About Me

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Victoria, Australia
I am an author of Young Adult Fiction books. I worked as a teacher in the Pacific Islands for seven years. Whilst in the Solomon Islands I taught PSSC English before the ethnic tension in 2000 forced a change of plans. I love Pacific literature, art and music. You can find me on Facebook at Beth Montgomery Author.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

No Kava for Johnny by John O'Grady

No Kava for Johnny (1961)
I read this book last year and had mixed thoughts about it. It's a cute and funny tale about a hapless Samoan youth, Ioane (Johnny) Papatiso, who gets into a lot of scrapes, and bumps on the head, to finally find a good job in the dispensary at Apia. However some of the humour I found a bit condescending, as if it were poking fun at Samoan culture in a negative way. Written in 1961, I guess the book is a product of its time, when Western colonial views were still apparent.
   Johnny's dealings with the head chemist, a palagi, form the basis of a lot of the laughs. Misunderstandings are common because of the language differences between Johnny and his boss. Whereas in the village a lot of the humour is derived from the slapstick nature of retribution that occurs whenever Johnny does something wrong, which is most of the time.
   Although the book states that it was written by a Samoan, it is in fact written by John O'Grady, an Australian author famous for his work under the pen name Nino Culotta, where he writes in the voice of an Italian immigrant to Australia.
   O'Grady has done well to maintain the simple villager voice throughout. It is an easy, light read that will have you chuckling every few pages.

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