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Author of ‘Clean’ Books Inspires Tongan Youth to Read and Write

The day was looking to be an average Monday filled with errands, drop-offs, and pick-ups when into the Liahona High School teachers lounge walked a woman whose personality and spirit filled the room with energy. Her spirit was so overwhelming that, for someone who doesn’t like to read, I walked out of her workshop wanting to go find good books and read them.

I’m talking about Jenni James, an American author who made a journey based on her faith and her mission in life to inspire our youth to READ and WRITE. She came to Tonga, along with her husband Jason Sabey, travelling with 200-300 books, all donations from her own books and those of other clean authors. She has come to Tonga to share her life experiences and to inspire, lift up, and educate our youth in Tonga that reading and writing will open so many doors and opportunities.


This was not a spontaneous trip for Jenni. She began to receive emails from Tongan youth late in 2015. Her journey really began in November when Tongan youth shared with her how her books made them feel better about themselves. They felt good, with increased self-esteem and confidence. Jenni shared that it was an email from a young boy, Liahona High School student Pahahau Laumape, 15 years old, that touched her heart:

Hi my name is Pahahau I’m from the Friendly islands of Tonga. I read your novel called Persuaded I enjoy reading your story and this is the first book I read to the end my whole entire life. Because I hate reading but when I ask the librarian for any book to read, just to check if I like to read and then she brought your novel. When I read it, I started to like reading throughout my life because it inspires me. Everyone fights for your book in my school called Liahona High school just because it’s the only one copy and everyone wants to reserve it after I’m done. I love your story so much especially persuaded. I’ll try my best to look forward to another novel of you which will inspire me. Thanks you so much for writing this wonderful novel which I will never forget in my entire life.


This young boy, along with countless other students, have been introduced to Jenni’s books through a loving librarian, Ana Langi. When asked, Ana said she thought the students needed books that were clean and not filled with an inappropriate storyline or language. Without realizing it, she started the students on an amazing journey.

A new journey began as well for Jenni James, the author of what has come to be called CLEAN or GOOD READS – books that are not filled with bad language or sexual content. Jenni welcomes each reader to enter each character’s world and shows them in her writing that there is a lot to be learned and seen through reading. Our imaginations and creativity can be awakened by reading a story that we enjoy.

As we attended her writing workshop, aptly named The Awesomeness of Writing, she introduced some basic fundamentals of writing as well as her own tips and ideas of how to improve writing skills, encouraging each individual to become an award winning novelist. I for one believe that she genuinely has come to Tonga on a mission to help our youth and encourage them to read and enjoy learning through improved reading and writing.

Her energy is infectious, her laugh mischievous, and her love for her art is truly inspirational. If I sound like I’m on her band wagon, I am.

Jenni James and her husband are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. They have a blended family of eleven children. Jenni’s attitudes about family and children ring true for many parents. She not only prays each day, but also over each chapter and for guidance to do the work of the Lord. She allows the Saviour to guide her hands and footsteps in her process of daily writing which is 1,500-3,500 words a day with the exception of Sunday, the Lord’s Day.

Jenni James truly works hard as a mother and a writer, but I like to think of her also as a missionary. Her efforts to bring the world a book that not only entertains but uplifts is a beautiful story, as beautiful as the stories she writes.

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