For those who haven’t yet heard or managed to miss any of my previous posts on the topic, May is Asian American & Pacific Islander Heritage Month! As part of my ongoing posts throughout the month, I will be recommending some books for AAPI Heritage Month starting with books by Pasifika authors!
Leaves of the Banyan Tree by Albert Wendt
An epic spanning three generations, Leaves of the Banyan Tree tells the story of a family and community in Western Samoa, exploring on a grand scale such universal themes as greed, corruption, colonialism, exploitation, and revenge. Winner of the 1980 New Zealand Wattie Book of the Year Award, it is considered a classic work of Pacific literature.
Frangipani by Celeste Hitiura Vaite
In Tahiti, it’s a well-known fact that women are wisest, mothers know best, and Materena Mahi knows best of all–or so everyone except for her own daughter thinks. Soon enough, mother and daughter are engaged in a tug-of-war that tests the bonds of their love.
Potiki by Patricia Grace
A Maori community on the coast of New Zealand is threatened by a land developer who wants to purchase the community property, move the community meeting hall, and construct many new buildings, including an “underwater zoo.” The story is told in several chapters that switch narrators. Sometimes, it is Hemi, a man who was laid off from his job and realizes that this situation affords him the opportunity to reconnect with the land, his culture and his family. Other times, Toko is the narrator. Toko is Hemi’s adopted son and is physically handicapped. However, he also has a sixth sense and can see events before they occur. Mostly, though, the story is told by Roimata, Hemi’s wife and Toko’s adoptive mother. She relates the growing concern the Maori have about developers coming into their land, and their quiet, concerted efforts to rebel. She details their successes and many painful failures in a sparse, simple prose. Potiki does not really have a true resolution; instead, Patricia Grace outlines the cultural differences that exist in New Zealand, and the uses and abuses of power, and how it can affect a people.
Night is a Sharkskin Drum by Huanani-Kay Trask
Night Is a Sharkskin Drum is a lyrical evocation of Hawaii by a Native poet whose ancestral land has been scarred by tourism, the American military, and urbanization. Grounded in the ancient grandeur and beauty of Hawaii, this collection is a haunted and haunting love song for a beloved homeland under assault.
Once Were Warriors by Alan Duff
Once Were Warriors is Alan Duff’s harrowing vision of his country’s indigenous people two hundred years after the English conquest. In prose that is both raw and compelling, it tells the story of Beth Heke, a Maori woman struggling to keep her family from falling apart, despite the squalor and violence of the housing projects in which they live. Conveying both the rich textures of Maori tradition and the wounds left by its absence, Once Were Warriors is a masterpiece of unblinking realism, irresistible energy, and great sorrow.
Islands Linked by Ocean by Lisa-Linn Kanae
From the author of SISTA TONGUE come stories written with humor and compassion that give voice to characters who find themselves at crossroad moments where past informs present, young teach old, and love can mean holding on or letting go. The stories in this collection are familiar, like family. And like the father and daughter in the title story, the stories in ISLANDS LINKED BY OCEAN are “told and retold until the words swim through the listener’s veins and turn into blood.”
Attitude 13 by Tanya Taimanglo
Attitude 13: A Daughter of Guam’s Collection of Short Stories offers a glimpse into the life of Chamorros across the spectrum of humanity. Taimanglo’s anthology includes a myriad of voices and points-of-view with strong Chamorro themes. The stories range from humorous to poignant and offer a mirror for fellow Chamorros and a passport for others to be introduced to the Pacific Islander culture. From the pride of a “Hafa Adai!” to the shackles of a culture scarred by colonialism, Attitude 13 is a literary expression of Taimanglo’s love for her island home of Guam.
The Whale Rider by Witi Ihimaira
Eight-year-old Kahu, a member of the Maori tribe of Whangara, New Zealand, fights to prove her love, her leadership, and her destiny. Her people claim descent from Kahutia Te Rangi, the legendary ‘whale rider.’ In every generation since Kahutia, a male heir has inherited the title of chief. But now there is no male heir, and the aging chief is desperate to find a successor. Kahu is his only great-grandchild — and Maori tradition has no use for a girl. But when hundreds of whales beach themselves and threaten the future of the Maori tribe, Kahu will do anything to save them – even the impossible.
