SOMETIMES we try to cook up convincing arguments to back up our case. Sometimes someone else gives us the arguments.
But last night, while thinking about whether to petition Papua New Guinea’s parliament to provide more PNG-authored books to our schools - and whether or not it was a good idea - a simple thing happened that galvanised my confidence that a petition is the right thing to do.
I’m studying in South Australia and my partner Isidora was at home in PNG giving baking lessons to a colleague’s young daughters.
While they were relaxing in the lounge waiting for the dough to rise, the girls happened to come across a copy of my first book, At Another Crossroads, sitting on the coffee table.
These are the text messengers Isidora sent me:
Isidora: The girls found your book under the table.
Michael: What book?
Isidora: At the crossroads.
Michael: Whose girls are in my house reading my book? (I can be a meaner when I want to be.)
Isidora: (Ignoring the meaner) Peter and Tony’s girls are here to learn to bake.
Michael: Oh, ok.
Isidora: They found your book – you should see their faces – complete silence. Then slight smiles. And all of a sudden… Uncle Michael em brain box ya!!!
After laughing a little, I recalled that there were two books left from the 28 copies I bought at the UPNG Bookshop to help with sales. They cost K50 each, which is pretty steep for most PNG pockets.
Such charming and loyal friends I have, they insisted I give them a free signed copy – thanks guys. I owe the UPNG Bookshop K1, 400.
But hey, what’s the price of fame?
Anyhow, there were two copies left after the last ten we sent off for another worthy cause, so I messaged back to Isidora.
Michael: You can give them each one book.
Isidora: Really!!! Wow…they are in complete silence!!!
Isidora: (A few minutes later) Peter’s big girl’s fav…Beauty is in da wata. Everyone is beaming and going frantic!!! Giggling like a child given a lolly. Rahab is going… “I will covet it”. She says she will put it into her bilum and take to school every day for inspiration. And they say thank you. Other girls are saying as soon as it hits schools, they will take their signed copy and preach to all their friends… Author is our uncle and we got the first copies and they are signed.
Isidora: (An hour later) Oh no…while waiting for the buns to come out…we’re all reciting poems. Rahab is willing to study the Anthologies and select her fav for reciting. Natalie, Peter’s daughter, is eager too.
And that’s all it takes, folks.
I don’t have any better argument to offer for the benefit of getting the Crocodile Prize into the hands of young Papua New Guineans.
My good mate’s son and little daughter read my book and agreed, “Uncle Mike is cool”.
So I want to thank these kids tonight – Rahab Giri, Natalie Wamblia, Gwendalyn Peter, Zulicca Pewa, Mikael and Osmond Yalu. You make all this worthwhile.
K1,400 is peanuts – those reactions were pure gold.
I think about my fellow writer’s in PNG and wonder at the stories they have about the reception of their books back in their homes and communities.
The struggles and triumphs, the pride and joy; all of that shared good stuff!
Think about what would happen if we multiplied that by many more writers and many more books.
I think about all the other schoolkids who might know an author and how they would feel about bringing a signed copy to school to show off to their friends.
I think about how they would contend that “their uncle/aunt was cooler” because of their writing.
I think about this at three in the morning when I’m 3,000 kilometers away from home. I’m awaiting a shipment of 30 of my latest book -The Musing of an Assistant Pig Keeper - to arrive so I can haul them back to PNG as luggage.
Writing is our labour of love and we pay for it too.
We don’t need official recognition – the kids give us that.
We don’t need government approval – the kids endorse us.
But what we do need is that kids in PNG are given the same opportunity to read their wantoks stuff. And that is something I believe every government has a responsibility to do.
At Another Crossroads, a collection of poems by Michael Dom is available from Amazon here: http://www.amazon.com/At-Another-Crossroads-Collection-Poems/dp/9980879211
The Musing of an Assistant Pig Keeper, poetry and prose by Michael Dom is available from Amazon here: http://www.amazon.com/Musing-Assistant-Pig-Keeper-Poetry/dp/1490505970/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1431121834&sr=1-2