Islanders’ Lives on Paper

Tosiwo Nakayama…Tom Remengesau…Darlene Keju…Charlie Gibbons…Kimiuo Aisek.  What do they share?  Well, they are all islanders, for one thing. They are also subjects of biographies that will soon be coming out.  There are books on the history of the islands (I’ve done a couple of those myself!), but now we have stories on the lives of islanders.

Tom Remengesau steered Palau through the difficult years of transition to independence, and Tos Nakayama did pretty much the same for the FSM in its infancy. The books by Don Shuster and David Hanlon will illustrate this even as they chronicle the political history of the day. Charlie Gibbons was a renowned painter, whose life is captured by Barbara Wavell. Kimiuo Aisek was the father of wreck diving in Chuuk and is now in the International Divers Hall of Fame, as Dianne Strong tells it.

Two Palauans and two Chuukese… and a Marshallese woman, Darlene Keju, whose biography has been written by her husband Giff Johnson in the newly published book, Don’t Ever Whisper.  Rather than try to encapsulate her varied life, let me quote from the book’s Foreword:

Why speak when you can sing? Why walk when you can dance? Why not make education fun for the people you’re serving?

These are the questions Darlene Keju asked as she launched her renowned Youth to Youth in Health Program in the Marshalls. But the questions didn’t end there.

Why let the young watch from the sidelines when you can bring them along for the ride?

So she did, fashioning a group of Marshallese educators from an age group who would have been cautioned to keep their eyes open and their mouths closed. After all, they didn’t have the respect that age brings in their culture.

Why inhabit one world when you can be a citizen of two?

To garner the support she needed for her program, Darlene had to undergo a personal transformation–from a schoolgirl who sat in the back row hoping she wouldn’t be shamed in class to an ambassador for her culture and her program on the international stage.

Why settle for being a spectator when you might be able to change the world? Or at least one small piece of it?

This book is a story of a personal transformation of a young lady who once knew little English to an advocate for her people, the victims of the weapons of war. Then the further transformation to educational innovator, whose program had far-reaching effects throughout her island nation.

It’s taken a while for the spate of books on islanders to appear. Now that it’s begun, let’s hope it continues over the years.

Here’s the ordering information on those books that are already available for purchase:

 

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About the author

Francis X. Hezel, SJ
Francis X. Hezel, SJ

Francis X. Hezel, SJ, is a Jesuit priest who has lived and worked in Micronesia since 1963. At different times he has served as high school teacher, school administrator, pastor, and regional superior to the Jesuits of Micronesia. He spent thirty years directing the Micronesian Seminar, a non-profit, non-governmental organization based in Pohnpei, Micronesia. He has written and spoken widely about social change and its impact on island societies. He has also written several books on Micronesian history, including The First Taint of Civilization, Strangers in Their Own Land, and The New Shape of Old Island Cultures. His most recent book, Making Sense of Micronesia: The Logic of Pacific Island Culture, is available through University of Hawaii Press.

Copyright © 2015, WHERESFRAN.ORG, Francis X. Hezel, SJ.