentence. Most likely, it is the result of Albert Wendt’s terse, unornamented writing style – thoroughly charming (oh yes, it is charming!) and totally unique. With this ‘shortness’, this lack of descriptive language the author gets right to the point, making the novel all the more powerful. One of the best reads ever; absolutely.

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

A Pulitzer Prize-winning book must be extraordinary. And this collection of interconnected stories about World War II certainly is.

Michener’s novel is an emotional roller-coaster ride; thrilling, quite nerve-racking, at times disturbing. And yet it makes you want to come back for more. The war-torn ‘paradise’, the complex characters, the South Seas atmosphere… Some say it’s a good book. I say it’s truly a literary classic. James Michener at his best.

A CHAT WITH… SIENI A.M.

Sieni A.M. has just released her second novel, ‘Scar of the Bamboo Leaf’. Here you can read what inspired her to write this book, and how it may teach every single one of us to be a better person.

SIENI A.M.

Pasifika Tales: ‘Scar of the Bamboo Leaf’ is your second novel. I must say it is absolutely amazing. What inspired you to write it?

Sieni A.M.: Thank you! I wanted to write about imperfect, flawed characters, the challenges they face, and the ways in which they overcome their adversities. Out of the tests and difficulties they experience emerges nobility.

PT: Are any of the characters based on people you know in real life?

S. A.M.: The character of Kiva was inspired by a girl from my home community. She is the most radiant, beautiful person you will ever meet. She was born with a leg length deficiency, has been walking with a pronounced limp all her life, and is now attending university.

For the character of Ryler, I interviewed a graduate from the Coral Reef Academy in Samoa (American school for troubled boys). I was curious to learn about his life prior to and during Samoa. I wanted to see what impact the change in environment and culture did for him. And it did a lot. Samoa changed him for the better, but the change came firstly from within him. He made the initial steps and had the support around him to carry him forward.

PT: As you’ve mentioned, Kiva – the female protagonist in the book – is a teenage girl with a physical disability. Do you think it’s important to introduce such characters?

S. A.M.: I believe so, yes. Absolutely. Kiva has aspirations and dreams just like any other young woman and she doesn’t allow her disability to come in the way of that. Of course it isn’t easy, and she gets hurt over and over, but she also arises from those experiences. There’s much to learn from exemplars like her.

PT: What can such amazing people teach us? What message did you want to convey to your readers?

S. A.M.: Self-sacrifice. Humility. Beauty. Honesty. Purpose. However, once a story is out there it no longer belongs to the writer. A reader will interpret and connect to it in vastly different ways.

PT: The novel also emphasizes the importance of family and home. Samoa seems to be a kind of shelter for all the characters in the book…

S. A.M.: Yes, Samoa is the main setting for ‘Scar of the Bamboo Leaf’. It’s what I’m most intimately connected with – the culture, the landscape, the people. I also love to travel so the novel is also set in three other countries.

PT: Ok, what’s next for you? Can we expect another wonderful story?

S. A.M.: Something new is definitely brewing… So far there’s a woman florist, a beach cottage, a graveyard, and of course a guy. The first time she meets him, she saves his life then punches him in the face. It’ll be released in 2015.

‘SCAR OF THE BAMBOO LEAF’ BY SIENI A.M.

‘Scar of the Bamboo Leaf’ is Sieni A.M.’s second novel. It tells the story of two teenagers searching for love, acceptance, and purpose in life. The book is categorized Young Adult Fiction and set in contemporary Samoa.

SCAR OF THE BAMBOO LEAF

Summary

Life hasn’t been easy for 15-year-old Kiva. Diagnosed as an infant with a leg length discrepancy and thus walking with a pronounced limp, she’s been forced to deal with insults and nasty remarks from other people. Finding serenity in arts, she often escapes to her private comfort zone with only a sketchbook, pencil, and an idea for her next drawing.

