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Conversations of American Experience
Volume Four
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Pacific Voices Talk Story
Conversations of American Experience
Volume Four

Edited by Margo King Lenson
2007, 380 pages, Paperback.
Publisher's Description
General Comments
About the Authors

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The most recent Vol. 4, features 15 Islander conversations from Oct. 2004 through April 2005 recorded in New York, Arizona, Orange County, the Bay Area, San Diego, plus other off-island hometowns. You'll meet young and old Islanders whose lives have been forever changed by their American experience. They hail from Guam, Hawaii, Samoa, Marshall Islands, Easter Island, New Zealand, Niue, Papua New Guinea, and Tonga.

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Publisher's Description

This book series started in 2000 as a quest for the real (not Hollywood) Islander identity. Since then, 50 AMAZING Islanders have spoken out, no-holds-barred, about their realities and roots to answer what I've always asked as an Islander myself: "Who am I?" and "Who are you?"

Through talk story, the oral tradition of exchanging knowledge, we discover unspoken answers & each other. In unscripted, spontaneous conversation, our lives take shape in words said and transferred/translated/interpreted on the page, revealing cultural dilemmas, generational impasses, community tribalism, and almost-forgotten Island memories. Reading these conversations is to experience the diversity, transition, and crises in Islander communities today, not what went on in the Islands in a mythic Golden Age.

Many interviewees resist identifying themselves as "Pacific Islander Americans" (the clustering combo rings UNtrue), but as Samoans, Hawaiians, Rapanui, Fijian, Tongan, PNG, Niuean, Chuukese, Chamorro, Filipinos, Maori, Cook Islander and part-this, part-that. Their strong identities humble me with my ignorance of what it means to be Islander. For most of my life, I was an American unaware of (and often rejecting) my Samoan-Filipino-Caucasian past. HOW ELSE could I think of being, raised without a backstory, without a history, without connectedness to culture or tender family?

Publishing these Pacific American talk stories, my objectives are: TO FILL the void of firsthand stories about Pacific Islanders in the mainland (where we are critically marginalized); TO OVERWRITE the stereotypes that simplify us; TO RESIST the academic institutions that objectify us as ethnographic specimens; and TO INFORM our insular communities that we have common struggles and social realities. My main goal is to present the depth and complexity of Islanders as Americans speaking out on the long GOOD-BAD impact the US has had on them, their families, and cultures. This ongoing series is a grassroots effort funded by generous believers in its purpose: to keep Islanders' talk story in print.
---Margo King Lenson

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General Comments

The transcription of a discussion or an interview is treated in much the same way as drama.
The Chicago Manual of Style (15th ed.)

No two people's voices are alike, either in the shape of the vocal tract that sculpts the sounds, or in the person's precise habits of articulation.
---Steven Pinker,
The Language Instinct: How the Mind Creates Language

My own work and life have always unfolded under the dark shadows of death, dread and despair in search of love, dialogue and democracy.
---Cornel West,
The Cornel West Reader

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About the Authors

Margo King Lenson
Vacaville, California
Birthplace: Honolulu, Hawaii

James J. Yandall & Yvonne L. Yandall
Imperial Beach, California
Birthplace: Atu’u, Am. Samoa

Vicenta S. N. Camacho & Elizabeth Camacho
Antioch, California
Birthplace: Guam

Frances King Espiritu
Vacaville, California
Birthplace: Fagatogo, Am. Samoa

Carolyn Lei-lanilau
Oakland, California
Birthplace: Hawai’I

Soledad C. Santos
San Jose, California
Birthplace: Piti, Guam

Que Baywe Keju
Costa Mesa, California
Birthplace: Kwajalein, Marshall Islands

Salesi Vakalahi
Tracy, California
Birthplace: Tongatapu, Tonga

Ellanita McCline
Glendale, Arizona
Birthplace: Alofi, Niue Island

Charles “Tito” Paoa
Long Beach, California
Birthplace: Easter Island

Ataahua Papa
Fort Lee, New Jersey
Birthplace: Mangakino, New Zealand

John P. Rosa
Peoria, Arizona
Birthplace: Los Angeles, CA

Karen Washington & Maria Perreault
Peoria, Arizona
Birthplace: Gordka, Papua New Guinea

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