a nutshell: this memoir follows an athlete’s attempt to make the Olympics via the beautiful dual-island nation of St Kitts and Nevis
a line: “doable, with its amazing ability to promise nothing and everything all at once, still left me in charge, I hung onto that word fiercely, to its calm positivity, its quiet hope, and its spunky little go-getter syllables”
an image: when recalling her first trip to St Kitts and Nevis, Bertine recounts Christopher Columbus’ error in believing the clouds above Nevis’s highest peak were a snowcapped mountain, hence the name from the Spanish ‘nieves’ (‘snows’)
a thought: I was moved by Bertine’s honesty about leaving her ex-fiance, an alcoholic, and her memories of how she gathered what was left of her confidence, courage & energy after realising she couldn’t rewire another person’s ‘happy button’ – I was particularly interested in her reflection about the danger of thinking if physical pain was something she could endure then why not pain of the emotional variety?
a fact: at one point, Bertine visits my home city of Melbourne for the Bloody Big Swim, an 11.3km route through the open sea, which I know *for a fact* that I wouldn’t stand a chance at!
want to read As Good as Gold? visit here
a nutshell: this is the first collection of poetry by a Pohnpeian poet, sharing lyrical insights into what it’s like to be a citizen of the Federated States of Micronesia
a line: “you think you’re so educated but haven’t a clue about what it means to be colonised when was the last time you planted something in the ground and felt like a real man? when was the last time you listened to the silence?” (‘Ngih Kohl’)
an image: mouth-watering descriptions of food & drink recur throughout the collection, for instance in ‘A meal fit for a soupeidi’ Kihleng describes a dish of canned mackerel, calamansi limes, salt, breadfruit cooked with coconut milk & sugar, washed down with a glug of coconut
a thought: I learned a lot from this collection e.g. in ‘Destiny Fulfilled?’, Kihleng is critical of how Micronesian soldiers were killed fighting in the US’s War on Terror (“she is a citizen of the Federated States of Micronesia “freely associated” with the United States of America she could die for America our friendly thug soldier … brown islanders signing away their freedom on islands seized by “liberation” 60 years before); also, in ‘Pohnpei Seringiring’, she writes of how apathy suffocates their lush, tropical island – with no one caring about the landslides killing people or the sediment pouring into oceans choking the reefs
a fact: Kihleng dedicates the titular poem to her mother, who conducted ethnographic research in Saladak, Pohnpeil, and wrote a doctoral dissertation about Pohnpeian women – she continues to inspire Kihleng’s writing (another fact: Pohnpei is matrilineal, in that one’s clan membership is earned through the mother)
want to read My Urohs? visit here