Memoirs, biographies and other true stories
Dramas of Kalalau
It takes an 11-mile journey of epic proportions along Kaua’i’s Na Pali Coast just to reach the hidden wonder of Kalalau Valley. To simply experience the beauty of Kalalau requires strength of mind, body and spirit–and that’s before even stepping foot within the valley. A gem for hikers aspiring to see Kalalau’s beauty in person one day, and a special treat for those looking for some inspiring lessons of Hawaiiana, Terence James Moeller’s Dramas of Kalalau presents a unique mix of historical non-fiction, fiction and anthropological accounts in a successful attempt at giving the reader a glimpse into the spirit of Kaua’i’s legendary valley. The book divides itself into a triptych of sections differing in literary styles–beginning with a narrative of the journey along the dangerous trail and working its way through individual pieces that capture Kalalau through historical information, personal accounts and legends. Just to give you an idea of how real the danger is in making the journey, a disclaimer at the beginning of the book relieves the author and publisher from injuries that readers may incur from exploring the Na Pali trail or Kalalau Valley. But still, it’s a forbidden fruit that adventure seekers from around the world continue to flock to; an ancient sense of place that Moeller manages to evoke in the reader from multiple literary directions. -Travis Quezon
‘I also wish
to take exception to the statement made by a previous speaker that American citizens of Japanese parentage do not feel American. American citizens of Japanese parentage do feel American. While we seek statehood for economic and political reasons, we also seek statehood for psychological reasons.’
–First Among Nisei: The Life and Writings of Masaji Marumoto, by Dennis M. Ogawa
First Among Nisei: The Life and Writings Masaji Marumoto
Who is Masaji Marumoto? Professor Dennis M. Ogawa is about to tell you. Indeed first among Nisei (second generation Japanese Americans) in many areas, the late Masaji Marumoto, a Kona boy-cum-Honolulu transplant, had an exhaustive list of accomplishments that surpasses what many can only hope to achieve in a lifetime. Marumoto was the first person of Asian descent to graduate from Harvard Law School, the first Asian in the U.S. to be elected president of any state or territorial bar association and the first person of Asian descent to serve on the court of highest jurisdiction of any state or territory. Exemplifying outstanding qualities from a young age, it is also not surprising that Marumoto ranked first in McKinley High School’s class of 1924. And how about accomplishments of not only firsts, but onlys: Marumoto was the only Japanese American to serve in the U.S. Army’s Judge Advocate General Corps during World War II.
Ogawa paints a comprehensive picture of Marumoto’s life, utilizing interviews with Marumoto and his children, sharing diary entries from his teenage years, letters to his wife Shigeko and son Wendell during World War II military service, as well as opinions on Hawai’i’s statehood and court decisions.-Margot Seeto
Life Behind Barbed Wire:
The World War II Internment
Memoirs Of A Hawaii Issei
On December 7, 1941, Yasutaro Soga a Japanese newspaper editor living and working in Honolulu, began the first day of what was to become a four-year internment. Separated from his family and shuffled from internment camps on O’ahu to New Mexico, Soga kept his journalist’s eye trained on camp life and the men who endured it with him. The result of his observation is this insightful book. Soga’s clear prose takes in the strange and frustrating world of the internment camp: the terror of arrest, the Kafkaesque court hearings, the anxiety of days spent wondering if one will ever be free again, the festering resentment for captors (which in a few regrettable instances manifests itself as anti-Semitism), and even lighter moments such as attempting to schedule sumo matches among internees are all here, all rendered in deeply affecting terms for the reader. Soga died in 1957, but he left behind this document, valuable not only as a first-hand chronicle of a shameful moment in U.S. history, but also as an antidote to the repugnant ideas of conservative talking heads like Michelle Malkin, who has openly advocated for racial profiling and internment. One only needs to read this book to understand the human cost of such policies. -Matthew Martin
One Cup Rice
If one cup of rice represents a life, and each grain of rice represents a person who has touched one’s life in some way, then Hazel Kazuko Arii Ho’s cup runneth over. This collection of scenes from her life in Honolulu, ranging from childhood delights to her mother’s funeral, also gives readers a more intimate portrait of her life with the inclusion of personal photos. Included in Ho’s short memoir are not just the usual suspects (relatives), but also stories of her first pet rodent and the ingredients for sardine soup. Seventy-five scenes equal 75 grains of rice to share with Ho’s inquiring grandchildren and those who wish to partake in the consumption of a gently worded reflection of life. -M. S.