The girl’s life changes when her beloved uncle asks her to teach the misguided boys from a nearby Academy the art of siapo and dye making. One of the students is Ryler, a 17-year-old American full of rage and anger. His negative attitude draws Kiva’s attention. As she desperately wants to help Ry overcome his inner demons, an unlikely friendship is formed. A young girl starts to believe that her own secret wishes might someday come true. But tragic times are just around the corner and Kiva’s future may not be so bright…

Review

This is one of the best books you will ever read. The truth is, I could finish my review with that one sentence, because no words can truly describe how amazing Sieni’s novel is. And it doesn’t matter if you’re 15, 28, 35 or 50 years old – this story will linger with you for much longer than just one day, one week, or even one month.

Sieni A.M. managed to create a set of extremely believable, authentic characters who are the absolute highlight of the book. Kiva is not an ‘ideal girl’ – her visible disability makes her an object of jokes. Yet, she tries to see the good in people. She dares to dream and hope for a better tomorrow. And, let me tell you, by no means is she a cripple. She is the strongest, the most incredible, the most beautiful young woman, who doesn’t allow her imperfections to clip her wings.

Then there is Ryler, a half-American half-Arab troubled kid with scars of his own. Unlike Kiva, he doesn’t believe, he doesn’t care. His turbulent past – so difficult to tame – casts a long shadow on his everyday existence. However, deep inside there is a ray of light; hidden love that simply needs to be awoken. When that finally happens, Ry’s heart is set on fire.

Although Kiva and Ryler are the protagonists in the novel, there is a group of supporting characters, each of whom is equally interesting and complex. They are exactly the kind of ‘people’ you want to have in a book, as they are the ones that carry the story.

Which brings us to the next point: the fantastically plotted narrative. It is full of surprises and twists and turns no one can see coming. You are not able to predict the next chapter, let alone the ending. This heart-warming tale is an ideally paced roller-coaster ride. It makes you laugh. And then it makes you cry. This is precisely how emotionally charged the novel is.

I could not recommend ‘Scar of the Bamboo Leaf’ more. This wrapped in the lush Samoan settings tale of love, acceptance, and forbearance is something you will want to come back to the minute you finish the last page. It is an exceptionally good book, extremely inspirational and thought-provoking. Poetically written with a subtle dose of humour, it should be read by every single person, young and old.

A CHAT WITH… SIENI A.M.

Sieni A.M. is a Samoan author whose debut novel, ‘Illumine Her’, has won the hearts of hundreds of readers all over the world. If you want to know what this sweet, lovely, and funny lady had to say about her book, life, and work, just read the interview.

SIENI A.M.

Pasifika Tales: Your first book, ‘Illumine Her’, is categorized as a Paranormal or Supernatural Romance. Do you like this genre?

Sieni A.M.: I do! I was a reader before I became a writer, and the supernatural/paranormal genre is what hooked me in. There’s something about this genre that can embed messages in a subtle way, or in a way that might appeal to readers that they may not otherwise want to read about straight up. When I started writing ‘Illumine Her’, Chase was the first character to evolve, and I knew he would be different. He was a lot of fun to develop.

PT: What was the inspiration for the plot? It is, I must say, very intriguing and unusual.

S. A.M.: Thank you! I wanted to write a love story – one that focused on a connection that served to draw out one’s purpose in life and the difficulties one might have in achieving them. This is what I love most about Alana’s character. She knows what she wants and tries hard to get there despite a little adversity along the way. After her father’s death, she mourns for him for years. It consumes and changes her. The element of death and the afterlife is something that has always interested me – it’s inevitable and shouldn’t be something to be feared – and I attempted to portray this in as reverent a manner as possible.

PT: Samoa plays a big role in your novel. I would even say that it is one of the characters. Your descriptions of the island life and traditions are beyond amazing. Was it hard to depict the place so faithfully?

S. A.M.: To be honest, it was the easiest part of the writing process because I drew on my experiences growing up there – the humidity, the rain, the power outages, etc. all plays a role. You’ll hear writers say this over and over again, ‘Write what you know’, and I followed that advice. But I also learned that if you’re unsure about something, research it. I did that, too. Everything fell into place afterwards.

