Pacific Islands

Editors Robert Shapard
and Frank Stewart
Guest Editor Vilsoni Hereniko


Editors Robert Shapard
and Frank Stewart
Guest Editor Christina Thompson

The summer 1993 issue features work from the Pacific islands, guest-edited by Vilsoni Hereniko. There are interviews, poetry, essays, drama, and fiction by Samoan, Tongan, Fijian, Indo-Fijian, Rotuman, Banaban, and Maori authors in places ranging from Guam to New Zealand to the Cook Islands. Hereniko also interviews Samoan novelist Albert Wendt and the late playwright John A. Kneubuhl, who was part Samoan and who lived for many years in Hawai‘i.

The issue also includes "Stories in the Stepmother Tongue," a special feaure edited by Josip Novakovich. It showcases the work of such writers as Jaime Manrique, Xiaoping Wang, and Samrat Upadhyay, who are American not by accident of birth, but by choice. None of their native languages is English; none of them began their education in schools where English was a dominant language. Theirs was a conscious choice to write in English.

Among the American contributors of fiction, poetry, and essays are James McCorkle, Martha Zweig, and Michael McPherson. The art portfolio consists of block prints and oil paintings of Pacific island subjects by Avi Kiriaty.

About the guest editor: Vilsoni Hereniko is the author of a collection of one-act plays and three full-length plays. Last Virgin in Paradise: A Serious Comedy is due for publication in 1993 by the South Pacific Creative Arts Society in Suva, Fiji.


“For me, Pacific writing in English (and perhaps postcolonial writing in general) is best evaluated by the extent to which the writer has increased our understanding of ourselves or aspects of our universe as well as the chosen art form—whether it is a poem, short story, play, novel, or whatever. Our heightened awareness may come from one or all of the following and more: the cultural, ethnic, or political sensibilities portrayed in the work; the successful synthesis, or use, of oral and written traditions; the personal choice and treatment of subject or theme; the innovative use of the English language; the unique form or structure of the art; the use of original or unusual literary elements and techniques; even the challenge to literary hegemony. A poem that makes us reflect; a short story that illuminates dark corners of our experience; a novel or play that challenges the norm by offering an alternative that, in one’s opinion, is better, is a work that is worth the label ‘literature.’”
—from “Pacific Island Literature” by Vilsoni Hereniko

“After so many years I’ve found my people, Lu‘isa, and, through them, maybe myself. Yesterday the authorities called off the manhunt. All around, in the forests, women and young people went looking for us, to tell us. We could hear them shouting, ‘It is over! Tamasese has won! He lives again! Samoa lives!’ We came down from the mountains, out of the forests. Late yesterday afternoon I went to see Commissioner Allen. He didn’t know what had happened to me, probably didn’t care. He was smiling, even laughing a little, the way you do when the other guy has won the game and you’re a good sport about it. (To LILO) Do you know what he said to me? He said, ‘This infatuation with democracy will die down. Any movement that is supposed to be democratic is bound to get some sympathy at first. It is attractive, on the surface, but it doesn’t last. Thinking people realize soon enough that it is one of the greatest evils of the world.’”
—from “Think of a Garden” by John A. Kneubuhl

“Language may be ‘the house of being,’ but English seems more like a whole apartment complex. I wondered whether in the stories I’d read for this issue of Manoa—works by authors whose first language was not English but who now write in English—I’d see as many Englishes as there were writers, or whether the writers would mostly conform to the standard mode, as though living, indeed, in a prefab condominium. I think I found a refreshing variety of individual expressions.
      “About two hundred people sent me about four hundred stories. I did not care what their previous publishing experience had been or whether the writers were established: I wanted good stories with intensity of language—of the adopted language. However, the English language, to my mind, is like a cat. You don’t adopt it, it adopts you; and you don’t control it as much as it controls you. So, since the adoption works perhaps more from the language than from us, I decided that the stepmother metaphor could well portray the new family.”
—from “Writing in the Stepmother Tongue:
An Introduction” by Josip Novakovich

