One of the house rules I’ve given myself is that each month I need to read at least one book written by someone from that country (not just a book about that country). Sometimes that’s easy, but this month I had to go on a little quest – but a successful one!
Because of Nauru’s small population, there are very few books from there. In fact, there seems to only be two books published in English written by Nauruans – a compilation from the 1930s of Nauruan legends and oral history, and Stories from Nauru. I haven’t been able to find any copies of the former, but I have been able to get a copy of the latter!
Possibly the only copy available in Canada is at the University of Victoria, which was an amazing coincidence, because I have access to their library! The information services office was extremely helpful, and they not only let me borrow the book, but couriered it to me from across the country.
So what about the actual book? What is Stories from Nauru like?
Stories from Nauru is a publication coming out of a 1990 creative writing workshop held by the University of the South Pacific – which has a campus on Nauru. The foreword sets out the hope that this will encourage other Nauruans to record their history and experiences. It’s a very short book, only about 20 pages, but the stories in this book are really interesting. They vary thematically – creation and hero legends, both historical and legendary accounts of the arrival of the first Europeans, the destruction of Nauruan culture and the ravages of phosphate mining, as well as pieces of creative fiction.
The one that really stuck with me was “A Plea for Help” by Elmina Quadina, about a 30 year old woman who is despairing at her progressive deafness and her lack of community support. It feels like it’s from Quadina’s lived experience – the frustration and fear is visceral.