Founder of Mila’s Books and Read NZ Te Pou Muramura board member Dahlia Malaeulu was named Emerging NZ Publisher of the Year at the Aotearoa Book Trade Industry Awards held last month in Rotorua.
Mila’s Books is the first award winning all Pasifika publishing team in the world who champion and produce Pasifika children’s books that help tamaiti to be seen, heard and valued. As a result of the lack of Pasifika literature available Dahlia wanted to ensure that Pasifika children, including her own, would have books that celebrate their culture, language and stories.
Dahlia has a background in education and regularly visits schools and organisations across Aotearoa through different Mila’s Books initiatives and Te Pou Muramura Read NZ’s Writer’s in Schools Programme. She and her Mila’s Books team have also been acknowledged in recent years at the Pacific Business Awards and Creative New Zealand’s Pacific Awards.
The judges of the Aotearoa Book Trade Industry Awards said “Through the various Mila’s Books projects, the stories of over 90 first time Pasifika authors (children, students, educators, parents) across Aotearoa have been shared with the world advancing Pasifika storytelling, with Pasifika, by Pasifika, for all of us.”
Two important projects Mila’s Books have recently published are Pasifika Navigators, the world’s first Pasifika student poetry collection which shares the voices of fifty-two Pasifika students across Aotearoa. Another is vĀsifika, a book sharing the stories of Pasifika families who are living with ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder). The book has helped to spread awareness and acceptance of ASD and given voice to another part of the Pasifika community that thoroughly deserves to be heard. Another Mila’s Books title, A New Dawn by Emeli Sione, is also currently the only Pasifika title which is a finalist in the New Zealand Children and Young Adult Book Awards.
Mila’s Books is working (and succeeding) to increase the amount of Pasifika writing that is published and in doing so they are providing tamaiti with crucial education that was lacking before. They are changing the old, limiting, system. Through their work they are showing what’s possible for tamaiti and the next generation of Pacific storytellers and publishers.
We chatted to Dahlia about Mila’s Books:
Talofa Dahlia. Congratulations on Mila’s Books winning Emerging NZ Publisher! How does it feel to be the first all-Pasifika Publishing Team to win?
The team and I feel very honoured and grateful to be acknowledged for the work we do at Mila’s Books to promote and showcase the power of our stories as Pasifika.
What’s an upcoming Mila’s Books project that you’re especially excited about?
We have two exciting projects coming up, the first is our Mila’s My Pasifika Series which includes the Tongan, Niuean and Tokelauan versions of our very popular Mila’s My Gagana Series 1 which was released in 2019. This is a project that was born out of the constant requests for more engaging and accessible language resources from Pasifika peoples here in Aotearoa.
The second is our Pasifika Wellbeing Journal Series which were inspired by our best selling and award winning YA titles, Teine Sāmoa and Tama Sāmoa. The series aims to guide and support Pasifika tamaiti and their families on their wellbeing and cultural identity journeys. The titles included in the series are the Tama Pasifika Wellbeing Journal, the Teine Pasifika Wellbeing Journal and the I am Pasifika Wellbeing Journal which will be launched in September for our national mental health awareness week.
Running an organization is no doubt a full on job. What do you like to do to unwind?
It is absolutely non-stop so that’s why regular trips or holidays are a must for me to totally disconnect, reflect, catch up on sleep and to just have uninterrupted time with my family. I also grew up playing sport so I have always enjoyed exercise or just moving, I find it quite meditative.
What Mila’s Books work would you recommend to someone who is new to Pasifika children’s literature?
Any of our Mila’s My Aganu’u Series picture book titles if you want to develop your cultural knowledge, A New Dawn by Emeli Sione for a one of a kind book that will take you back in time and make you want to come back to change the future. Or if you want to read about the Pasifika experience growing up here in Aotearoa today then read Teine Sāmoa, Tama Sāmoa and Pasifika Navigators - Pasifika Student Poetry collection.
And of course we must ask: What are you currently reading?
I am currently reading and being inspired by Taf Tumas! Different journeys, One people.