Miss Ulysses from Puka-Puka: The Autobiography of a South Sea Trader's Daughter
Frisbie, Florence Johnny
Miss Ulysses from Puka-Puka (2nd edition) by Florence (Johnny) Frisbie is the first book written by a Polynesian woman. It tells the amazing story of a young girl growing up on a remote island in the Cook Islands group. Written when Johnny was between the ages of 12 and 14, and published in 1948 when she was 15, Johnny likens her travels through South Pacific islands to those of Ulysses in the Odyssey. Through Johnny's fresh and unspoiled eyes, we read of a Garden-of-Eden existence on a remote atoll, where the land and the sea provide all that is necessary for life. The sea brings danger as well; Johnny describes the terror of a hurricane that all but destroys a deserted island where she and her family are marooned. The sea rises and floods the entire island to a depth of six feet; they barely survive by tying themselves to the topmost branches of a tall tree. Johnny's writing sparkles. She has humor and wisdom beyond her years as she describes life and customs on the island where she grew up. Her grandmother's extended family, the trading station operated by her father, the local witch doctor, a native missionary, her father's mistress after the death of her mother, and her first boyfriend are among the characters she describes with unflinching honesty. Cut off from the outside world, the island is so remote that six months pass between visits by passing ships. She learns at an early age to be self-reliant. Struck early by tragedy (her mother died when Johnny was nine years old), she helps her father care for four brothers and sisters until he falls ill and dies when she is sixteen. Friends including James A. Michener arrange a foster family in Hawaii where she pursues her education and re-unites with her two sisters. Out of print for more than sixty years, Johnny has added two new chapters to this classic and compelling book and illustrated it with family photos and three maps.