“It was 12 midnight. A bloody sun was crawling across the transparent sky. Numerous brown veils were flapping in the lanes fringed with high adobes. It was said that an old imam had just passed away and green grass was growing out of his snow-white whiskers. Inside the front hall of the mosque, a couple of men were sleeping soundly, clinging tightly to half-eaten nangs,some kind of Uygur pancake. The door was fastened with a rusty lock. And the sounds of the old man’s chanting of the Koran were still lingering, day and night, around the crescent tip of the mosque. The mourning procession was moving quietly down an ancient road, along which the exposed rocks were humming songs even older than the road.”
—from “The Midnight Sun” by Xiaoping Wang

The winter 1993 issue, guest-edited by Christina A. Thompson, includes fiction, poetry, and memoirs from Australia. The pieces here represent a large cross-section of Australian voices, combining the works of authors from many different walks of life in an unusual way.

Included are memoirs of Aboriginal life, historical fiction, Greek-Australian poems, an outback detective story, an excerpt from a novel in verse, a memoir set in New York, and a reflection on a long literary life by one of Australia’s best-known writers.

The American poetry ranges in setting from the hot plains of Texas to the snowy terrain of northern Michigan and in subject matter from the horrors of war in the Balkans to a parent’s tender concern for his child in the night; from the flight of seaside dunlins to a lover’s scars.

In this issue’s nonfiction work, the fragile and fantastic worlds found in the waters off Alaska and California are rendered by American writers John Hildebrand and David Rains Wallace.

About the guest editor: Christina A. Thompson is an American who has lived in Australia since 1984. She is a postdoctoral research fellow in the English department at the University of Queensland, and is working on a book about the Pacific called "Come on Shore and We Will Kill and Eat You All."

The photographs of Hawai‘i artist Franco Salmoiraghi are the featured artwork. Salmoiraghi, a resident of the islands since 1968, has his black-and-white photographic prints in the collections of many public and private institutions.


“Australian history replicates that of America in some significant ways. Both were originally established as colonies. In both cases, this establishment entailed the displacement and subjugation of an indigenous people by a predominantly Anglo-Celtic population. Both grew as a result of migration from the fraught places of the world. Both promised, even if they could not guarantee, economic and political freedoms. And both are now struggling to adapt to the realities of their polyphonic, multicultural, postcolonial populations.”
—from “A Brief History of Australia”
by Christina A. Thompson

“My history, like the history of my country, is nothing but great moments. Here is another: it is the moment of my first lie. It does not look like much, this great moment. I stood between two roses of the carpet in my parents’ house, still small enough to see only the knees of the adults in front of me, small enough to hear my teeth clatter against each other when those adults, my parents, bent down one by one and shook me. It was Alma,I told those knees, Alma did it. Alma behind me, too small to be able to find words for outrage, bawled and bawled, and the precious luster jug continued to lie in glittering fragments between us. My lie became more elaborate, as I took my first steps into the foreign country of untruth. Her hands are too small, she dropped it, I said, and felt dizzy, knowing I was adding a new world of my own invention to the one I had been living in until now. She wanted to look at her face in it, I said, which was even more cunning for being true, although it was not the reason for the jug now lying dead. And she could not hold it in her hands, I continued plausibly. Alma, who did not know yet about the new world of lies, but would soon learn, became hoarse, bellowing and wailing as they spanked her pinafore and stood over her, scolding, and I crept away with a new world in my head.”
—from “Great Moments in History”
by Kate Grenville

 “There was a certain irony in speaking of sea otters as trashing anything in the wake of the Exxon Valdez,when images of dead sea otters mired in oily goo, jaws caught in fatal rictus, ‘trashed’ so to speak, had become the quasi-official measure of the spill’s damage. . . . three months later, on the outer coast of Baranof Island, the spill seemed only a distant rumor of war. . . . But the spill had forced many sea otters to migrate to new territories, presenting an opportunity to examine the effects of otter predation on previously undisturbed areas. We would be looking chiefly at their prey, marine invertebrates, creatures so small and arcane as to call into question where their lives even fit into the big picture.”
—from “Beyond Whales” by John Hildebrand

 Obake Anthurium
Photograph by Franco Salmoiraghi

296 pp., spring 1993 (5:1), $20
ISSN 1045-7909

248 pp., fall 1993 (5:2), $20
ISSN 1045-7909