Pacific Island Books

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The Girl in the Moon Circle by Sia Figiel. Recommended retail price $15.

Here’s what the blurb for the book says:

The Girl in the Moon Circle, like the cover drawing, shows Samoan life through the eyes of a ten-year-old girl called Samoana. Though young, Samoana is perceptive, not much escapes her analysis. She tells us about school, church, friends, family violence, having refrigerators and television for the first time, Chunky cat food, a Made-in-Taiwan Jesus, pay day, cricket, crushes on boys, incest, legends and many other things. Her observations offer a compelling look at Samoan society. Often fiction allows authors to tell truths that otherwise would be too painful; Sia Figiel is uninhibited. Her prose, in English and Samoan, hurtles readers toward the end of the book. Sia Figiel, herself, has mesmerized audiences around the Pacific Islands with readings from The Girl in the Moon Circle.

Here’s what Paddy and Kat have to say: "This is a stunning “must have” piece of autobiographical fiction. Of all the books we have to offer this is one of the most moving, funny and provocative. Put this one on your shopping list". Soft cover, 134 pages.

Governance in Samoa edited by Elise Huffer and Asofou So'o. Published by Institute of Pacific Studies. ISBN 982020156X. Recommended retail price $34.

'Governance' was recently introduced into development terminology by the World Bank and has been popularly adopted by international aid donors in the Pacific. Governance agendas have been criticised for offering trendy and pre-ordained programs that fail to address the complexities of particular local situations. This book details how governance programs have affected some local institutions and practices in Samoa and provides practical ways for more efficiently tailoring future programs to the development needs of the country. Empirical case studies are provided on issues of nascent civil society, problems of urban management, non-government organizations working in the area of women's health, relationships between the national government and villages, and the subversion of custom and constitutional processes to personal political ambitions. The book contributes to an understanding of how to enhance the efficient accountable management of Samoa's economic, political, social and cultural resources for the benefit of all its citizens. Soft cover, 222 pages. Published in 2000.

Islands of Samoa. Map by James Bier. Recommended retail price $3.95

Described as "Comprehensive reference and travel maps of both American and Western Samoa for resident and visitor. An accurate guide to the Heart of Polynesia." One side covers Western Samoa while the reverse depicts American Samoa (Most Samoans don't recognize the distinction).

Lagaga: A Short History of Western Samoa by Malama Meleisea et al. Recommended retail price $15.

Edited by Malama Meleisea and Penny Schoeffel Meleisea, Lagaga covers Samoan history from early Polynesian arrival through the missionary era, independence in 1962 and the first two decades of the State of Western Samoa. Ably discussed by Malama and twelve others, Lagaga, first published in 1987, has continued to be popular with reprintings in 1989, 1991 and 1994. Soft cover, 225 pages.

Nafanua: Saving the Samoan Rain Forest by Paul Alan Cox. Published by W.H. Freeman and Company. ISBN 07167-3116-9. Recommended retail price $23.95.

It is with enormous pleasure that we offer this book. I (Paddy) am lucky enough to count Paul Cox amongst my circle of friends. Paul is an extraordinary man who cares passionately about the world and its people. I have seen Paul bent almost double looking at sea grasses and watched him looking for pollinators of Fiji's enigmatic Degeneria tree.

I've experienced Paul's wonderful hospitality and been luck enough to reciprocate on a few rare occasions. But more to the point I've visited the Falealupo Rain Forest and seen at first hand the extraordinary things Paul and the villagers have achieved. This book is Paul's amazing story ... what follows is the dust jacket blurb, which, better than most, I've reproduced word for word.

Prompted by his mother's death from breast cancer, ethnobotanist Paul Alan Cox traveled with his family to a remote Samoan village at the edge of a rain forest to search for new leads in treating the disease. Working closely with both native healers and the U.S. National Cancer Institute in an analysis of traditional rain-forest remedies, Cox discovered a promising new plant-derived drug, prostratin, for a different, but equally serious malady: AIDS. The promise of this new drug lead was soon overshadowed, however, by news that a logging company had started to destroy the 30,000-acre rain forest where Cox first collected the plant that yielded prostratin. It was then that the village elders began to instruct Cox in the legends of Nafanua, the Samoan goddess who in ancient times freed the people from oppression and taught them to protect the rain forest. Collaborating with the village elders eager to preserve the spirit of Nafanua's teachings. Cox launched an international campaign to stop the logging of the Falealupo Rain Forest. In Nafanua, he tells the moving story of those efforts, and his involvement in related campaigns to create a U. S. National Park in American Samoa and to place Samoa's endangered flying foxes under international protection. Cox's conservation efforts, however, were ultimately followed by a devastating series of events that threatened the lives of himself, his family, the villagers, and everything they had worked for

In this exciting and beautifully written account set amongst the lush forests and picture-perfect villages of Samoa, Paul paints an intriguing portrait of a society that is neither primitive nor industrial, where traditional chiefs struggle to protect ancient beliefs against modern economic demands and the pull of Western culture. Nafanua explores the profound influence of Western colonialism and discusses the impact of historic misperceptions of the South Seas on appreciation of the dignity of its peoples. A striking story of scientific and personal discovery, Nafanua is a testament to the power of nature to both heal and destroy—and to the equally powerful human capacity for faith and perseverance against seemingly impossible odds. Hard cover, 238 pages. First published in 1997.

