Weekend Herald - Canvas

What I’m reading ... Tusiata Avia

I’m keeping my distance from dystopia for a while. These are strange times.


I’m a lucky reader. My cousin, the playwright Victor Rodger, lends me a big bag of books every month or two when he’s in Christchur­ch. He has great taste and keeps an eye on the big literary prize winners.

I did, however, run out immediatel­y to lay down some cash for Aue, by Becky Manawatu. Aue does what I want a book to do: grab me by the neck (or some part of my body) and not let me go until the last page. Trust Exercise by Susan Choi gripped me similarly but in a completely different, razor-sharp way.

The 2019 Man Booker winners: one from Victor’s bag — Girl, Woman, Other by Bernadine Evaristo, which I swallowed and want to read again — the other, The Testaments by Margaret Atwood, which I bought as a strategic present for my mum. I am a long-time Atwood reader, although I admit to not watching A Handmaid’s Tale on Netflix. I suspect I might lock myself in my room for days and forget about feeding my child.

I found an old copy of Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury and gave that another whirl after last reading it as a teenager. It’s a classic for good reason but I’m keeping my distance from dystopia for a while. These are strange times.

The latest book from one of my favourite poets — American Sunrise by Joy Harjo, first indigenous Poet Laureate of the US — set me on a re-read of her wonderful, wonderful work including her autobiogra­phy, Crazy Brave.

Essay collection­s (especially academic ones) are not usually my jam, but I’m completely obsessed with Whispers and Vanities: Samoan Indigenous Knowledge and Religion, particular­ly the title essay by Tui Atua Tupua Tamasese Ta’isi Efi. This is a gift from one of the few keepers of precolonia­l Samoan sacred knowledge.

Tusiata Avia’s latest poetry collection, The Savage Coloniser Book (VUP, $25), is out now.

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