Guam, Past and Present

With Earth Day appoaching, on my reading list is The Properties of Perpetual Light, a new book by Julian Aguon, founder of Blue Ocean Law, an international law firm based in Guam, specializing in human and indigenous rights, self-determination, and environmental justice in the Pacific. The book addresses the history of colonization and militarization of Guam — and how Indigenous people have resisted U.S. influence.

Made me think–do I even know a single children’s writer from Guam? I don’t, so I thought I’d go browse the Regional Chapters list on the SCBWI web site. Guess what? No SCBWI Guam chapter.

I did find a couple of small presses:

Taiguini Books, an imprint of the University of Guam Press, committed to expanding its collection of cultural literature to include novels, collections of short stories, poetry, and children’s books written about and for the people of Micronesia.

And the Guam Bus, with books in CHamoru and English.

Which led me to this article about–what else?–the damage of colonial occupation and the U.S. Army’s efforts to stamp out the CHamoru language. Another fascinating rabbithole. I discovered that newer references spell the language CHamoru, with two uppercase letters “C” and “H.” I got why they’d change the spelling from the colonial era “Chamorro,” but why the caps? An arctiel in the Guam Daily Post gave me context. Here’s an excerpt:

The CHamoru language, also known as Fino’ Haya, does not have the letter “c” in its alphabet. Sounds associated with the letter “c” in English are represented in CHamoru with the letters “k,” “s” and in the case of the “ch” or “tze” sound, that letter in CHamoru is written as “CH,” which represents the one sound. It constitutes one letter in the CHamoru alphabet, not two. Therefore, when representing that sound at the beginning of a proper noun, the capitalized letter CH is used.

And there’s Nihi! a group that defines itself as “a small but growing indigenous production house based in Guåhan, committed to uplifting indigenous voices and stories from our home and all across our region.” Partnering with the Seventh Generation Fund, the Micronesia Conservation Trust, and Oceania STEM. Guåhan! It’s a name with a musical sound and a distinctive look on the page.

Islands in the sea, with something important to say to the rest of us. I’m looking forward to reading Julian Aguan’s book.

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