Learning Through Fiction: Fiji in “Kalyana” [+Infographic]

learn through fictionLast year I made an infographic for Black Dove, White Raven, and although it hardly interested as many readers as I had hoped, it was something I immensely enjoyed doing. So I am thrilled to share a new infographic, this time about Fiji and the novel I read, Kalyana by Rajni Mala Khelawan.

Spanning the early 1960s to more or less the present day, Kalyana tells the story of a young Indo-Fijian girl – her parents’ only daughter, and just a little spoiled.

Kalyana is a story of womanhood, and the invisible bonds thereof. Trigger warning for themes of abuse, which Khelawan handles with candour and sensitivity. I won’t say too much more of this in an effort not to spoil it for future readers.

“She said it didn’t matter whether the woman’s hips were shaped like a watermelon or a pineapple or an apple. It made no difference what fruit her breasts resembled. Regardless what form she took, a woman was a woman.”

It is also a story of belonging: in one’s family, one’s culture, and ultimately, one’s country.

Prior to reading, I knew very little of Fiji. If asked, I would have conjured up pictures of a beautiful island (which it is), and that they have a mean Sevens Rugby team, but very little else.

In fact, I connected with the history of Fiji as told in Kalyana a lot more than I could have predicted. As a descendant of indentured labourers myself, I feel like I have grown in understanding not only of my ancestors, but also of the South African ethno-political climate.

I enjoyed how Khelawan crafted characters who grew throughout the years; some becoming more likeable, and others less so. I especially enjoyed how negative experiences did not drastically change a character’s personality, which I have always considered an unrealistic plot-device.

Kalyana has all the characteristics of an epic, but is actually a comparatively short novel. So much so, that I would have LIKED it to be longer!

Click for high resolution image

By the way, the subtitle “The First Light of Day” comes from Kalyana’s childhood belief that Fiji was the first place on Earth to see the light of a new day. (This was later disproved.)

Have you read Kalyana, or do you intend to? Did you learn something new, like I did?

Disclaimer: I received a free eARC via NetGalley and Second Story Press in exchange for an honest review. 



  1. My goodness I love your idea of infographics! Will check out the rest of your blog!

  2. While I don’t have a vast amount of vested interest in actively learning about Fiji or it’s history, it’s good to, once in a while, expose myself to tidbits of trivia like how you provided via the infographic. So thanks for bit of learning!

  3. Chandra says:

    Great read

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