Although my heart go out to those in the Pacific Islands who are impacted by the rising cases of Covid-19, as well as Cyclone Harold, which has ravaged Vanuatu, Fiji and heading towards Tonga, I thought I would return with providing more uplifting cultural news from region.
A couple of weeks ago Sela Jan Hopgood wrote an article for Radio New Zealand about how a Fijian author, Paulini Turagabeci, who recently published her debut novel The River, said she hoped that the book will inspire more Fijians to take up writing.
Ms Turagabeci said more Fijian stories were needed to encourage the younger generation. “I hope that other people in the community recognise the essence of themselves in the pages of my new book. I hope they smile when they recognize a place, Fijian idiom or slang, and I hope it inspires others to start writing.”
Ms Turagabeci said when her father heard the news that his grandson was born, he started day dreaming about activities they would do together – including eating fish and chips. “As soon as I heard fish and chips, the whole story line started playing out in my head, with a few twists and turns.”
She said the book’s premise was about a man running away from a past that he was not proud of. “Ilai, the protagonist, loses his wife and daughter in a tragic car accident and is left to raise his grandson alone. He thinks that running away from his past by moving to a new home will solve his problems, but the ghosts of his past resurface in his new home, threatening to separate him from his grandson. His choices will determine if there is healing and forgiveness or if his grandson will also have to carry the burden of his folly.”
The book took three months to be completed and was published in December 2019. “What helped me finish the book in such a timely manner was sticking to a routine. I think all writers can attest that sticking to a routine works for them. I am also a new mum and that means not having a hectic social life, so my energy was spent looking after my son, my home, and writing.”
Ms Turagabeci said she did not see as many Fijian female writers as she would hope to see nowadays. “I feel the word author doesn’t get thrown around a lot in Fiji. Most of the time, authors are holding down a full-time job as well and claim their title to be of that job as oppose to being labelled as an author.”
“Being a full-time author is not the easiest, but when you are passionate about something, money is secondary.”