Must-Read Books from Australasia + Oceania (Global Reading Challenge)
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Here lies Part Three of my Six Part Global Reading Challenge—read Part One and Part Two here—in which I attempt to read a woman or non-binary person from every country in the world by the end of 2019.
Am I optimistic about my chances of completing this challenge? Yes.
What I’m not so optimistic about at the moment is actually finding women from every country to read. PLEASE drop any recommendations in my comments section!
Anyway, I decided to tackle my Australasia and Oceania entry third because, well, it’s the shortest one and I’m nervous about completing the mammoth posts that are left (they’ll encompass Africa, the Middle East and Europe).
Might as well get into it then.
GLOBAL READING CHALLENGE: AUSTRALASIA + OCEANIA
My ‘to read’ from Australia is the critically acclaimed Terra Nullius from First Australian Claire G. Coleman. I decided I wanted to go for a First Australian writer because their voices are too often marginalised, particularly in literary spheres.
I found Gina Cole thanks to this article which notes she wanted to be considered not political, but simply “a Fijian, lesbian woman who writes”. I was sold on including her book Black Ice Matter from that minute on. As an extra bonus, it’s a short story collection, a format I’m currently obsessed with. (Please note that it’s only available as an eBook on Amazon.)
I searched and searched for women writers from Kiribati and failed to turn up anything, unfortunately. Even a quick source on the trusty Words Without Borders website failed to help. Any ideas?
Unlike Kiribati, I found a writer from the Marshall Islands fairly quickly. Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner was born there and raised in Hawaii; however, the poems in her anthology Iep Jaltok: Poems from a Marshallese Daughter specifically touch on the effects of colonial, racism and climate change in her birth nation. Fun fact: this was the first poetry anthology published by a Marshallese person, ever.
My pick for Micronesia is as much of a trailblazer as the Marshall Island’s Jetnil-Kijiner. Emelihter Kinleng is a Pohnpeian, Micronesian woman, actually born in Guam. Her poetry anthology, My Urohs, was the first to be published in English by a Micronesian writer. She also published the Indigenous Literatures from Micronesia anthology, alongside Evelyn Flores, one of the writers I mentioned in my guide to books from the Americas and Caribbean.
I fully expected it to be difficult to find a woman writer from Nauru—the world’s smallest island nation—but I actually found two women almost immediately: Margaret Hendrie and Joanne Gobure. However, I couldn’t find any work by either of them online and I don’t think I’d necessarily consider them contemporary Nauruan writers. Help wanted for this entry, then!
A name that kept popping up was Selina Tusitala Marsh, the most recent (and current) Poet Laureate of New Zealand and the first Pasifika person to graduate in English Lit from Auckland University. However, because poetry isn’t my favourite thing ever and because I knew there must be more excellent Kiwi writers to look into, I dug a little deeper. And I’m glad I did, because I found Luminous by Alice Tawhai, a Māori writer.
Couldn’t find a thing.
Papua New Guinea
While I struggled to find a text by a single author for Papua New Guinea, I did find this recent anthology entitled My Walk to Equality, edited by Rashmii Amoah Bell, which deals with the contribution of women in Papua New Guinean society. For now, this will be my PNG entry.
Freelove by veteran Samoan writer Sia Fiegel was the obvious choice and, honestly, I went with it. Especially after reading that it’s set in the 80s, when Madonna’s Like a Virgin rules the waves, and the protagonist is a teenage Star Trek fan.
I found two potential leads for my Solomon Islands read: a writer called Jully Silopo and an anthology of women writers from the Solomno Islands, published way back in the 80s. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find any evidence of either (in the form of books for sale, naturally) online.
Again, there’s a seemingly-prolific poet from Tonga, Konai Helu Thaman, but I really don’t want to add more poetry to my ridiculous reading challenge. Therefore, Tonga will remain blank for now.
Seriously, where’s all the women’s literature from Oceania at?
You know the drill…
OK, I’ll admit, this entry to my Global Reading Challenge was, well, a challenge to put together. This might be the shortest post of the series, but it’s also the one I’m gunna have to come back to time and again as I (hopefully) receive suggestions. Do you have any? Drop them in the comments below!