Memoir / This book offers a pluralization of the Kalaupapa story, from the perspectives of those who lived, and still live there, and their descendents. As Ku’ulei Bell succinctly puts it, “We’re the last of the legacy. We need to let people know we existed.”
Authors Law and Monson’s research and interviews provide spaces for ‘ohana to reconnect and honor their kupuna who lost everything, long ago, when they were suddenly forced into exile. With every turn of a page, this book exhales stories of losses, laughters, pains and happiness found by and about the people of Kalaupapa. More importantly, these stories are told in their own voices.
Rare, recently emerged photographs from the archives of Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, as well as Wayne Levin’s beautiful photos taken between 1984-1987 and 2003-2011 create visual threads that weave together with those voices.
In one of many stirring moments, a young girl named Anne Apo finds a faded photo in an old shoebox of a distinguished man who turns out to be her great-grandfather, John T. Unea. “This was the beginning for me,” Apo says. “That was when it became very personal.” A collection of letters written by and about her great-grandfather eventually led her to his grave. She learned that, on July 24, 1893, at forty-two, John Unea and his son John Jr. were sent to Kalaupapa, where became the teacher at the school and conducted the first census in 1900. That first-uncovered old photo of Mr. Unea from the early 1900s frames this story, along with a recent color photo of his entire family sitting on the lawn fronting ‘Iolani Palace, holding up the same picture. Above all, this book is a humbling reminder of the strength of our kupuna.
Anwei Skinsnes Law and Valerie Monson. Photographs by Wayne Levin
Pacific Historic Parks, 2012
Hardcover, 144 pages, $24.95