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Vaite, Célestine Hitiura 1966-

Vaite, Célestine Hitiura 1966-

PERSONAL:

Born 1966, in Tahiti; daughter of a Tahitian mother and a French father; children: four.

ADDRESSES:

Home— New South Wales, Australia. Agent— c/o Author Mail, Allen & Unwin, P.O. Box 8500, St. Leonards, New South Wales, Australia, 1590; c/o Author Mail, Little, Brown and Company, 1271 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020. E-mail—[email protected]

CAREER:

Novelist, educator, and public speaker.

AWARDS, HONORS:

Prix Littéraire des étudiants, 2004, for Breadfruit, and 2006, for Frangipani; shortlisted for New South Wales Premier's Literary Awards, 2005, and long-listed for the British Orange Prize, 2006, both for Frangipani.

WRITINGS:


Breadfruit (first novel in a trilogy), Bantam (Sydney, New South Wales, Australia), 2000, Little, Brown (New York, NY), 2006.

Frangipani (second novel in a trilogy), Back Bay Books (New York, NY), 2004.

Tiare (third novel in a trilogy), Text Publishing (Melbourne, Victoria, Australia), 2006.

Vaite's novels have been translated into ten languages.

WORK IN PROGRESS:

A fourth novel.

SIDELIGHTS:

Célestine Hitiura Vaite is a Tahitian novelist living in Australia whose works form both a nostalgic tribute to the Tahiti she knew as a child and an insight into the lives of the women who populate the island and keep the families running. Her first novel, Breadfruit, is an "impressive debut," according to Lili Tuwai in Contemporary Pacific. "The work focuses on womanhood: the bonds between mothers and daughters, ancestral ties, independent women, absent fathers, and women who yearn for meaningful expressions of love from the men in their lives," Tuwai remarked. Materena Mahi, a matriarchal character who reappears in Vaite's later works, is introduced. In an episode entitled "The Proposal," Materena describes how she met her man, Pito, while she was a sixteen-year-old girl working at a snack bar. Their relationship becomes intimate, until the time that Pito informs her he is leaving for a two-year military tour. After he returns, he seems uninterested in continuing their relationship, until Materena takes the initiative. When Materena becomes pregnant, her mother, Loana, demands that Pito assume his responsibilities toward his woman and child. He does so, but also shows no interest in marriage and establishing a separate household. Instead, he moves in with Materena and Loana, where conflict ensues over the proper way to raise the baby. As the years pass and three more children are added to the family, Materena and Pito remain unmarried, but still dedicated to one another. "Vaite skillfully depicts her characters' idiosyncrasies in such a way that the reader cannot help but be charmed by them," Tuwai stated. "From start to finish, Vaite does not give the reader the opportunity to pass judgment on her characters. Rather, she guides the reader to accept them just the way they are—unpredictable, but incredibly human, always lovable."

Frangipani relates further stories of Materena's life as she raises her family and becomes a sought-after professional housecleaner on the island. The story centers on Materena and her second child, Leilani, and an "an archetypal story of mother-daughter conflict" between the two, noted Booklist contributor Joanne Wilkinson. Materena has high hopes for her keenly intelligent daughter Leilani, encouraging the child's studies and guiding her to use her intellect as her means for advancement in the world. When Leilani falls in love with the ne'er-do-well Hoku, however, Materena fears that her daughter will abandon her potential and fall into well-known patterns of childrearing and poverty. While coping with Leilani's situation and other turbulent family matters, Materena struggles to remake her own identity, putting aside her lifelong career as housecleaner to become a sort of pundit and on-air advice maven for the island. A Kirkus Reviews critic called Materena an "unforgettable heroine" and considered the novel to be a "warm and lyrical look at the fabric of family life in Tahiti." Vaite "does a masterful job," of rendering Tahitian life and class divisions, "imbuing her characters with vitality as well as exposing their foibles," commented Sally Ito in the Globe and Mail. A Publishers Weekly critic concluded: "This story of love, gossip and growing up (even at forty) has all the irresistible freshness of a warm breeze."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:


PERIODICALS


Booklist, November 15, 2005, Joanne Wilkinson, review of Frangipani, p. 25.

Contemporary Pacific, spring, 2002, Lili Tuwai, review of Breadfruit, p. 288.

Entertainment Weekly, March 3, 2006, "Pocketful of ‘Change,’" review of Frangipani, p. 107.

Globe and Mail (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), July 2, 2005, Sally Ito, "Tahiti Treat," review of Frangipani, p. D14.

Kirkus Reviews, October 1, 2005, review of Frangipani, p. 1051.

Library Journal, January 1, 2006, Debbie Bogenschutz, review of Frangipani, p. 106.

Publishers Weekly, October 31, 2005, review of Frangipani, p. 30.

ONLINE


Asian Review of Books Online,http://www.asianreviewofbooks.com/ (February 25, 2006), Peter Gordon, review of Frangipani.

Brisbane Writer's Festival Web site,http://www.brisbanewritersfestival.com/ (July 22, 2006), biography of Célestine Hitiura Vaite.

Célestine Hitiura Vaite Home Page,http://www.celestinevaite.com (July 22, 2006).

Penguin Group Canada Web site,http://www.penguin.ca/ (July 22, 2006), biography of Célestine Hitiura Vaite.

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