Accidental Writing 101: ‘Teine Sāmoa’, the book.

CONGRATULATIONS to Azalia Le-Valasi Samasoni – the winner of our Mila’s Cover Model Competition. Fa’afetai tele lava to her mother and photographer, Anita Peniata, for sending through this stunning picture for our Teine Sāmoa book cover.

Over this lockdown period I wrote. A lot. Reflections, articles, poems. And across 7 days, I accidentally wrote a book – Teine Sāmoa.

It all started off by reflecting on my own teine Sāmoa journey which was published by e-tangata last year, ‘Don’t you want to be Sāmoan?’, and the overwhelming response to this article. The countless number of messages and emails. People sharing vivid recounts of their own experiences which told the same story:
– Not knowing our Sāmoan language or elements of our Sāmoan culture.
– Being told they were not Sāmoan enough.
– Being told that being Sāmoan was not good enough.
– Not being supported in developing cultural confidence or knowledge and being embarrassed by or shamed for this.
– Turning away from our Sāmoan language and culture due to any/some/all of the above, when all they longed for was to be supported, included and accepted as Sāmoan.

I then thought about my many experiences as an educator. The 12 years of conversations I had with Pasifika students from my class, across my own school and other schools. The issues they would bring to my table to discuss, laugh out loud about, problem solve, cry, compare and vent about, which sadly, involved many of the issues listed above.

Then there were the memories of educators. Those wanting to develop their own Pasifika cultural knowledge and understanding. Or those who automatically ‘got it’, knowing how to connect with our Pasifika tamaiti by developing relationships, their confidence and building upon the cultural assets they brought to their classrooms.

And I also remembered educators who just, ‘did-not-get-it’. Those ones with the ‘my way or the highway’ attitudes, only open to doing what they’ve always known or the school principal who once told me that Pasifika students can’t achieve due to their parents and their low expectations. #AnotherStory4AnotherDay

So all of this reminiscing and reflecting led me to wonder about the cultural baggage they all carried, our first teachers in life – parents and teachers and the impact this had on the lives of our tamaiti. Just imagine if we knew their stories?

So I put fingers to keyboard and started writing about four junior high school students and their stories –

First about Lani, the afakasi, who wants to know more about her Sāmoan side and is scared of the ‘Real Sāmoans’.

Then I wrote about Teuila, the proud NZ-born teine Sāmoa who grows frustrated at living a double life.

Next was Masina, the free spirited church minister’s daughter whose destiny is already set and controlled by her parents.

Finally, there was Vai, the Real Sāmoan, and her journey of living in New Zealand so far.

After completing the 12 mini short stories, I found they all could be seen as connected chapters and then I suddenly realised: OMG … This is a book.

My next light bulb moment was that these stories told, ‘our stories’. Full of powerful lessons for ourselves and others about cultural identity, the importance of giving our tamaiti a voice and developing relationships. Also learning that we are all products of our environments and making sure we understand the stories that have created these environments.

Then came the realisation of wanting to encourage our tamaiti, parents, and teachers to openly share their own stories by having ongoing conversations within our aiga (families) and educating our educators, so we can all support our tamaiti in knowing – why they are, who they are and what they can be.

My final aha moment came as I made the decision to publish Teine Sāmoa.

I now believe that just because it was written ‘not on purpose’ doesn’t mean it was an ‘accident’. Instead, through accidentally writing, Teine Sāmoa, it has reinforced ‘my purpose’ of supporting and helping people to develop their own and other’s cultural confidence.

So the first important lesson of ‘Accidental Writing 101’ is: There are no such things as accidents and writing with no purpose can actually lead to your purpose.

Teine Sāmoa, is a novelette YA fiction e-book and will be launched on the 24th May 2020 for le Vaiaso o Gagana Sāmoa 2020 – NZ’s national week that celebrates Sāmoan language, culture and identity.


Author: Dahlia Malaeulu

dah·li·a (dah-lee-ya) / noun: a flower that is widely cultivated for its impact and coloured personality / adj: abundant, bright, bold, fresh, ready-to-bloom / human form: daughter, mother, wife, educator, problem solver, creative, teine Sāmoa / working on: creating more brown spaces in the world / currently: moving in the write direction.

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