Pacific Literature

I am not an expert in the world of Pacific Literature, I am definitely a staunch supporter. I have recently spent six months in secondment where I fulfilled loan requests for schools through National Library of New Zealand’s Services to schools. The lack of Pasifika stories and resources has been a blatant reality.

Organising a Pasifika book display for schools coming into the Centre

At the 2023 Auckland Writers Festival I unashamedly stood in line excitedly, waiting with all the other children to have my own copy of Tama Samoa signed by Dahlia and Mani Malaeulu - my work colleagues found it amusing. I was excited, Tama Samoa reminded me of the students at Kelston Boys High where I had worked last. It was at Kelston Boys where I saw that representation and authenticity was important. Every new book released by a Pasifika author always warms my soul. Our own stories and the voices of our ancestors navigating the Pacific need to be written for our children, when we have non-Pasifika people writing our histories and stories the value of our own voices can be lost or denied. Dhalia Malaeulu has released a number of books in a much-needed market for Pasifika stories. Our children need to see themselves in the books they read. It tells them they matter.

Tama Sāmoa written by Dahlia and Mani Malaeulu

With the authors of Tama and Teine Sāmoa at the Auckland Writers Festival

My first Pasifika book I read, was a book my late father gave to me as a child called Tala o le Vavau, Myths and Legends of Samoa. Though not written by Pasifika, this started my love for reading, my love of NZ authors I realized recently was because the settings were familiar. Reading Lani Wendt Young’s Telesa series ignited my desire to read more Pasifika authors. I could smell Samoa while reading the Telesa series, this amazing series reconnected me to my childhood memories of Samoa.

The power of our own stories have the ability to heal and inform. Last year my family endured the loss of a very much loved niece and as I watched her mother struggle with her grief I asked myself - how does one navigate that pain? My daughter and I gifted her our two favorite picture books – I am Lupe by Sela Ahosivi-Atiola and White Sunday by Litea Fuata. Both stories tell of a shared experience for many of our children, stories we know my niece had joy in and had shared with her own children.

Emeli Sione’s A New Dawn looks at a time in New Zealand that many of our parents and grandparents wish to forget, a painful time for Pasifika. Stories about our struggles in the countries our parents migrated to provides healing for the adversity they faced and the sacrifices they made.

That collective experience we share is beautifully written in Marie Samuela’s book of short stories Beats of the Pa’u. They are stories we relate to, voices we know, our families are within these stories.

Our stories have always been there from our traditional tales, Albert Wendt’s Sons of the return home to my current read Dirt Poor Islanders by Winnie Dunn. I haven’t even mentioned the many Pasifika authors from other Pacific nations. I challenge you to find them, read the academic essays, the poems, the short stories, the plays. Share with your families, gift them to our children. If there is one small thing I ask to our academic writers, is to remember our children. They too deserve to learn about the history of our people, we are in a time where we see our children proud in their Pasifika Identity. They are the next chapter in our migration story. Our stories should be the first books our children read.

Welcome and warm Pasifik greetings

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