PT: Your book contains a lot of Samoan words and phrases, which is absolutely fantastic. Do you think they make the whole story more realistic, ‘more indigenous’?

S. A.M.: I think they do. It can enrich the reading experience for both Samoan speakers and non-Samoan speakers, and there’s a glossary at the beginning of the book with the translations in English for ease of reference. I initially worried that some readers wouldn’t be able to connect to it for this very reason, but the message in the book is a universal one, and as a result I’ve had readers contact me from around the globe, which has been so encouraging and subsequently quashed my worries away.

PT: You were born and raised in Samoa. Now you’re living in Israel. How did you end up there? Would you like to come back to your home country one day?

S. A.M.: My husband and I moved here after university to work. It’s been our home for ten years and our kids were born here, but there’ll always be a place in our hearts for Samoa.

PT: What are you working on right now?

S. A.M.: I’m currently working on my second novel entitled ‘Scar of the Bamboo Leaf’. It’s a coming of age, inspirational contemporary romance about an intuitive 15 year old girl who’s an artist and an angry 17 year old boy who’s trying to find his way. It’s a story about love in all of its forms, where it only becomes real when it is tested.

PT: When can we expect it?

S. A.M.: I’m aiming for an April or May release. Finger’s crossed! (and if I can get volunteers to look after my kids, I’ll write quicker!).

PT: Do you plan to write and publish more?

S. A.M.: I hope to. As long as the ideas keep coming in, I’ll always be drawn to penning them down.

‘ILLUMINE HER’ BY SIENI A.M.

‘Illumine Her’ is Sieni A.M.’s debut novel. It is set in contemporary Samoa and tells the story of a young woman struggling to find her place in the world. The book is categorized as a Young Adult Paranormal Romance.

ILLUMINE HER

Summary

After being away for three years and graduating from college in Fiji, Alana Vilo finally returns home to Samoa. Trying to forget about her father’s death, she starts a new job as a nurse. Not long after, everyone at her workplace anticipates the arrival of a rich benefactor who wishes to donate a large sum of money to the hospital. Alana is surprised when Chase Malek turns out to be an incredibly handsome young man, strangely knowledgeable of local customs and traditions. When she witnesses him reviving a patient who was pronounced dead a few minutes earlier, her curiosity becomes awakened. But before she can ask Chase any questions, he leaves the island.

Their paths cross once again when Chase comes to her house and Alana learns he will be the best man at her sister’s wedding. This time she gets a chance to find out some of his secrets. As they enjoy each other’s companionship, they discover that the feeling they share is love. Unfortunately, it seems that their relationship is not meant to be.

Review

If I were to sum this novel up, I would say it is full of unexpected twists and turns. Every time you think you can finally predict the ending, you are hit with yet another surprise. Fantastically plotted, well-paced story draws readers in from the very first page and doesn’t let go. Somewhat slow beginning turns out to be a great introduction. It sets the scene and describes the place so vividly that you almost don’t have to use your imagination.

Yes, Samoa. The country plays a big role in this book. Apart from graceful depictions of lush landscapes, Sieni A.M. makes constant references to the islands’ culture, traditions, and practices (ifoga for example). The use of Samoan words, which are explained at the beginning of the book, makes the whole novel even more realistic.

As for the characters, I must say they are lacking in variety. All females as well as all males are basically the same: kind, sensitive, caring, loving, courageous, honourable. Despite their issues and emotional turbulences, Alana seems to be the perfect woman, Chase – the perfect man. There is absolutely no one who could spice the story up. But of course this doesn’t mean that the characters are not believable, because they are. They are actually very easy to identify with, and this may certainly be quite appealing.

The novel is exceptionally well written. Its clear and simple language embellished with occasional bouts of gentle humour makes it a very pleasant read. Even the parts with long and flowery descriptions are not overwhelming – they only enrich the story.

‘Illumine Her’ is, without a doubt, a fantastic book. It explains different types of love: between a man and a woman, between a parent and a child, between brothers and sisters, between friends. It teaches us an important lesson: we should all find our place in this world, and when we finally do, we should always strive to improve. An amazing novel. Highly recommended.