Talking Story

I’ve often thought that rather than wait patiently in the shadows for someone at the publishing table to notice and make room, it’s better to build your own table. Tatou Publishing has not only built a table, they’ve prepared a feast.

Traditional publishers in the USA believe there is no market for Pacific literature stories, that islanders don’t read or buy books, that words in Pidgin or Hawaiian or any other language are confusing. I can tell a good story, they say, but to reach a wider audience, I should really just write books about American girls who sparkle. That’s something they can sell.

Unfortunately, that’s not an exaggeration. Publishers and editors have really said this to me. I think their frankness comes from the cognitive dissonance they experience when they see what looks like a fluffy middle-aged white woman submitting manuscripts that bleed saltwater and taste of taro and red earth.

They just don’t get it—and they really can’t. They don’t have the tastebuds.

Other Pasifika writers have heard this, too. We’re told to be patient, to write literary fiction, not space stories or fantasy or urban romance. We’re supposed to fit neatly in a box.

Tired of this rhetoric, Tatou Publishing was born. A call went out from Lani Young and Sisilia Eteuati for original short stories and poems from women across the vast Pacific. It speaks volumes about colonial chains that many saw women and assumed only cis-gendered were welcome, but our pan-Pacific realities have bigger hearts and lives than that. Tatou Publishing assumed that was understood. Going forward, the wahine energy message is clearer. Women means all women.

Their first project is ambitious—there was only a two week submission window for original stories and poems that ended on Nov. 30, 2021 and publication was fast-tracked for December 23, 2021.

37.

That’s the number of authors whose work was accepted into the inaugural anthology. I’m not sure what the final word count was, somewhere in the 90,000 word range. That’s not just amazing, that’s unprecedented. It’s impossible, according to publishers. There aren’t that many people writing these kinds of stories in the world, let alone women.

That’s why Lani and Sisilia built their own table, a ginormous table, big enough to hold a feast of words, of stories, of lives told in authentic voices. Better loosen your belt. There are more courses—flavors and textures—than your tongue can hold.

The authors range from experienced to noobie, from stay-at-home moms to lawyers, educators, business owners and everything in between and beyond. This is the start of something special.

From the back of the book—

Stories that tell covid to eat sh!*, where a Centipede God watches on with wry humour and wrath, where a sexy Samoan goes on a hot Tinder date in Honolulu, where a New Zealand doctor is horrified to be stuck at her cousin’s kava drink up in Fiji, stories where Ancestors and Atua live and breathe. Stories that defy colonial boundaries, and draw on the storytelling and oratory that is our inheritance. Immerse yourself in the intrigue, fantasy, humour and magic of beautiful strong stories by 37 writers from across the Moana.

Chimamanda Adichie speaks about the danger of the single story. In this book you will travel across oceans and meet diverse and deep characters in over 50 rich stories from Cook Island, Chamorro, Erub Island (Torres Strait), Fijian, Hawaiian, Maori, Ni-Vanuatu, Papua New Guinean, Rotuman, Samoan and Tongan writers.

Mark your calendars:  Va – Stories by Women of the Moana, available Dec 23, 2021 on Amazon and other retailers in eBook and paperback.

It’s gonna be epic.

 

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