Plants in Samoan Culture: The Ethnobotany of Samoa by Art Whistler. Published by Isle Botanica. ISBN 0964542668. Recommended retail price $27.50.

The loss of traditional plant lore and traditional plants has prompted the author to write Plants in Samoan Culture. However, a question has been brought up several times – how can a palagi (foreigner), write a book about Samoan plants? It is an unfortunate fact that nearly all the written ethnobotanical information about Polynesian cultures, and specifically, Samoan culture, is written by foreign scientists rather than by local sources. Although not brought up in Samoa, Dr. Whistler has some advantages, such as; he is a botanist, he likes to write books, and he has a fascination for Samoan rainforests and their plants. He hopes that in some way the publication of this book, and the information it contains may be of interest to others who share his love of plants, and that it may serve to stimulate others who are awaiting the call, so that they may help reverse the trend towards the loss of traditional plant lore and the loss of the biodiversity of traditional plants that call Samoa their home. Soft cover, 234 pages. Published in 2004.

Pouliuli by Albert Wendt. Published by University of Hawai'i Press. ISBN 0-8248-0728-6. Recommended retail price $12.00.

Early on a drizzly Saturday morning Faleasa Osovae - the seventy-six year-old titled head of the Aiga Falease, faithful husband of a devoted Felefele, stern but generous father of seven sons and five obedient daughters, and the most respected alii in the village of Malalua - woke with a strange bitter taste in his mouth to find ... that everything and everybody ... that till then had given meaning to his existence, now filled him, with an almost unbearable feeling of revulsion ...

_And so begins an extraordinary reading experience!

"Few novelists of the Pacific islands could be less derivative in terms of the real vision into the life and character of non-Western society.... Even fewer novels, Western or Third World, can reach the strength and artistic power of Pouliuli." --World Literature Today

Soft cover, 152 pages. Published in 1980.

Rainforest Trees of Samoa: A guide to the common lowland and foothill forest trees of the Samoan Archipelago by Art Whistler. ISBN 0964542641. Published by Isle Botanica. Recommended retail price $27.50.

The title pretty much says it all. As with other books by Art Whistler this is competently written and expertly illustrated with the author's own photographs. Dr Whistler has spent years studying the Samoan forest and is the acknowledged expert on the subject. Soft cover, 210 pages. Published in 2004.


Samoa by Dorinda Talbot and Deanna Swaney. Recommended retail price $14.95.

Samoa is a fabulous destination for the traveler who wants the “real” Polynesia. The real Polynesia since it has been Christianized that is. This Lonely Planet guide approaches Samoa with the same thoroughness and attention to detail as the others in the series. Replete with maps and color photos it is highly recommended. Paddy has lived and worked in Western Samoa for nearly three months and can attest to the accuracy of this guide. Soft cover, 193 pages.

Samoa: A Hundred Years Ago and Long Before by George Tucker. Recommended retail price $15.

First printed in London in 1884 this is a reprint of a missionary’s views of Samoa in the 19th century. George Turner discusses origins, religion, wars, aging, food liquors, clothing, amusements, diseases, celebrations, houses, canoes, government and a host of other aspects of Samoa. Ever popular, this work has been reprinted in 1984, 1986, 1990, 1992. Soft cover, 266 pages.



Samoans in Fiji by Morgan Tuimaleali’ifano. ISBN 9820203171. Published by the Institute of Pacific Studies.  Recommended retail price $14.

Islanders of Samoan ancestry living in Fiji belong more to Fiji than to Samoa.  They think of Fiji and its many cultures as home.  But as a mixed-race minority, this is not always easy.  Their status and options both at home and abroad are the focus of this book.

Their future, and that of many other ‘expatriate’ Islander communities in the South Pacific nations, is important, and likely to become more so as Pacific Islands set out into new forms of association.

The author, scion of one of Samoa’s great chiefly lines, has since 1985, taught Pacific Studies at the University of the South Pacific.  He is married to Eileen Tuimaleali’ifano, a Fiji citizen of multi-ethnic ancestry, and USP’s Co-ordinator of Extension Studies.  Their children are typical of the ‘fruit-salad’ people about whom the book is written – a fact which lends not only authority to the study, but also a sense of immediacy and interest. Soft cover,
247 pages. Published in 1990.


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Last modified on Sunday, May 19, 2013