Last spring, I was hard at work on my new Sinners football romance, Paradise for a Sinner. A new character, Adam Malala, a Samoan cornerback, joins the team. His story required a large amount of research into the culture of American Samoa, and his conflict is deeply rooted in the customs of that country. We encounter him newly jilted by his fiancee back in the islands. She is the village virgin or princess who upholds the traditional ways and serves as a model for young women. Pala feels Adam has abandoned his origins and glories in all being a star football player provides. In the Samoan culture, personal ambition is subordinated to the good of the extended family, and those who give the most away, keeping little for themselves, are greatly lauded. Adam is caught between his two worlds. He soon takes up with Winnie Green, a newly divorced nurse. Both think a quick fling is what they need to get over their losses, but of course, they get more than they bargained for in the end. The book should be out in March or April and was long since edited before the whole Manti Te'o scandal happened.
Watching Dr. Phil and Katie Couric interview these young Samoan men made me cringe. I thought when doing my research, the island life would be wide open and rather sexy. Turns out Samoans are rather conservative having been converted by the London Missionary Society (think Puritans) centuries ago. Homosexuality is condemed in the way it is practiced today. Traditionally, a place was made for men with such impulses by allowing them to live as women and even marry. Often, they became village entertainers. But today, Samoa is not a place to be recommended for a gay couple to vacation. Even meeting a woman online would be frowned upon since families and family connections are all-important. I do believe that Te'o lied to his family about how he met this fictional woman. They would not have approved. I also think, he would have cut off the relationship if he had any idea he corresponded with a man.
As for the other guy whose name I will not attempt to spell, he described himself as sexually confused. It would be hard for him to admit to homosexual feelings so publically. I feel he did great harm to Te'o emotionally, but do doubt that such a good player will be overlooked in the draft. He might expect some harsh jokes about his situation, and I hope he has the inner strength move forward with his life. Frankly, I think his prankster is still glorying in the ruse and deserves no more notice.
I'll probably write more on other aspects of Samoan life next month. I did find the research fascinating and unexpected. My editor says Paradise for a Sinner is my best book in the series, but I am still partial to Wish for a Sinner. You will have to let me know which you like best.