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Where We Once Belonged [Paperback]

Our Price $ 12.71  
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Item Number 292974  
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Item Specifications...

Pages   247
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 7.2" Width: 5.2" Height: 0.6"
Weight:   0.65 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Nov 2, 1999
Publisher   Kaya/Muae
ISBN  1885030274  
EAN  9781885030276  

Availability  0 units.

Item Description...
Thirteen-year-old Alofa Filiga struggles to come to terms with womanhood, her search for identity, and the restrictions of life in her Samoan village.

Publishers Description
Fiction. A bestseller in New Zealand and winner of the prestigious Commonwealth Prize, Sia Figiel's debut marks the first time a novel by a Samoan woman has been published in the United States. Figiel uses the traditional Samoan storytelling form of su'ifefiloi to talk back to Western anthropological studies on Samoan women and culture. Told in a series of linked episodes, this powerful and highly original narrative follows thirteen-year-old Alofa Filiga as she navigates the mores and restrictions of her village and comes to terms with her own search for identity. A story of Samoan PUBERTY BLUES, in which Gauguin is dead but Elvis lives on -- Vogue Australia. A storytelling triumph -- Elle Australia.

Buy Where We Once Belonged by Sia Figiel from our Christian Books store - isbn: 9781885030276 & 1885030274

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More About Sia Figiel

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! Sia Figiel is the first contemporary woman novelist from Samoa. "Where We Once Belonged" won a 1997 Commonwealth Writers' Prize Best First Book prize and has been translated into several European languages. She is also the author of "The Girl In The Moon Circle" and of a collection of prose and poetry, "To a Young Artist in Contemplation."

Sia Figiel was born in 1967.

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Product Categories
1Books > Subjects > Literature & Fiction > General > Contemporary   [78538  similar products]
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Reviews - What do our customers think?
Eventually rewarding  Jun 19, 2008
Where We Once Belonged by Sia Figiel is a novel set in Samoa, a novel that won the Commonwealth Writers Prize. At one level it is a simple story of one girl's journey through childhood and adolescence. Alofa tells us about her school life, her church, her favourite television programmes, and her family. She tells us of local practices, customs and mores. She describes what she eats and how it is cooked. She details her relationships with her friends, parents and teachers. And in this way she builds for us a picture and sensation of growing up in Samoa.

Alofa is quite a late developer. Long after her friends have succumbed to the moon sickness, she has not begun to menstruate. It troubles her. She worries that she is not like other people, that she might be destined for a life that is different from theirs.

But she discovers what all adolescents discover, and delights in telling the minute detail of every encounter. There are older men, younger men, and girls, mothers and boys. She has her share of experiences and learns that sometimes people are not what they seem.

Through Where We Once Belonged the reader thus experiences Samoan life, how it once was, and how it is changing. It is not a rich life, for sure, but the poverty, both material and personal, never grinds down either the community or the individual. Like everywhere else in human existence, some can cope with apparent ease, whilst others find the process of life more taxing.

The true beauty of Sia Figiel's novel, however, is that it provides a foil to external, Western interpretations of Samoan life. Mention of this contrast with 'official' views of the culture come late in the book, because the perspective is consistently that of the young girl narrator. In some ways this is unfortunate, since the book has real direction once this is understood. Until then, a casual reader may not develop this informative and rewarding overview.

An uncommitted reader might also find the book a difficult read. There is extensive use of Samoan words, whole sentences in places. Though there is a glossary, it is far from complete. There is a temptation not to refer to it and thus to gloss over some of the detail, and it is in this detail that the book's real richness lies. Eventually, it is a rewarding read, in its particularistic, individual way.
praise for Where we once belonged  Aug 14, 2005
The story as vignettes was effective and it helped the reader understand the nuances of a culture so different from that of the U.S. and especially as world changes effects the culture, from the viewpoint of a girl becoming a woman, but showing the experiences of men too. I would have liked the glossary to be a bit more extensive, but you could guess reasonably the meaning of words not defined by the context.
Different and rewarding  Oct 19, 2002
All I knew about Samoa before reading Sia Figiel's novel, Where We Once Belonged was:
1) Margaret Mead made her career writing about Samoan women, and
2) Samoan men are highly recruited as linemen for college football teams.
Rectifying that ignorance of my fellow Asian/Pacific Islanders was my initial impetus for picking up the novel, but it was Figiel's stunning storytelling and humor which carried me through to the end. The rewards of Where We Once Belonged is not only a sophisticated product of the storyteller's art, but also the honest and touching portrayal of a time and culture few of us know.

From the opening sentence, "When I saw the insides of a woman's vagina for the first time I was not alone," Where We Once Belonged plunges the reader honestly and unapologetically into an adolescent girl's world of guilt, desire, cultural confusion, and budding sexuality. Carried forward in a series of linked reflections and scenes, the novel is "told" to the reader through a variety of sophisticated narrative techniques including the informal "talk story," the traditional Samoan storytelling form of su'ifefiloi and more elegiac poetic reflections on the landscape of Samoa. The playfulness of the narrative underscores Figiel's somewhat darker concerns about the difficulties faced by young women growing up in Samoa. The strong pull of the church and its mores is juxtaposed alongside the images of women offered by up Hollywood, specifically, Charlie's Angels, after whom our narrator, Alofa also known as Jill, and her friends, Lili/Kelly and Moa/Sabrina, pattern themselves after. Gender roles are discussed, explored, witnessed and even rebelled against with often violent consequences. Wives are disposed at the whim of their husband, unmarried young women are banished for their "impure" pregnancies, and even Alofa is the victim of beatings and abuse that are given as "lessons" by her partriarchal community.

And yet in the midst of these brutal events, Figiel manages to combine humor into her narrative, as in the story of Elisa, who "remained pure, until her first check-up at the hospital when a metal instrument injured her hymen...All these years and she was saving it for a piece of metal." The richness of Samoa comes alive through Figiel's liberal use of Samoan creole and her amazing ability to describe a scene not only through sight but smell as well. She describes the central marketplace through its activity and through the smells of the different tobaccos smoked by the different types of people, The pervasive juxtaposition of native Samoan and western culture plays out in the food section where fish wrapped in taro leaves competes with imported animals like lamb and turkey.

Where We Once Belonged satisfies on many different levels: It can be read as an adolescent girl's "coming of age" story, an intimate portrait of Samoa, or even a sociological examination of the lingering effects of colonization and pervasive cultural hegemony of Hollywood. But Figiel, the product of a rich storytelling culture, weaves each of these threads into a richly patterned tale, leading us to an unforgettable ending and leaving an indelible experience of Samoa in our memories.

Wonderfully realistic!  Jul 7, 2000
This book really let me into the life of the character. It is undeniably realistic. As a student, I am planning on studying in Samoa for a semsester and this book did a great job with portraying yet another perspective on the Samoan way of life. And the perspective of a teenage girl going through adolescent confusion is always fascinating!
Excellent Novel: Covers Ethnic/Feminist Issues  May 5, 2000
Excellent book-a must read and an outstanding book for university class romms. Ms. Figiel, while touching artfully on the specifics of Samoan life, has illuminated the Human Condition with warmth and clarity.

An outstanding treatment of women, class, sexuality and ethinicity. The book is a delight to read--an amazing lyric voice for such a young writer--and a book to be shared.


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