Survival Lessons in the Land of Frangipani and Fanta
My Coming of Age in Samoa story
When I moved with my parents from Oklahoma to a South Pacific island in my teens, I thought my biggest challenges would be moldy shoes, underwear-attacking ants and a language that sounded like strings of vowels punctuated with hiccups. But a house fire, a hurricane and a few family flare-ups later, I realized that in spite of the island's palm-shaded shores and abundance of good-looking boys, my two-year stay would not be one big beach party.
With a mix of in-the-moment teenage sass and decades-later perspective, Mango Rash chronicles my stumbles through two alien landscapes at once: the remote U.S. territory of American Samoa and the tricky terrain of adolescence. As I begin to redefine myself and my place in the mid-1960s world, with frangipani-laced air and libidinous music the backdrop to my passage into womanhood, Samoa also experiences growing pains, trying to hold onto ancient customs while undergoing "modernization," American-style. At times, my struggles with identity, independence and integrity parallel Samoa's, and I take my cues from the island and its people.
Through crises as trivial as a mean girl's put-down and as staggering as the fire and hurricane, a schoolmate's near drowning in a surfing mishap, and the death of my best friend's father, Samoa teaches me about malosi (strength) and survival--lessons that prove invaluable when a startling diagnosis tears me away from the place I've come to love and sends me again into unknown territory.