Crossing oceans, spanning time, her name inspired a book


What's in a name? In his iconic story of ill-fated lovers — "Romeo and Juliet" — Shakespeare sidestepped the question... even (seemingly) shrugging it off.

The tragedy of warring families — the Capulets and the Montagues — who made names all important, brought an exasperated Juliet to the point where she finally declared, "Oh… what's in a name? That which we call a rose — by any other name — would smell as sweet!"

Still, the question remains... both as a pivotal point in the esteemed play, and as a springboard for further discussion. Is a name, as Juliet would have us believe, an artificial and meaningless convention, or something far more important? So,what is in a name after all — the one we are given at birth?

In a word, everything.

Names which are chosen for us travel with us through our lives, and conscientious parents struggle to find the right name for children whose personalities unfold over time... hoping and praying the right one will guide them, work for them, instruct and even protect them. Names are significant, and so mothers and fathers everywhere labor over possible appellations for their children, consulting relatives, books, even dreams to find the perfect fit.

Author, illustrator and devoted mother Jacqueline Slade understood the power of names, and when she gave birth to her daughter, whom she calls "her gift from God", she, along with her husband, Paul wanted to gift her with a good name.

Crossing oceans, spanning time, she found that name in her husband’s family tree.

Born and raised in the States, Jacqueline, of Polish-American ancestry, met her Samoan husband, Paul Slade, at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. “It was a chance meeting” she said, but it was also significant and life-changing, as their engagement and marriage soon followed. It was her husband’s culture, which Jacqueline came to love and respect, along with her desire to imbue her daughter with knowledge of her Samoan history, which prompted the name — and a book.

Jacqueline visited her husband’s ancestral home for the first time in September, 2001, arriving in the territory the evening of September 10. The morning of September 11, 2001 was a morning few people on earth would soon forget, and while the visit was tinged with sadness for the entire American family, Jacqueline made the trip count. She was delighted to be able to meet her future in-laws and receive her first welcome to the islands of American Samoa.

The years following their marriage were busy, but it wasn’t until Jacqueline received what she termed her “wake up call” with a very serious illness, that she determined she would write the book. She found herself pregnant, but also very ill. She said, “ I was really sick... and I realized that I hadn’t accomplished things I wanted to do in this life... I realized for the first time how short life might be, and I wanted to make the most of my time.”

In 2007 she gave birth to their only child, a daughter, and in honor of a great, great grandmother from the village of Fagatogo, named the little girl Isela Tauiilelagiauamiolelei  Slade.

Isela is a name all her own, but it was her great great grandmother’s name —Tauiilelagiauamiolelei — that would be her treasure.

Knowing that a name with so much history (and so many letters!) could be a daunting thing for a child, Jacqueline set about teaching her daughter the story of her name in the best way possible... with a lovely picture book.

Jacqueline wrote afterward, "Let this story remind each of us what is sacred — what is central to each of our cultural identities."

Entitled  “What’s in a Name?”- the book was a gift to her daughter, and a message to the world. Jacqueline, who holds a Bachelors degree in Fine Arts, with a Minor in Art History from UNLV, is both author and illustrator,and her first opportunity to share the book came this year, with a recent visit to the territory.

She said on Friday, January 6, 2012 at the official book launch at Feleti Barstow Library “This is a very special day for us... I hope the children here today take something special away from this... I want them to see themselves in this story... how they fit... where they come from.”

The book is dedicated “to the many branches of Grandma Taimane’s family, and to all people who are proud of where they come from.”

Jacqueline noted that this is the first book in a series which she has planned, but for today, it is the Slade family of Fagatogo — and their unique and treasured ancestors — whom she wishes to honor. She mentioned other Fagatogo families who are related: the Tiumalu family, and the Scanlan, King and Passi families among them, saying this book is for all of them as well.

During the launch, the group gathered in the Children’s Library room to hear Jacqueline read. Wide open and curious, all eyes were riveted on the lushly beautiful illustrations, while she presented the story of Taui’s name, with its English translation: “Heaven is your reward through the good deeds you do” — and afterward, the children sang songs for Jacqueline and her daughter.

Tiffany Potasi, aiga from Fagatogo led the children in creating a word to honor the day: “Aso Faamanatuoamiolelei”—“a Day to Remember Good Things Which Happen" — when Taui and her mother came home.

Expressing her hope in a thoughtful preface, Jacqueline wrote “May each of us remember our roots, love the person we are growing into today, and plant the seeds of tradition in our children’s lives for tomorrow.”

As Samoan families migrate beyond Polynesia in search of a better life for themselves and their children, it is increasingly important, she said, "to preserve the language and culture across global distances." Love found a way to do just that.

You may visit Jacqueline Slade and her family on her website: www.jacquelineslade.com and books may be ordered there. Other retail outlets where the book can be purchased locally will soon be listed on the website.


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