Episode 233

#233 - The Imaginary Lives of James Pōneke by Tina Makereti

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

30:12-31:30 Trigger of SA

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

39:25-40:15 Trigger of SA

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

  • https://variety.com/2020/film/asia/taika-waititi-piki-films-indigenous-film-tv-colonization-1234691066/

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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

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About the Podcast

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Books and Boba
A book club podcast for books by Asian Diaspora authors