I picked up Kisses in the Nederends by Epeli Hau’ofa expecting a tale similar to those we have been reading; I expected one of homeland pride, expressions of love, and dignity in native culture. A chapter into the book, I was rather shocked, realizing I had been heartily unprepared for the story that I was about to immerse myself in. Unlike the previous stories of love, self-discovery, and fighting for the homeland, this story depicted the natives in a crude and base way. The descriptions of farts were lengthy and certainly offensive to some and the vivid details of Oilei’s pain were bordering on nauseating. This topic choice was so unexpected, in fact, that I knew there had to be a reason for Hau’ofa to choose it.
The characters in this book are spared no dignity in the way their lives are depicted. Makarita snores atrociously, Marama is ignorant and self-righteous, and Oilei ends up with an unrelenting pain in one of the most embarrassing places possible. But these character flaws all serve the purpose of creating humor for the audience and bringing the characters to a realistic level that any human can understand. By creating plots based around bodily functions and relatable human actions, he brings the audience into relation with the characters. It breaks down the barrier between cultures. Never mind the fact that Oilei and Makarita live in a village, or that Oilei goes to every dottore he can find, avoiding the hospital at all costs. Never mind that our American culture is worlds apart in traditions. Every one of us knows what it’s like to snore or fart. We may not be willing to admit it, and we maybe ashamed to read it so bluntly spelled out in Hau’ofa’s book, but after allowing ourselves to put aside the shame of these completely human functions, we can relate to many aspects of these characters’ lives.