An Introduction to Literature of the Pacific
Literature set in the South Pacific is quite engrossing, so I felt compelled to write an introduction to this fascinating topic. Many of these titles can be found at your local library, and I encourage you to use it. Each of these books will teach you about the rich and diverse history of Pacific island cultures, and some of these are just good reads.
1. Fragile Paradise-Glynn Christian
This book goes into depth about the background leading up to and after the mutiny. Glynn even visited Pitcairn Island in researching this book. Glynn Christian is a descendant of Fletcher Christian and the only descendant to write a biography about his ancestor. You don't know who Fletcher Christian is? He is sort of like George Washington for descendants of the Bounty mutineers. Glynn points out that Christian was not perfect, but he also holds Bligh's temper responsible for the mutiny that happened upon the HMAV Bounty. This is a must read for anyone interested in Tahitian, naval, Pacific, or Pitcairn history. To this day I find it truly amazing that Fletcher Christian and the mutineers were able to hide out on the isolated Pitcairn island for eighteen years. However, even today it is hard to reach Pitcairn island and you cannot get there by airplane, which means you must take a small yacht or be lucky enough to have a commercial ship drop you off. The waters surrounded Pitcairn are very wild and dangerous, so it is quite a feat that the mutineers had in landing and destroying the evidence of their ship. Bounty Day is the independence day of Pitcairn Island and it is still celebrated today by the symbolic burning of a small ship, which is what the mutineers do to the HMAV Bounty so no passers-by could see Europeans were on the island. It was only by a fluke mistake that in the year 1808 the American whaler Captain Folger just happened to sale by an island that was not charted in the correct place, which is the reason the mutineers had chosen Pitcairn in the first place.
2. Unity of Heart-Keith Chambers and Anne Chambers.
Both are anthropologists and lived on the isolated island of Nanumea, in Tuvalu. At first it was hard to get anyone to speak to them because they were outsiders, but over time they won over the community by respecting the local customs and cultures. This is a wonderful ethnographic piece of work that gives us a glimpse into one of the few Polynesian cultures that has remained isolated from the outside world. There are outside influences, but the people of Nanumea strive to hold onto as much as their traditional cultures as possible.
3. Home Again, Home Again by Nadine Christian
Nadine Christian is a novelist who lives on Pitcairn island, and she writes engaging contemporary romances that are set on this locale that was the hideout for Fletcher Christian and several of the mutineers from the HMAV Bounty. All of her novels have been engaging and heart-felt reads, but I suppose I liked Home Again, Home Again is the one I have enjoyed the most. Basically, a love triangle develops between Tina, who has come back to work on the planes on a futuristic Pitcairn, and the pilot Blane, but her first love Connor. Of course Tina and Connor have a history, but she does not remember it so fondly because he broke up with her years ago when her father made he go to college in New Zealand. Little does Tina know, but Connor did this at the behest of her father, but the suspense of the story is waiting to see if Tina will ever realize the truth about this. Meanwhile she has the sultry Blane to distract her, so which man will Tina choose?
The best part of this novel is all the descriptions of life and customs on Pitcairn Island, which will be of interest to anyone who enjoys this topic. However, the funeral scene is heart wrenching to be certain, but it does allow us to glimpse what mourning is like on Pitcairn Island where bodies cannot be preserved as they are in funeral homes. The more uplifting aspects of the story consist of descriptions of family gatherings and food.
4. Breadfruit, Frangipani, Tiare in Bloom-Celestine Vaite
This is a trilogy of novels, but fiction is vital to the understand of any culture or civilization. We can read all the textbooks we desire, but if we never read a novel about day to day activities of a culture we are missing out on an important piece of the pie. Vaite is French Polynesia by birth and her novels discuss what day-to day life is like in Tahiti. Reading good books helps us to learn more around the world around us and to make better decisions. I encourage everyone to read and write about the topics they feel passionate about.
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