NRM: Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Siaila Jagroop: I was born and raised in a little island nation in the South Pacific called Tonga. My father’s father was an Egyptian, who migrated to Fiji with his sister in the early 1910s, and then after the Spanish flu of 1918, he migrated to Tonga and married my grandmother, hence the last name Jagroop, which is not Tongan.

My grandfather was a crew member on the doomed maiden voyage of the Government of Tonga’s long liner M.V. Teiko in 1960, which disappeared and as my father was still too young at the time, I have never known anything more about that side of my family other than my last name.

My father has already passed away but my mother is still alive. I have an older sister and brother and I am the youngest. I am happily married with a daughter, who is only three and a half years old.

I was truly grateful for acquiring a scholarship from the Government of Japan in 2010, whereby I left for my studies in 2011 and was able to get a Master’s Degree in Intercultural Relations from Tohoku University, Japan. I also hold a Bachelor of Arts’ Degree from the University of the South Pacific with a double major in History Politics and English Literature, which my father paid for with his savings before he passed away, as I was a full-time private student.

NRM: What's one thing unique about you?

SJ: In terms of writing, I think the one thing unique about me is that I am still unsure of my identity.

Culturally and socially, I am a proud Tongan but sometimes I feel that there is a missing piece in me simply because I have never known anything more than a last name and few stories about my paternal grandfather.

I have heard many slogans and phrases about feeling complete and being confident about one’s identity, but personally I feel that there is a quiet beauty in still being about one’s identity and continuing to seek it out. I think that’s a unique quality because it makes a person a survivor, especially when facing tough odds.

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