On this episode we discuss our July 2023 book club pick The Imaginary Lives of James Poneke by Tina Makereti. A coming-of-age story of a Maori boy, armed with a British education and eager to see the world, who ventures to London to be a living exhibit for a British artist's exhibition. It's an epic tale written in the style of Victorian fiction, but told from the perspective of an indigenous youth growing up under colonization.
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01:45 - Book jacket description
02:40 - First impressions and David Copperfield vibes
06:50 - Hemi's upbringing
08:42 - Theme of aligning yourself with white majority for survival and privileges
11:00 - Hemi’s adoption into a new Maori tribe
11:36 - Empire’s goal of erasing marginalized cultural identities
13:28 - Hemi agrees to become a living exhibit
16:09 - Being tainted by colonization education
17:45 - Hemi's first impression of Victorian England
18:50 - Victorian England’s class divisions
19:17 - The Angus family
21:42 - Hemi’s introduction to other living exhibits
22:40 - Representation matters
25:10 - Intro to Billy Neptune & Henrietta
27:47 - Hemi's sexuality awakening
31:33 - What is savage and what is civilized?
32:33 - Women's limited rights in Victorian London
35:00 - Hemi’s time as a sailor and camaraderie with non-white crewmen
40:20 - Life on the margins outside civilization’s watch
43:17- What is home?
47:22 - Ending
50:57 - Hemi meeting a Black doctor and learning about intersectionality
53:08 - Taika Waititi options book for adaptation
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The Books & Boba August 2023 pick is Bitter Medicine by Mia Tsai
This podcast is part of Potluck: An Asian American Podcast Collective
Mentioned in this episode:
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