In case you’re new to the Pond’s book recommendation posts, the recommendation posts are brought to you by Varian, the Pond’s very own Toadshifter who is knowledgeable in all kinds of magic! One of Varian’s ambitions is to get better at sewing, hence why whenever Varian has come up with their latest costume, they will always recommend a few books that inspired them!
November is Native-American Heritage Month, and we wanted to share the joy of indigenous books with you all! Heritage Months are a call to reflect on and thoughtfully engage with colonial histories and realities, but they can also be an opportunity for us to uplift and celebrate achievements of Indigenous people. Though today’s book recommendation post takes place during Native-American Heritage Month, our hope is that you will read these books, not just in November, but also every other year of the month as well and engage with Indigenous literature all year long.
It seems like an ordinary day when Tui and Kae, sixteen-year-old twins, get home from school – until they find their mother, Maia, has disappeared and a swirling vortex has opened up in her room. They are sucked into this portal and dragged down to Rarohenga, the Māori Underworld, a shadowy place of infinite dark levels, changing landscapes and untrustworthy characters. Maia has been kidnapped by their estranged father, Tema, enchanted to forget who she really is and hidden somewhere here. Tui and Kae have to find a way through this maze, outwit the shady characters they meet, break the spell on their mother, and escape to the World of Light before the Goddess of Shadows or Tema holds them in Rarohenga forever.
Growing up and living in Aotearoa (New Zealand), it’s not often I get the pleasure of reading a book where I get to see the slang and reo that I grew up immersed and references to Kiwiana reflected on the page. I mean, how often do we get to see a sibling call their sibling ‘an egg’, something that all kids growing up Aotearoa have definitely called each other at some point? Or, how often do I get to see the flora, fauna, and all things that feel quintessential to Aotearoa – ruru, huia, glow worms, Rotorua hot pools – mentioned casually yet endearingly in a story?
So, when I read Falling into Rarohenga by Steph Matuku, I had such a wonderful time. I loved that this story felt so familiar to me and felt like a piece of my home. Just as importantly, I had so much fun reading this gem, and I cannot wait to share with you all my five reasons of why you should pick up this taonga.
Our Friend is Here!is a guest feature at The Quiet Pond, where authors, creatives, and fellow readers, are invited to ‘visit’ the Pond! In Our Friend is Here! guest posts, our visitors (as their very own unique character!) have a friendly conversation about anything related to books or being a reader — and become friends with Xiaolong and friends.
Across my time as a book blogger and a member of the book community, I have had the opportunity to bear witness the writing journeys of many people, especially writers. Following such journeys has always felt like a privilege; it is seeing writers develop and grow, and work on projects, stories, or poetry that feel meaningful and that help them understand themselves. Of the many people I have followed throughout the years, a particular person stands out to me – and that person is today’s guest for Asian Pasifika Heritage Month at the Pond: Alexander Te Pohe.