The Bone People by Keri Hulme
In a tower on the New Zealand sea lives Kerewin Holmes, part Maori, part European, an artist estranged from her art, a woman in exile from her family. One night her solitude is disrupted by a visitor—a speechless, mercurial boy named Simon, who tries to steal from her and then repays her with his most precious possession. As Kerewin succumbs to Simon’s feral charm, she also falls under the spell of his Maori foster father Joe, who rescued the boy from a shipwreck and now treats him with an unsettling mixture of tenderness and brutality. Out of this unorthodox trinity Keri Hulme has created what is at once a mystery, a love story, and an ambitious exploration of the zone where Maori and European New Zealand meet, clash, and sometimes merge.
From a Native Daughter: Colonialism and Sovereignty in Hawai’i by Huanani-Kay Trask
Since its publication in 1993, From a Native Daughter, a provocative, well-reasoned attack against the rampant abuse of Native Hawaiian rights, institutional racism, and gender discrimination has generated heated debates in Hawai’i and throughout the world. This 1999 revised work includes material that builds on issues and concerns raised in the first edition: Native Hawaiian student organizing at the University of Hawai’i; the master plan of the Native Hawaiian self-governing organization Ka Lahui Hawai’i and its platform on the four political arenas of sovereignty; the 1989 Hawai’i declaration of the Hawai’i ecumenical coalition on tourism; and a typology on racism and imperialism.
Song of the Exile by Kiana Davenport
In this epic, original novel in which Hawaii’s fierce, sweeping past springs to life, Song of the Exile follows the fortunes of the Meahuna family–and the odyssey of one resilient man searching for his soul mate after she is torn from his side by the forces of war. From the turbulent years of World War II through Hawaii’s complex journey to statehood, this mesmerizing story presents a cast of richly imagined characters who rise up magnificent and forceful, redeemed by the spiritual power and the awesome beauty of their islands.
Wild Meat and the Bully Burgers by Lois-Ann Yamanaka
Her name is Lovey Nariyoshi, and her Hawai’i is not the one of leis, pineapple, and Magnum P.I. In the blue collar town of Hilo, on the Big Island, Lovey and her eccentric Japanese-American family are at the margins of poverty, in the midst of a tropical paradise. With her endearing, effeminate best friend Jerry, Lovey suffers schoolyard bullies, class warfare, Singer sewing classes, and the surprisingly painful work of picking on a macadamia nut plantation, all while trying to find an identity of her own. At once a bitingly funny satire of haole happiness and a moving meditation on what is real, if ugly at times, but true, Wild Meat and the Bully Burgers crackles with the language of pidgin–Hawai’i Creole English–distinguishing one of the most vibrant voices in contemporary culture.
This is Paradise: Stories by Kristiana Kahakauwila
Elegant, brutal, and profound, this magnificent debut captures the grit and glory of modern Hawai’i with breathtaking force and accuracy. In a stunning collection that announces the arrival of an incredible talent, Kristiana Kahakauwila travels the islands of Hawai’i, making the fabled place her own. Exploring the deep tensions between local and tourist, tradition and expectation, façade and authentic self, This Is Paradise provides an unforgettable portrait of life as it’s truly being lived on Maui, Oahu, Kaua’i and the Big Island.
Aloha betrayed: Native Hawaiian Resistance to American Colonialism by Noenoe K. Silva
With few exceptions, histories of Hawai’i have been based exclusively on English-language sources. They have not taken into account the thousands of pages of newspapers, books, and letters written in the mother tongue of native Hawaiians. By rigorously analyzing many of these documents, Silva fills a crucial gap in the historical record. In so doing, she refutes the long-held idea that native Hawaiians passively accepted the erosion of their culture and loss of their nation, showing that they actively resisted political, economic, linguistic, and cultural domination. A powerful critique of colonial historiography, Aloha Betrayed provides a much-needed history of native Hawaiian resistance to American imperialism.
There are SO many books out there by Pasifika authors that often don’t get the recognition that they deserve. AAPI Heritage Month is a great time to pick one of them up, read it, review it and recommend it to others in the book blogging community. Request them at your local libraries too to ensure that Pasifika authors are being represented on the shelves and include them in your book lists, especially recommendations/lists for AAPI Heritage Month which Pasifika authors are often glaringly absent from!