People of the Pacific: Recent Pasifika books

Miss Ulysses from Pukapuka

This collection of recent books has a little bit of everything for the keen reader; a diary, a sports star, a witch doctor and more. From Captain Cook’s voyages across the Pacific Ocean, to the 1970s dawn raids in New Zealand, this booklist is not one to miss if you’re wanting to brush up on a little bit of Pasifika history.

Syndetics book coverMiss Ulysses from Puka-Puka : the autobiography of a South Sea trader’s daughter / by Florence (Johnny) Frisbie ; edited and translated by her father, Robert Dean Frisbie.
Miss Ulysses from Puka-Puka (2nd ed) by Florence (Johnny) Frisbie is the first book written by a Polynesian woman. It tells the amazing story of a young girl growing up on a remote island in the Cook Islands group. Written when Johnny was between the ages of 12 and 14, and published in 1948 when she was 15, Johnny likens her travels through South Pacific islands to those of Ulysses in the Odyssey. Her grandmother’s extended family, the trading station operated by her father, the local witch doctor, a native missionary, her father’s mistress after the death of her mother, and her first boyfriend are among the characters she describes with unflinching honesty. Out of print for more than sixty years, Johnny has added two new chapters to this classic and compelling book and illustrated it with family photos and three maps.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe Pacific : in the wake of Captain Cook with Sam Neill / Meaghan Wilson-Anastasios.
“Captain James Cook first set sail to the Pacific in 1768 – 250 years ago. These vast waters, one third of the earth’s surface, were uncharted – but not unknown. A rich diversity of people and cultures navigated, traded, lived and fought here for thousands of years. Before Cook, the Pacific was disconnected from the power and ideas of Europe, Asia and America. In the wake of Cook, everything changed. Voyaging on a wide variety on vessels, from container ships to fishing trawlers and sailing boats, Sam crosses the length and breadth of the largest ocean in the world to experience for himself a contemporary journey in Cook’s footsteps, engaging the past and present in both modern and ancient cultural practice and peoples. Fascinating, engaging, fresh and vital – this is history – but not as you know it.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverDawn Raid / Pauline (Vaeluaga) Smith.
“Like many 13-year-old girls, Sofias main worries are how to get some groovy go-go boots, and how not to die of embarrassment giving a speech at school! But when her older brother Lenny starts talking about marches and protests and overstayers, and how Pacific Islanders are being bullied by the police for their passports and papers, a shadow is cast over Sofias sunny teenage days. Through her heartfelt diary entries, we witness the terror of being dawn-raided and gain an insight into the courageous and tireless work of the Polynesian Panthers in the 1970s as they encourage immigrant families across New Zealand to stand up for their rights.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverTatau : a history of Sāmoan tattooing / Sean Mallon and Sébastien Galliot.
“The Sāmoan Islands are virtually unique in that tattooing has been continuously practised with indigenous techniques: the design of the full male tattoo, the pe’a, has evolved in subtle ways since the nineteenth century, but remains as elaborate, meaningful and powerful as it ever was. This richly illustrated cultural history is the first publication to examine 3000 years of Sāmoan tatau. Through a chronology vivid with people, encounters and events, it describes how Sāmoan tattooing has been shaped by local and external forces over many centuries. It argues that Sāmoan tatau has a long history of relevance both within and beyond Sāmoa, and a more complicated history than is currently presented in the literature.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverMy life, my fight / Steven Adams, with Madeleine Chapman.
“For the first time, Steven Adams shares the story behind his meteoric rise from the streets of Rotorua to his emerging stardom in the NBA.
Adams overcame the odds to become a top prospect in the 2013 NBA draft. From there he went on to secure a four-year contract with the Oklahoma City Thunder – making him New Zealand’s highest-paid sportsperson ever – and forge a reputation for his intense, physical style of basketball. In this intimate account of his life story so far, the seven-foot centre reflects on his humble upbringing, the impact of his father’s death when he was just 13, the multiple challenges and setbacks he has faced, early career-defining moments, and what basketball means to him.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverPathway of the birds : the voyaging achievements of Maori and their Polynesian ancestors / Andrew Crowe.
“This book tells of one of the most expansive and rapid phases of human migration in prehistory, a period during which Polynesians reached and settled nearly every archipelago scattered across some 28 million square kilometres of the Pacific Ocean, an area now known as East Polynesia. Through an engaging narrative and over 400 maps, diagrams, photographs, and illustrations, Crowe conveys some of the skills, innovation, resourcefulness, and courage of the people that drove this extraordinary feat of maritime expansion. In this masterful work, Andrew Crowe integrates a diversity of research and viewpoints in a format that is both accessible to the lay reader and required reading for any serious scholar of this fascinating region.” (Syndetics summary)

Pasefika eBooks you can borrow anytime

Need a good read? Including Albert Wendt and Selina Tusitala Marsh, here are just a few eBook titles to whet your appetite. Sign up to Overdrive and get started borrowing…

Overdrive cover Nuanua, Albert Wendt (eBook)
“Edited by Albert Wendt and copublished the University of Hawaii Press, Nuanua is an anthology of short stories, extracts from novels, and poems written since 1980 in the Pacific Islands. It remains an essential resource for teachers of Pacific literature.” (Overdrive description)

