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Young, Lani Wendt
Writer's File

Lani Wendt Young

Young, Lani Wendt
In brief
Lani Wendt Young (1973–) is a writer and successful self-publisher, who runs her own publishing company, Pasifika Books. She has written a popular series of young adult novels set in Samoa, the Telesā series, as well as Afakasi Woman: A Collection of Short Fiction (Pasifika Books, 2012). Her work has been published in journals such as JAAM, New Zealand School Journal and the Samoan school journal Folauga. Born and raised in Samoa, she is of Samoan, Māori and Palagi descent.
  • Primary publisher
    Pasifika Books, Apia, Samoa
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Young, Lani Wendt (1973–) is a writer and successful self-publisher, who runs her own publishing company, Pasifika Books. Born and raised in Samoa, she is of Samoan, Māori and Palagi descent.

She attended university in the USA and New Zealand, studying English literature and women’s studies, before returning to Samoa to work as a high school English teacher. In 2009 she was commissioned to research and write a book about the 29/09/2009 earthquake and tsunami that devastated sections of Samoa, American Samoa and Tonga. Pacific Tsunami "Galu Afi" (Keil Publishing and AUSAID) was published in 2010 with funding from the Australian Government. All proceeds from the publication go to the survivors who were interviewed for the book.

In 2011, Lani Wendt Young self-published Telesā The Covenant Keeper (Pasifika Books), the first book in her popular Telesā series. This was followed by three further books in the series: When Water Burns (2012), I am Daniel Tahi (2012) and The Bone Bearer (2013). Her Telesā series is the first series of young adult novels to be set in Samoa and is now recommended reading in many secondary schools and a course text in Pacific literature classes at various universities. In a poem that writer Selina Tusitala Marsh wrote and performed for Telesā’s book launch, Marsh described Telesā as ‘a kind of Sex in the City meets hex in the bush… It’s ancient mythology meets teenage biology’.

She is also the author of Afakasi Woman: A Collection of Short Fiction (Pasifika Books, 2012).

Lani has published stories and articles in a number of journals and anthologies, including JAAM 22, Kunapipi: Journal of Postcolonial Writing, Starch 2 (Kilmog Press, Dunedin, 2013) and Mormon Feminism: Essential Writings (Oxford University Press, 2015). Many of her stories for children published in the New Zealand School Journal were later translated into Samoan for the Samoan school journal Folauga, as well as being adapted for audio and CD Rom use in the classroom. In 2010 she won a Commendation Award in the Commonwealth Short Story Competition for ‘The Beast that Came from the Sea’. This story was subsequently recorded for radio and broadcast throughout the Commonwealth.

She was also the 2002 Winner of the National University and Telecom Samoa Short Story Competition for ‘A Sister’s Story’ and Winner of the USP Press Prize for Fiction in 2011, for 'Sleepless in Samoa: A Collection of Short Fiction’ (which was later published as Afakasi Woman: A Collection of Short Fiction).

In 2011 Young released ‘Don’t Tell’ a short story that highlights the cruel and common issue of sexual abuse in Samoa. She also released the short story ‘High School is a Jungle’, about an English teacher’s first day.

In 2015 she released two books in a new series. Scarlet Secrets (Pasifika books) and Scarlet Lies (Createspace Independent Publishing Platform) follow Scarlet to Samoa for a wedding. ‘It is an engaging read and yet another proof that you can’t praise Lani Wendt Young enough. She is an extremely talented writer who created a delicious novel – seasoned with irony, wit, humour; flavoured with poetic descriptions; garnished with intense passion; coated in relaxed atmosphere of the Samoan archipelago’ (Tales from Pasifika, April 2015). A third novel in the series, Scarlet Redemption, is yet to be released.

Wendt Young writes occasional columns about feminism, religion, culture, parenting and everything in between for the Samoa Observer newspaper. Her blog Sleepless in Samoa has thousands of readers worldwide and she calls it her ‘first writing love’.

Lani was the first Pasifika author to utilise digital publishing, taking her particular brand of Pacific literature to a global audience. Her publishing company, Pasifika Books, has also provided digital consultancy services to other Pasifika authors, including Albert Wendt, as she has sought to take classics of Pacific literature to new readers. She says, 'I’m grateful for digital publishing which makes it possible for a Samoan writer, writing a story that’s very entrenched "in Samoa" – to take her writing to a global audience.'

May 2023
May 2023