15 September 2016
“I stand proudly behind Black Ice Matter, and proudly behind Gina Cole,” Selina Tusitala Marsh, one of New Zealand's foremost Pasifika poets, told guests at the launch of Gina Cole's debut book, Black Ice Matter. And as New Zealand's first Pasifika woman to graduate with a PhD in English, Selina has a bit of experience with literature.
In the centre of Auckland city at Artspace/Tautai Gallery, an organisation dedicated to the development of Pacific art and artists, Gina unveiled her book to a crowded room of family, friends, teachers and colleagues. Described by award-winning Pacific author Albert Wendt as "a challenging, compelling and engaging new author", Gina thanked the room for battling the Auckland traffic to celebrate with her - and for buying every book that The Women’s Bookshop had on hand!
A family lawyer by profession, Gina has been writing for a number of years with many of her stories being published in publications such as JAAM andTakahe, as well as winning an award at the 2014 Auckland Pride Festival for a poem she submitted. Black Ice Matter is the result of the Masters of Creative Writing programme at the University of Auckland, where she was encouraged by Selina (her supervisor at the time) to stay true to her identity.
“I remember telling Selina that I didn’t want to be political in my writing, I just wanted to be a Fijian, lesbian, woman who writes,” Gina recounted on Friday. “But she made me realise that I couldn't avoid being political, that at the very least I have a responsibility when writing to be aware of the intersection that I occupy.”
And Black Ice Matter is a testament to this with thirteen short stories that centre around the themes of heat and cold - literal, metaphorical and psychological. Stories such as ‘Tabua’ expose the reader to the deadly impacts on civilians from military dictatorship in Fiji, ‘Swim, Bike, Run’ allows us a glimpse into the relationship of two lesbian lovers – both jealous and insecure - and 'Baby Doll', a story of a child sweatshop worker who dreams of another life tugs on the heartstrings of the most stoic reader among us.
Black Ice Matter is for sale on the Huia website and at all good bookstores.
[Image above: (L-R) Brian Morris, Gina Cole and Selina Tusitala Marsh. Copyright to Kelly Newland]