Dear grandmother, I am writing this song, over and over again, for you. I am a stranger in this place, he tauhou ahau, reintroducing myself to your land.
Tauhou is an inventive exploration of Indigenous families, womanhood, and alternate post-colonial realities by Kōtuku Titihuia Nuttall, a writer of Māori and Coast Salish descent. This innovative hybrid novel envisions a shared past between two Indigenous cultures, set on reimagined versions of Vancouver Island and Aotearoa New Zealand that sit side by side in the ocean.
Each chapter is a fable, an autobiographical memory, a poem. A monster guards cultural objects in a museum, a woman uncovers her own grave, another woman remembers her estranged father. On rainforest beaches and grassy dunes, sisters and cousins contend with the ghosts of the past — all the way back to when the first foreign ships arrived on their shores.
In a testament to the resilience of Indigenous women, the two sides of this family, Coast Salish and Māori, must work together in understanding and forgiveness to heal that which has been forced upon them by colonialism. Tauhou is an ardent search for answers, for ways to live with truth. It is a longing for home, to return to the land and sea.
About the author
KŌTUKU TITIHUIA NUTTALL (Te Ātiawa, Ngāti Tūwharetoa, W̱SÁNEĆ) holds an MA from the International Institute of Modern Letters. She won the 2020 Adam Foundation Prize and was runner-up in the 2021 Surrey Hotel-Newsroom writer’s residency award. She lives on the Kāpiti Coast of Aotearoa New Zealand.
This one’s for the lovers of language, lean prose-poetry you can dip in and out of and think about for hours. Best read beside a large body of water.
Tauhou is a search for answers, of finding ways to live with the truth. Some of the stories are like fables, others like poetry, and all are a sheer joy to read. A longing for home resonates, a gift for those of us searching for our island also.