“Her heart wept when she realized that the hardest part about loving him was the idea that his love was never meant for her.”
Walking with a pronounced limp all her life has never stopped fifteen-year-old Kiva Mau from doing what she loves. While most girls her age are playing sports and perfecting their traditional Samoan dance, Kiva finds serenity in her sketchbook and volunteering at the run-down art center her extended family owns.
When seventeen-year-old Ryler Cade steps into the art center for the first time, Kiva is drawn to the angry and misguided student sent from abroad to reform his violent ways. Scarred and tattooed, an unlikely friendship is formed when the gentle Kiva shows him kindness and beauty through art.
After a tragic accident leaves Kiva severely disfigured, she struggles to see the beauty she has been brought up to believe. Just when she thinks she’s found her place, Ryler begins to pull away, leaving her heartbroken and confused. The patriarch of the family then takes a turn for the worse and Kiva is forced to give up her dreams to help with familial obligations, until an old family secret surfaces that makes her question everything.
Immersed in the world of traditional art and culture, this is the story of self-sacrifice and discovery, of acceptance and forbearance, of overcoming adversity and finding one’s purpose. Spanning years, it is a story about an intuitive girl and a misunderstood boy and love that becomes real when tested.
Both of your books, Illumine Her and Scar of the Bamboo Leaf take place in Samoa, an island in the South Pacific. Of all the places you have traveled, what is it about the Samoan nation and culture that inspired you to make it the setting for your stories?
I was born and raised in Samoa–left it when I turned 18 for university and haven’t returned to live there since. Despite that, it’s what I know most intimately about–the landscape, the culture, the people. There aren’t a lot of books out there set in the South Pacific and I wanted to help change that, in my very small, humble way. However, I wrote them in a way that the messages are universal and relatable to readers everywhere.
What would you like the reader to take away from the Samoan culture?
That it has both beauty and its own challenges and setbacks, too. Samoa is not just a paradise island in the middle of the exotic South Pacific. While physically small, the people have big egos and big hearts to match, and they want what everyone else in life does–to have fulfilled lives, to educate their children, and to seek out those opportunities to do just that.
What were some of the difficulties you had writing characters with physical challenges and disfiguring scars?
That I would somehow do it wrong or offend someone. I did a lot of research as a result. The character of Kiva is inspired by a girl with a leg length deficiency from my home community, which helped a lot. She was thrilled when I approached her with the concept of the book.
What was your favorite chapter to write in Scar of the Bamboo Leaf?
It’s hard to pinpoint the exact chapter, but the final 10% of the book was definitely the most memorable to write. I cried for a week, much to the bafflement and amusement of my husband. He kept asking, “You know, you have the power to change all that, right?”
Was there a scene or character you chose NOT to include in the book? If so, why?
Yes, I deleted the first scene I ever wrote…one in which Ry gets bitten by a centipede while he’s trekking in the bush with Kiva. It hurts like a mother and there’s talk of peeing on it, etc. It was comical and light hearted and did not fit and flow with the rest of the story, so it went. (And P.S. the best remedy for centipede bites is the sap from the papaya tree, which Kiva would have suggested instead.)
Thank you for your questions! 🙂
Sieni A.M. is a coffee addict, Instagram enthusiast, world traveler, and avid reader turned writer. She graduated as an English and History high school teacher from the University of Canterbury and is currently living in Israel with her husband and two daughters. “Scarof the Bamboo Leaf” is her second novel.