Coming of Age in Samoa: A Psychological Study of Primitive Youth for Western Civilisation

Coming of Age in Samoa: A Psychological Study of Primitive Youth for Western Civilisation

Coming of Age in Samoa: A Psychological Study of Primitive Youth for Western Civilisation

Coming of Age in Samoa: A Psychological Study of Primitive Youth for Western Civilisation

Excerpt

This book is a record of my first field trip, work done when I was twenty-three years old, almost fifty years ago. Between the time that I sailed from Pago Pago in 1926 to return to the Western world and try to set down what I had learned and November 1971, when I stepped off a plane in a blaze of TV lights, the world had gone through enormous changes. The young people who will read this book have lived their lives on the other side of the generation gap; the little girls whom I studied are buxom grandmothers still dancing light-footed as Samoan matrons do. The young Samoans in universities throughout the United States often find this account of how their ancestresses lived as embarrassing as all of us find the clothes our mothers wore when we were young. And I, instead of being a dutiful granddaughter writing letters home so that my grandmother might experience some of the Samoan joy in life, am now a grandmother delighting in a dancing grandchild.

This is the fourth time that I have written a preface to a different edition of this book, published originally in 1928. Each one was dated carefully, 1939, 1949, 1953, 1961. In each preface I discussed how long ago the book was written and how different the world of readers was for whom it would again be published. But in the contemporary world I find that readers pay little attention to dates, and some even read this account of a bygone style of life as if it were, indeed, an account of life in the more bustling and vastly more complicated Samoa of today, and fail to take account of the differences. Others read my strictures on the way in which Americans are_ brought up--denied all firsthand knowledge of birth and love and death, harried by a society which will not let adolescents grow up at their own pace, imprisoned,in the small, fragile, nuclear family from which there is no escape and in which there is little security--and think that I am indeed writing for today's world, so little have we altered the way in which young people are reared. It seems more than ever necessary to stress, shout as loud as I can, this is about the Samoa and the United States of 1926--1928. When . . .

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