Big Island History Makers
Fans of Hawaiian history or Big Island residents who want to learn more about their home will be interested in Big Island History Makers. Author LaRue W. Piercy, a former New Yorker, resides in Kailua-Kona and serves as a greeter and historian at Moku’aikaua Church so the man knows his stuff.
The slim tome serves as a summary of the ‘remarkable historical characters who shaped events–explorers, Hawaiian royalty, adventurers, and missionaries.’ Included in it are recaps of the familiar historical accomplishments of King Kamehameha and Captain Cook as well as the saga of Parker Ranch, but other chapters shed light on the backgrounds of historical figures that aren’t quite as renowned. Princess Ruth Ke’elikolani served as the Hawai’i Island governor from 1855 to 1869 and reportedly saved the town of Hilo from being destroyed by a river of lava with red handkerchiefs, liquor and other donations to Pele. Today, she’s most famous for having the building that houses the Departments of Tax and Labor & Industrial Relations on O’ahu named in her honor.
Big Island History Makers contains many other fascinating factoids like these on names that are recognizable, but not necessarily known. It’s the perfect stocking stuffer for someone new to the islands, or even a longtime resident.
Guardian of the Sea: Jizo in Hawai’i
Surprisingly, Guardian of the Sea: Jizo in Hawai’i is not exclusively about the Buddhist deity nor the obelisk-shaped towers erected at various points on the island near the ocean. (Jizo is one of four bodhisattvas, commonly known as the savior of souls who must suffer in the underworld.) It may be surprising how often one has actually driven past a statue of the monk in a roadside cemetery or a neighborhood church. The book by former lifeguard and retired deputy fire chief John R.K. Clark, though, encompasses so much more.
What’s fascinating is how the author ties the subject of Jizo with the history of the immigration of the first Japanese people to Hawai’i, the dangers of remote shorelines and coasts with life-threatening waves and the culture of fishing in the islands. Because of the hazardous areas and the drowning of fishermen and those attracted to the sea, the first generation Japanese-Americans erected the statues as a form of protection. Through Clark’s meticulous documentation, we see the birth of an early culture, some of the more deadly shorelines of our state, an education on Buddhist religion, the art of fishing technique and some useful tips to avoid getting hurt in the water. Ambitious stuff for a book about statues.
Kepelino’s Traditions of Hawaii
The son of Kanekapolei and descendent of both Kamehameha and the priestly lineage of Pa’ao, Kepelino received a Western education through the Catholic Church. Between 1830 and 1858 he was actively engaged in writing for the Catholic Press, providing a wealth of cultural and historical information on the natural history of the Islands, including his seminal work, Mo’olelo Hawai’i, on which this republication has its foundation. Scholarly in form but easily accessible, using side-by-side translations of the original Hawaiian text with notes provided, the book delves deep into five aspects of Hawaiian traditions with stories, star and dream lore, the history of chiefs and slaves and the structure of hierarchy and government. Originally published in 1932, this 75th anniversary edition brings a wealth of comprehensive information, from both a time long passed and a present worth remembering.-Dean Carrico
Moku O Lo’e:
A History of Coconut Island
P. Christiaan Klieger’s Moku O Lo’e: A History of Coconut Island is a thorough examination of the isle out in the middle of Kane’ohe Bay. Native Hawaiians began using it as a fishing station as well as a canoe stop. Land tenure changes and Western influence took their toll and by the 1930s, Christian Holmes II (heir to the Fleischmann Company’s riches), transformed the 12-acre island into a luxurious 28-acre playground that attracted such celebrities as Amelia Earhart, Shirley Temple, John Wayne and Errol Flynn. Today of course, the island serves as a research and learning laboratory for the Hawai’i Institute for Marine Biology but it’s a glamorous kick to flip through photographs of an era long gone.
