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Friday, September 9, 2011

Pasifika writer to pen a tale of two Samoas

As a girl growing up in Otara, Auckland, Marisa Maepu knew something wasn’t quite right.

A voracious reader, Marisa couldn’t understand why there weren’t stories around that reflected her way of life as a young Samoan girl growing up in south Auckland.

Marisa went to Auckland University and completed a Master of Arts in English under the supervision of a great Samoan poet, Albert Wendt, and Whale Rider author Witi Ihimaera (who is Maori), but still she felt puzzled about the lack of Pasifika writers in general, let alone Samoan ones.

In 2006 Marisa decided to deal with this  by writing her own stories -- the kind of tales she’d always wanted to read when she was a child.

It was a decision that led swiftly to success.
Marisa won a Spasifik Magazine/Huia Publishers short story competition in 2007, and was selected for publication in the New Zealand Book Month Six Pack anthology in 2008. She is currently polishing off a collection of 15 short stories for publication, and has written a number of children’s stories in the Samoan language to support teaching of the language in schools.

And now she is off to Hawaii, courtesy of a Fulbright-Creative New Zealand Pacific Writers’ Residency. Marisa leaves Wellington on 14 September to take up her three month residency at the University of Hawai‘i’s Center for Pacific Island Studies in Honolulu, and write her first novel.

Sala ma Sina (the working title of Marisa’s novel) follows the lives of Samoan twin sisters who are separated at birth. The girls grow up in Western Samoa, American Samoa and New Zealand during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, a period of historical significance and great social change in all three countries.

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