Biography

Célestine Vaite

I came into the world in Tahiti, the first child of Hitiura Vaite and a French man who went back to his country after military service. My childhood in Faa'a, in a big extended family with hundreds of aunties, uncles, cousins and elders was typical Catholic Tahitian style. Posters of Jesus-Christ adorning walls along with magnificent quilts, statues of the Virgin Mary Understanding Woman glowing in the dark, mass on Sunday, breadfruit diet (barbecued, baked, in a stew, breadfruit full stop and be grateful), traditions, superstitions. And of course story-telling, the core of Tahitian culture for hundreds of years.

But I discovered reading at eight years old and was instantly hooked. Three years later, I was devouring French classics which my mother, single mother of four children and professional cleaner with a vision, bought at the second hand store. Story-telling was still part of my life though, my aunties made sure of it. Set to become the first indigenous lawyer after winning a scholarship at the prestigious Anne Marie Javouhey College in Papeete, love/lust came my way in the form of an Australian surfer with a good looking face and nice manners. M plan to study in France, much to my mother's disappointment, radically changed. I will be a teacher instead and have children. At twenty two years old, I left my island to follow my Australian husband, the father of my two children, back to his country. I've been in Australia for almost twenty years now and have written three novels about the lives and loves of an extended Tahitian family from Faa'a. And I will be buried home. My sisters often joke that it is because I want my grandiose State funeral with the President of French Polynesia and the ministers present but they know the truth. Even my four beautiful children do. Faa'a is where I belong. In my heart, my soul, my head, my blood vessels. Since becoming an avid reader, my reading has gone through several stages. At eleven, I was hooked on the works of Balzac, Zola, Dostoievski. Novels thicker than the bible with pages and pages of description and countless characters coming in and out (brothers, sisters, cousins…), but I had all the time in the world for family sagas! Eight years later, a mother and uni student with very limited reading time, thick novels were out. I wanted to be entertained, fast, in between studying, breastfeeding, washing etc. I fell in love with Guy De Maupassant's short stories. He is a master of short stories and shows a deep knowledge of human nature whether he writes about paysans, courtesans, barons, abandoned children. By the time I moved to Australia at the age of 22 to follow my husband, the father of my two children, Guy de Maupassant was still my hero, but I felt that to survive in this foreign country, I best master the English language. So for about two years, I was a magazine reader. Mostly women's magazine such as New Idea, Woman's Day, and Women's Weekly with lots of recipes and cleaning tricks. As I grew confident, I started reading poems by Australian writer Banjo Patterson, short stories by Roald Dahl, and novels with short chapters - The Color Purple (Alice Walker),Fried Green Tomatoes (Annie Flagg.) Later, much more confident and missing my big extended family, I searched for novels about families and other cultures. The Joy Luck Club (Amy Tan), Like Water For Chocolate (Laura Esquivel), The Color Of Water (James Mc Bride), Once Were Warriors (Alan Duff), Hannah's daughters (Marianne Fredriksson) I'm still hooked on novels that give me an insight into another culture. I just can't get enough of them! I love the unusual way the characters speak, the settings, the family stories. A kiss from Maddalena (Christopher Castellani), The Almond Picker (Simonetta Agnello Hornby), Mao's Last Dancer (Li Cunxin), Falling Leaves (Adeline Yen Mah)

Célestine Vaite

Books by Célestine Vaite