As with most publications from Bishop Museum Press, the pages are splashed with intriguing and breath-taking photographs. There are black and whites of the landscape in the early 1900s, the awesome two-lane bowling alley, animal pens with elephants and chimpanzees (Holmes even managed to bring in a giraffe), Lyndon Johnson checking out the shark pond, modern day aerial shots of the bay with green reefs dotting the blue water and scalloped hammerheads. And who doesn’t love scalloped hammerheads?
Archipelago junkies won’t want to miss this one. -R. S.
Pathways to the Present:
U.S. Development and
Its Consequences in the Pacific
The word ‘development’ stirs up negative emotions in those who seemingly have a passive role in the process. Connotations of exploitation and destruction of physical and cultural landscapes plague the path of development–no surprise that the developer is usually the colonizer of a more powerful persuasion (the United States), and the chosen spot of development is usually a smaller, weaker entity (any island or country with brown people and prone to natural disasters). To those on the developer side, however, development means not only dollar signs, but also improvement, transformation, modernization and globalization. Combine that relationship with military history (focus on World War II), its doorway for business and technology pursuits and its environmental impacts on the Pacific Rim, and you have professor of history Mansel G. Blackford’s Pathways to the Present: U.S. Development and Its Consequences in the Pacific.
Blackford traces this history of regional growth of post-WWII Hiroshima, Korea, Guam, American Samoa, the Philippines, Hawai’i, Alaska, Seattle and San Francisco. With respect to Hawai’i, the second chapter focuses on the island of Kaho’olawe and the military’s land and water use.
The economic and geopolitical integration post-WWII in the regions featured in the book was simply an accelerated process that was already occurring pre-war, argues Blackford. The book also aims to focus on how local and indigenous people act to influence development, as well as react to it–a perspective rarely seen in many studies. Blackford also hopes to further the field of study of interactions between economic development and environmental protection issues.
‘Although Honolulu was
within plain view, we were at first denied any contact with our families and the outside world. Our present conditions were never communicated to others beyond the barbed-wire fence. Ãƒâ€“ In the camp rumors persisted that so-and-so had been shot dead or run through with a bayonet. Living under these circumstances was enough the drive anyone crazy.’
–Life Behind Barbed Wire: The World War II Internment Memoirs Of A Hawai’i Issei, by Yautaro Soga
Vaka Moana Voyages of the
Ancestors: The Discovery and
Settlement of the Pacific
Editor K. R. Howe takes on a mammoth task with this tightly packed book that is reportedly the most comprehensive and complete account of the discovery and settlement of the Pacific. And we believe it. The pages are full with history, biographies, photos, diagrams, graphs and maps that have been gathered from various sources–all of them experts in their fields–to provide this most current account of the seafaring ancestors of the Pacific.
The size of the book belies its readability, because this isn’t the kind of reading material that needs to be started and finished. There are enough short-form pieces of information sprinkled throughout the larger work that a random flip of the pages is sure to yield a good piece of information. Turn to page 163 and read the paragraph about wind gourds of the Cook Islands. Or flip to page 310 and learn about Sir Thomas David, a Raratongan who built his first outrigger canoe at the age of 6 using 5-gallon kerosene cans and guava branches.-Kawehi Haug
Waikiki: Images of Yesteryear
Small in size and content, this quaint look back to the most famous beach in the world has some truly striking pictures, particularly when it shows a quiet, nearly deserted area with tree-lined roads, tiny cottages and, most surprising, parking on Kalakaua Avenue. Most photographs run one to a page, with a small blurb at the bottom that usually isn’t necessary, and of course, we get a lot of shots of Duke and The Royal Hawaiian when it first opened in 1927. The book has a museum-like feel, appropriate, since most of the images are from the Bishop Museum. While you won’t get any real insight into the history of the spouting waters, it’s an enjoyable glimpse into the past–and it’s small enough to finish whilst stuck in traffic on Kuhio Avenue.-D. C.
