I should say from the outset that I am a Pālagi secondary school teacher, so I read this book through a certain set of eyes. I learnt that ‘Teine Sāmoa’ is the label given to Sāmoan girls; it encompasses the pride, and the duty, and the respect for family and culture, felt by and expected of Sāmoan girls.
The book is interesting in its structure. The first half is a novella tracing the lives of four Year 9 girls who are all discovering how their Sāmoan culture shapes their identity. Following this section, there are study questions for readers. The second half of the book is the ‘Teine Sāmoa Project’, a compilation of 14 real life stories from seven students and seven educators, all Samoan women.
This book is important for telling the stories of young Sāmoan women.It is also important for giving people like me, people who work with Pasifika young people, an insight into their lives. Through the novella we hear the girls’ stories of negotiating the Pālagi environment of school and I got to understand the injustices that students are confronted with. An example is when Tuila says to her teacher, “It’s so frustrating that my last name – Ekanesio – is said wrong every time… us Pasifika students have to say everything correctly in English and we get marked on it, while those whose first language is English don’t have to speak our language or say our names properly…” Through these fictional characters, I also got the chance to see how my students balance the different cultural expectations of home and school.
The 14 stories of the ‘Teine Sāmoa Project’ are inspirational. Each story provides a path for others to follow.
Reading Teine Sāmoa let me into my students’ world. More importantly, it is a book for teine and tama Sāmoa to read and see their lives reflected back at them.
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