Guam Conference Pushes Use Of Pacific Literature For Education

UOG professor hopes to spread cultural awareness to future generations

By Kyle J Twardowski

HAGÅTÑA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, June 21, 2016) – The Pacific literature conference to be held at the University of Guam will be the first of its kind, says conference planning chair Kisha Borja-Quichocho-Calvo.

“Our Voices, Our Stories, Our Ocean,” is about informing the community about Pacific literature.

“I didn’t get introduced to Pacific literature until I left off island for college,” Borja-Quichocho-Calvo says. “That’s a problem.”

Now a UOG professor, she promotes these literary works in hopes of spreading cultural awareness to future generations.

The only literature that is introduced to students at the Guam Department of Education level is American and British, Borja-Quichocho-Calvo says. Most of the required reading is about unrelatable topics for island students, she adds.

“The readings talk about mountain tops with snow, or leaves changing colors,” Borja-Quichocho-Calvo says.  These are things that students cannot relate to since they live on an island.

Most of her students “freak out” when shown literary pieces from the Pacific islands, Borja-Quichocho-Calvo says. The students are not aware of these writers, and that some of them even live in Guam.

She also says there is a lack of Pacific literature education at the collegiate level. UOG houses only a few Pacific literature classes, while Guam Community College holds none, she says.

She wants the conference “to empower our local artists,” Borja-Quichocho-Calvo says. In other islands, more works are being written and published she adds.

A problem with some writers in Guam is “that we don’t see the worth in our work,” Borja-Quichocho-Calvo says. The conference will showcase writers that have overcome that obstacle.

The conference will be a showcase for teachers as well as students.  Not only will it give examples of Pacific literature to use in the classroom, teachers and librarians also have the opportunity to receive a professional development credit — the cost is $20. Otherwise, the conference is free.

The two-day conference will include readings by writers from Micronesia, Polynesia and Melanesia.

She's been wanting to carry out this conference for quite some time, but never had the opportunity, Borja-Quichocho-Calvo says. The idea took flight after receiving a grant from the Guam Humanities Council.

After graduating from Hawaii Public University, Borja-Quichocho-Calvo returned to Guam to teach language arts and creative writing classes at George Washington High School before moving over to UOG.

For the conference, she is operating with a planning committee consisting of local educators and writers to mold it into something memorable. The committee consists of Victoria-Lola Leon Guerrero, Kenneth Gofigan-Kuper, Vito Calvo Jr. and Craig Santos Perez.

Perez is a 2015 American Book Award winner for his book of poems titled, “from unincorporated territory."  Perez, who is a Guam native residing in Hawaii, will be returning to present his works at the conference.

Pacific Daily News
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