Overdrive cover Whetu Moana, Robert Sullivan (eBook)
“Whetu Moana is the first anthology of contemporary Polynesian poetry in English edited by Polynesians. It collects poems written over the last twenty years from more than 60 poets in Aotearoa, Hawaii, Tonga, Samoa, the Cook Islands, Niue and Rotuma. Well-known poets like Hone Tuwhare, Alistair Campbell and Haunani-Kay Trask are joined by talented young voices, the poets appearing in alphabetical order in a way that presents both an overall Polynesian identity and a focus on individual style. Traditional laments mix with street-smart rap rhythms; images of seascapes and landscapes mingle with shots of urban slums. Political anger is a powerful force in these poems but many are personal and particular. Whetu Moana reveals an active, changing, varied, creative scene, which confronts both a complex colonial past and a fast-moving global present with energy, courage and vitality.” (Overdrive description)

Overdrive cover Dream Fish Floating, Karlo Mila (eBook)
“Professor Konai Helu Thaman (Acting Deputy Vice Chancellor, and UNESCO Chair in teacher education & culture – The University of the South Pacific) says this about the collection: This is a refreshing and welcome addition to the growing list of women’s writing in Oceania. Karlo draws wisdom and compassion from her ancestral cultures but is not constrained by them. Honest and unafraid, she has spread her net wide in order to capture the many concerns that many people are grappling with as they face the realities of a globalised and impersonal world. Written with passion, persistence and sensitivity, her poems are insightful, challenging and sometimes provocative. This book should inspire others, especially women, to share their experiences with the rest of the world.” (Overdrive description)

Overdrive cover The Adventures of Vela, Albert Wendt (eBook)
“Journey through the many stories and worlds of the immortal Vela – Vela, so red and ugly at birth they called him the Cooked; Vela the lonely admirer of pigs and the connoisseur of feet; Vela the lover of song maker Mulialofa the Boneman. Follow him down through the centuries on his travels, encountering the single-minded society of the Tagata-Nei and the Smellocracy of Olfact. Accompany him, too, as he recounts the stories of Lady Nafanua, the fearsome warrior queen, before whose powers travelling chroniclers still bow down today.” (Overdrive description)

Overdrive cover Ancestry, Albert Wendt (eBook)
“Albert Wendt’s new collection of short stories explores the nature of family, tradition and culture through the eyes of those seemingly caught between the realities of modern contemporary life and the ancestral ties of their heritage. With a deft touch, he draws us into his characters’ lives and with equal parts wisdom and wit, he exposes them to us. This is a masterful meditation on the ties that bind people together across time and place.” (Overdrive description)

Overdrive cover Fast Talking PI, Selina Tusitala Marsh (eBook)
“Fast Talking PI is the first ‘singular, confident and musical’ collection of poetry by Auckland writer Selina Tusitala Marsh. ‘Tusitala’ means writer of tales in Samoan, and Marsh here lives up to her name with stories of her life, her family, community, ancestry, and history. Her poetry is sensuous and strong, using lush imagery, clear rhythms and repetitions to power it forward. The list poem is a favourite style, but she also writes with a Pacific lyricism entirely her own. Fast Talking PI is structured in three sections, ‘Tusitala (personal), ‘Talkback’ (political and historical) and ‘Fast Talking PI’ (already a classic). In poems like ‘Guys Like Gauguin’ she writes as a ‘calabash breaker’, fighting back against historic injustices; but in other poems she explores the idea of the calabash as the honoured vessel for identity and story. Ultimately, though, Marsh exhorts herself to ‘be nobody’s darling’, as a writer she is a self-proclaimed ‘darling in the margins’, and Fast Talking PI proves it – a generous work that will thrill readers; ‘a map in our arms / to get us over the reef’; and a tremendous first book.” (Overdrive description)

Overdrive cover Whispers and Vanities, Tamasailau M. Suaalii-Sauni (eBook)
“This collection of essays and selected poetry responds to an address on Samoan religious culture given by Samoa’s Head of State, His Highness Tui Atua Tupua Tamasese Ta’isi Tupuola Tufuga Efi, to the 2009 Parliament of the World’s Religions. The address challenges some fundamental aspects of and assumptions in modern Samoan indigenous religious culture. The essays and poetry form a carefully woven critique, from within and outside Samoa, of aspects of Samoa’s religious and cultural values.” (Overdrive description)

Overdrive cover The Auckland University Press Anthology of New Zealand Literature, Jane Stafford (eBook)
“‘What, after all, is the truth of a place that has only just been worked into language?’ From Polynesian Mythology to the Yates’ Garden Guide, from Allen Curnow to Alice Tawhai, from Jessie Mackay to Alison Wong, from Julius Vogel to Albert Wendt, from the letters of Wiremu Te Rangikaheke to the notebooks of Katherine Mansfield – Maori, Pakeha, Pasifika, and Asian New Zealanders have struggled for two and a half centuries to work the English language into some sort of truth about this place. The Auckland University Press Anthology of New Zealand Literature brings together for the first time in one volume this country’s major writing, from the earliest records of exploration and encounter to the globalised, multicultural present. Editors Jane Stafford and Mark Williams range across novels and stories, poems and plays, letters and diaries, comics and songs to collect the defining stuff of our literary heritage. The contents will delight and provoke: Erewhon and The Heart of the Bush; Man Alone and ‘No Ordinary Sun’; The God Boy and Hicksville; ‘The Gumboot Song’ and The Vintner’s Luck. Through an imaginative selection and illuminating introductions, Stafford and Williams provide new paths into our writing and our country. For students and readers, at home and overseas, the Anthology of New Zealand Literature will be the indispensable introduction for years to come to what’s worth reading and why.” (Overdrive description)