I definitely want to read more by Ihimaera...provided I can find it cheap. Which isn't looking like it's going to be happening, alas.Ihimaera, Witi. The Whale Rider. New York: Harcourt, 2003. (First New Zealand Edition: 1987)Summary
: Koro is searching for his tribe's future chief--a male--but instead he gets Kahu, a great-granddaughter who, as it turns out, can speak to whales like the tribe's legendary ancestor. Unfortunately, Koro refuses to acknowledge her, and it isn't until the ancient whale who was companion to Paikea allows her to ride him that her destiny to reunite the Maori with the spirit of nature is revealed.Comments
: Though in places it does admittedly get a touch histrionic, the overall effect was one of comedy, tragedy, and heartbreaking beauty. I laughed out loud when the toddler Kahu starts calling her great-grandfather "Paka" (which, according to the author, means "bugger") because his wife does it, and a felt a lump forming in my throat when, as a eight-year-old, she rides away with the whales and what she believes will be her death. Even though the story is ostensibly about a girl overcoming her tribe's patriarchal prejudices, I found Ihimaera to be way too complacent when it came to women's roles. Basically, the conclusion is that women top men only in specific supernatural situations, and Koro seems hen-pecked by Flowers more than he is ruled by her. Even Kahu blames fate, not Koro, for the discrimination she suffers from. Being saintly doesn't win you rights in the real world, unfortunately. I also notices that the Paikea legend was told with almost homoerotic intensity. In light of the author's depictions of women, I'm betting that's not entirely coincidental. Still, it's a really lovely, fun story about breaking down the wall between the natural and the supernatural and an accessible point of entry into an experience with modern Maori.Notes
: hardcover, 1st American edition, movie tie-inRating
- My disappointment with regards to the gender roles makes me hesitant to recommend this to children, but adults, particularly ones with a conservationist bent, will find the reading rich with pleasures.