Lost in a plot...in which I try to make sense of a Boonie plot and instead end up somewhere round Taupo

by tosca on Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Spent the last couple of days at home sick - who gets a stupid flu in summer? doh, me apparently - and managed to get through a couple of books while editing various newsletters etc. My latest Mills & Boon (I call 'em Boonies) novel is 'The mistress of his manor' by Catherine George. What follows are my random-ish thoughts.

Title: The mistress of his manor
Author: Catherine George
Publisher: Harlequin Mills & Boon
Year: 2010

The story confused me but that's nothing new. I'm often confused. Plain old March Aubrey sees Joanna Logan wandering around their gardens centre and, even though he suspects she might be with her slightly older husband and their child, goes out of his way to meet her and...perv. For want of a better term. When it turns out that Joanna is instead spending the day with her father and younger sibling, March's cup runneth over. Only somewhere in all the talking he forgets to tell her that he has a secret - he's like Superman, he's not who you think he is. Unlike Superman his secret isn't as obvious as wearing his undies on the outside of his tights. March Aubrey is, in fact, Lord Arnborough of Arnborough Hall, and the garden centre on the estate is part and parcel of what he owns. Feeling somewhat out of her league (tried to imagine it myself and my tiny brain could only come up with small town South Auckland girl dating small business owner from Ellerslie or Remuera - I know! I'm so provincial!), Joanna tries to put him off. Which somehow translates to dating him. Then, as if I were not confused enough, she realises she knows his brother. Get this: her ex-boyfriend and she were at a party, he wanted to drive drunk, she tried to take the keys, he drove off with their friend (March's brother) and left her behind, there was an accident, relationship over. In the present, the ex-boyfriend pops up again, turns out he was gay and in love with March's brother but couldn't tell him, March's brother knew but he was into women...and then I got lost. Sometimes it seemed like the brother had a tendre (can't think of another term that isn't rude) for Joanna. And that's without her mother and father who are her mother and father even though she was raised to believe someone else...look, forget it. You read it. He has a bad temper and she's childish - more than once I wanted to kick them. Hard. I'm not, however, going to judge Catherine George by this one novel alone. I intend to read some more of her novels, starting this week. In fact, I'll begin with 'An Italian engagement.' Expect that review on our library website in a few days or so.

Churr churr bro - in which a former angry Maori protester grows up and attains the highest form of personal growth...

by tosca on Monday, February 8, 2010

...or not. Waitangi Day is simply a public holiday for a lot of NZ-ers. If your local council is progressive it's a chance for the community to come together and celebrate our national day. For me, it's an opportunity to check-in with my bad self and, in terms of Maori identity, see where I am both on a personal scale and in a national sense. It is never easy being Maori. Sometimes it's not fun. It is never boring. Certainly, the year that Brash delivered his Orewa speech is a year I'll never forget and, that year more than any other, I struggled to find some middle ground. In the case of some friends, colleagues and the ignorant public who popped up on my radar, just finding my patience was hard enough.

I spent my tertiary years as an angry Maori radical - never protesting for the hell of it, but always banging on about self-determination, colonisation and 'the man.' I wrote impassioned research papers about the plight of Maori and penned ferocious essays about our reliance on the state and the need for a separate Maori-run government. I would engage my lecturers (Paul Moon and I would have some fantastic debates and I saw him as my mentor) in some pretty heated discussion. I spoke, thought and wrote in Maori all the time. My friends and I were going to change the world or, if we couldn't do that, we were at least going to set it on fire. I'm hoping we didn't mean it literally but looking back it's hard to say. I made a deliberate decision to boycott Sealord products in protest of the Treaty of Waitangi Fisheries Claims and Settlement Act 1992 (more commonly known as the Sealord Deal). Shoot, it's been 14 years since I last ate their products and sometimes I still feel like I'm about to give in. Donna Awatere, in her book 'Sovereignty' noted that pakeha identity was that which was formed in direct opposition to Maori. While I may not have subscribed to that school of thought entirely it probably wasn't far off what I believed at the time. But not now. So...what happened?

Life happened, I guess. Perhaps it's more accurate to say that the focus changed. Before it was all about how I saw it and how I thought it could be changed for the better - not much leeway for anyone else. For the last few years I've worked Waitangi Day at our library stall at the annual Manukau celebrations, using it as a platform to show our Maori community how libraries can help and inform. There's no room there for egos :-) And, these days, I'm more inclined to work behind the scenes and assist Maori where I can. My method is more subtle. When working as a Maori liaison assistant in the branches I would heavily promote our Maori resources to customers and take an active role in the meetings. In digital services I don't see the customer so much, although that doesn't mean I've stopped thinking about them. If anything, I've angled it so that I'm attending the monthly meetings and suggesting ways (and asking for ideas) in which our Maori staff can put their stamp on our pages. The Maori Services Librarian and I have discussed a few ideas to really engage the Maori community and, for now, it's a case of finding the time to put them into play.

Maybe the radical hasn't gone totally - maybe the energy has been channelled differently because I feel it differently. Some things don't change, though. My identity as Maori is challenged every day on a personal and public scale. Every day by: friends, colleagues, family, myself, media, government, work...some days I find myself constantly asking, 'Am I ok with this?' or 'Do I subscribe to that behaviour/thought/attitude?' and 'Does this fit right?' The answers never stay the same. You would hope that they don't, 'cause then it means you're not changing, learning or growing. It's a juggling act being Maori, you know. I often feel like I haver badly between being: Token Brownie Average Brownie Radical Brownie and flounder around probably striking all three at different times depending on my mood, the position of the moon and my general state of mind. Sucks for those of you trying to keep up!

Word of advice: what fits one brownie doesn't always fit the rest. Maori no more speak with one voice than does the NZ government. Put simply, if your culture doesn't move, eat, think, speak, spit as one then why the heck would mine?

So kick back and and enjoy that public holiday while I try to come to grips with how far I've come, how far I've got to go, and whether there are enough blue M&Ms in the world to get me through it all...