Pasifika Book Hub: Connecting to tagata o le moana stories

More and more creators are turning to independent publishing to get their stories out into the world. Owner of Mila’s Books Dahlia Malaeulu tells us about the new Pasifika Book Hub which aims to support tagata o le moana in sharing their stories, and connecting readers of all backgrounds to the rich world of Pacific voices.

We are really excited to hear about the creation of a Pasifika Book Hub! What is it and why do you think it is needed?

Fa’afetai tele lava, thank you so very much we are really excited as well! The Pasifika Book Hub is a much needed space that was created to support new Pasifika storytellers, connect people to our beautiful tagata o le moana stories and encourage the growth of Pasifika publishing.

There are so many reasons why a space like this is needed. Firstly, we at Mila’s Books know what it is like to start and travel this book journey alone and we really want to change this for the next generation of Pasifika publishers and storytellers by creating culturally safe spaces and supported book pathways. Secondly, there is a huge hunger and need for our stories, and in order to achieve our own mission of ensuring Pasifika tamaiti and peoples are seen, heard and valued in the stories they read, we need access to stories from Pasifika storytellers more than ever before. So the Pasifika Hub is really a go-to space for all of this.

we need access to stories from Pasifika storytellers more than ever before

What sort of insights and support will it provide to new and emerging tagata o le moana publishers?

One of our goals was to share publishing journeys, lessons and advice to showcase what is possible for new and emerging Pasifika publishers. There are so many indie publishers doing amazing things and in so many different ways which many people are not always aware of. For instance, Emele Ugavule shares her own storytelling journey and collective publishing endeavour via Rarama Ink Press, mother and daughter duo Shoba and Keryn Kalyan share in detail their step by step publishing journey, and I share some of the do’s and don’ts we’ve learnt as a publishing company along our Mila’s Books journey. Showing and sharing what’s possible in the book world for our Pacific peoples is so important for us at Mila’s Books and we feel that our Pasifika spirit of sharing and connectedness is what makes the Pasifika Book Hub so unique.

Screenshot showing images of Pasifika creators and the title Lessons from Indie Publishers with a short description

How will it connect readers with tagata o le moana storytellers?

Over the years we have received so many enquiries about publishing and where to source Pasifika stories across different book genres. This is why we created the Tagata o le moana titles section to provide a glimpse of what is out there around the world or at the very least help to point people in the right direction.

Also due to the long history of invisibility of Pacific peoples, Pacific storytellers and Pacific stories in the traditional book industry many are surprised that our beautiful measina (treasures) even exist. So we hope by creating more brown book spaces like the Pasifika Book Hub, we can bring awareness and help people to discover more tagata o le moana stories and storytellers.

Is it only for Pacific peoples? Who can use the hub and in what way/s?

The Pasifika Book Hub is definitely for everyone. Our hope is that it connects people to tagata o le moana stories and storytellers and will support them on their indie publishing journeys.   

Screenshot showing images of book covers and the title Our Stories: Tagata o le moana titles with a short description

May is Pasifika Readathon Challenge month. Where can we find out more and how do we join in?

We discovered this amazing initiative a couple of years ago through a Samoan New Zealander bookstagrammer called Rosa Alo. The Pasifika Readathon Challenge was a result of the month of May being Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month in the United States of America. We would love to see the Pasifika Readathon fully adopted here in Aotearoa especially as we are the Polynesian mecca of the world and May is also the beginning of our national Pacific language weeks.

It is free for anyone to participate and the awesome volunteers and bookstagrammers who have also recently started the Pacific Islanders in Publishing database website actively promote and create activities for the Pasifika Readathon Challenge worldwide as well.

May also brings the start of Aotearoa’s Pacific Language Weeks. Do you think these weeks are sufficiently supportive of Pacific languages?

It has been great to witness our national Pacific language weeks grow from strength to strength, now with the inclusion of Papua New Guinea Pidgin and Solomon Islands Pidgin weeks this year. But from the feedback we continually receive from Pacific communities, schools and families, is that there is still a massive need for more culturally rich resources and stories to support them during all eleven national Pacific language weeks.

Research shows that a loss of language results in a loss of culture and identity. So we need to be continually capturing our language, rich cultural stories, events and traditions by creating publications that meet the varying language and cultural needs of our communities and supporters of Pacific peoples. Another reason why supporting and empowering our own Pacific peoples and communities to do so through indie publishing is crucial.

This year’s Pacific Language Weeks series, featuring 11 Pacific languages, gets underway in May [Image from here]

Mila’s Books does an amazing job of championing Pasifika creators and stories. What new books can we look forward to this year?

We recently released Alofa tele atu, a heartwarming story that shares the alofa we all have for our growing tamaiti. Our upcoming tusi, Mataaliʻi, was inspired by our Samoan version of Matariki which will be released this month in celebration of Samoan language week and the upcoming Māori new year.

We are also super excited to publish first-time authors through our amazing Mila’s Books Tusitala Group mentees and their stories which will be released in the second half of the year: Tui Pea Luva by Mele Tonga-Grant, Tuluma Tokelau by Sale Alefosio, Hunt for Niutupu by Inangaro Vakaafi, Ni alowhaaga by Selina Alefosio and Dear Uso by Mani Malaeulu.

Our stories are measina, they hold great mana

What advice do you have for Pasifika writers (of all ages) who want to share their stories with children?

Remember the ‘how’ can be learned and allow your ‘why’ to be your guide. Our stories are measina, they hold great mana, so ensure at all stages they are treated with great care and respect. Regardless of what the world tells you, we have always been storytellers and your story matters because you matter. And the biggest lesson we have learnt along our book journey is that if you want to see a book in the world, do it yourself.

Dahlia Malaeulu

Dahlia Malaeulu is a Wellington-born Samoan author of Children’s Pasifika books and creator of Mila’s Books. She is a passionate educator who enjoys creating stories that develop cultural confidence amongst tamaiti (children), fanau (families) and faiā‘oga (educators) within the home, schools and communities.