The White Pacific: U.S.
Imperialism And Black Slavery In
The South Seas After The Civil War
The Emancipation Proclamation and the bloody struggle of the Civil War might have put an end to the practice of purchasing and exploiting human beings in the United States, but as Gerald Horne demonstrates in his important new work, many Americans weren’t ready or willing to give up the execrable practice of ‘blackbirding’ or slave trading. They just set up shop elsewhere. Horne presents the reader with a dual narrative of dislocation: that of former slaveholders and Confederate sympathizers, fleeing the south after the Civil War, who came to Oceania to join the bustling plantation economies of the South Pacific, bringing along their ideas of white supremacy with them, and that of the scores of Pacific Islanders stolen, coerced, or ‘recruited’ to provide the forced labor that drove those economies. There is tragedy here, as Horne charts the rise, in the Pacific, of U.S. imperialist strategies rooted in racism, consumerism and militarism, and the heavy toll such policies exacted against the peoples of Oceania. (Of particular interest to Hawai’i readers will be Horne’s insightful chapters regarding the U.S.’s commercial and military designs on the Hawaiian Kingdom.) Horne’s subject is a mighty one, and although it is occasionally mired in dense, academic prose, it is one well worth reading.
Hawai’i Warrior Football:
A Story of Faith,
Hope, and Redemption
Are you ready for some football?! No? Oh. Well the next best thing for fantasy footballers and armchair quarterbacks is J. David Miller’s Hawaii Warrior Football: A Story of Faith, Hope, and Redemption. The handsome hardcover containing hundreds of compelling photos documents the transformation of the Warriors from one of the worst programs in the country to the top 20, all under Coach June Jones’s watch. And yes, Colt Brennan is in there too.
As an added bonus, there is a foreword by Jones himself that is almost as illuminating as the stories and pictures that follow it. Here is his motivation behind coming to Hawai’i: ‘If you’re going to shock the football world, is there a better place to do it than with the worst program in America?’
He also shares a sense of who he is. ‘These are the things I think about when I ride my Harley to Hale’iwa for shave-ice; when I stroll the beaches of Lanikai, or a night walk at the Ihilani, or stare into the pounding surf of Makaha; or even when I simply walk alone behind the Kahala Resort and lie on the beach chairs and stare at the stars.’
Not only does the book give us insight into the game as played in Hawai’i, but it also gives us nuggets that anchor Warrior football to a specific sense of place. -R. S.
‘Football is played
on a hostile battlefield. The opponent tries to steal my will to win, to cut my legs out from under me. And there will be days when he will win and I’ll fall bullied and broken. But even when the opponent claims victory, he will never take away my will to fight! I have learned to battle till [sic] my legs can no longer hold me, till my knuckles are bare to the bone, till my lungs have given up their fight to inhale. And I know that with my very last breath I will leave this world tall and proud because I once was a Warrior!’
–Once A Warrior: Hawai’i Football, On The Field And Off The Record, by J. Ian Sample
Once A Warrior:
Hawai’i Football, On The Field
And Off The Record
What J. Ian Sample’s memoir of his time as a wide receiver for the UH Warriors lacks in style–Sample seems to favor a narrative mode of declarative sentences modified by cliches–it more than makes up in effusiveness. Words like ‘dreams,’ ‘destiny’ and ‘heart’ get a lot of play here. It’s a bit hokey, but that eager enthusiasm goes a long way toward making Once A Warrior readable. Whenever the book threatens to become bogged down in boilerplate accounts of games or moldy aphorisms (which is often), Sample tosses off an odd, telling detail with a breezy confidence that belies his tender abilities as an author. The drudge of running 220s in the summer heat, receiving saline injections to combat dehydration and the strange feeling of emptiness that comes with success are a few of the small moments rendered with a nice clarity by Sample. Less successful are the (blessedly) brief stories of ‘jersey chasers’ and time spent in casinos while on a road game, all of which amounts to something less compelling than an average episode of Friday Night Lights. Sample’s book is better served when he sticks with the day-to-day grind of being a football player and teammate.