Aloha! Welcome back. I'm back in my dorm room. We’re just going to ignore the fact that I chose to wear this shirt today to conceal my horrific sunburn lines because I've been going to a lot of beaches lately and no matter how much sunscreen I put on the sun in Hawaii always wins. Always.
Lately I've been going to a lot of beaches, but I've kind of only had one thing on my mind and that is the impending doom of finals. I'm sure that a lot of other college students feel the same way. Just, they're right there! We're so close. I mean, I've only got a month left. And while I'm like high-key freaking out about the fact that I only have a month left here, I'm trying to soak everything in. I'm also like, oh my God, I have like 20 to 30 pages of writing that I need to do in the next month. Too blessed to be stressed. That's what I keep telling myself. Yikes. I'm taking kind of like five and a half classes. I'm taking Geology, a Hawaiian studies class called the Hawaiian Ohana Literature of Hawaii, Modern Hawaiian Culture after 1819, an anthropology class, and a Japanese Immigrants anthropology class.
I wanted to talk about my courses again in a more retrospective way. Now that I'm most of the way through the semester and looking back and thinking about what I've learned and I thought the best way to do that would be to go through some of the stuff I've read and creating a must-read guide for Hawaii in general. I can only read so much this semester, but I've done a lot.
If you read nothing else about Hawaii, read Haunani-Kay Trask, From a Native Daughter is about colonization and not just in Hawaii, but all of the Pacific. I'm less than half way through it because I actually didn't read this for a class. I read it more in an extracurricular way. My English professor gave this book to me because he thought it was so important and he thought it was so important for me to read. I've just been like slowly working through it. And it's incredible. Haunani-Kay Trask is an activist for Hawaiian sovereignty. She was really active in the nineties and her writing gets a lot of backlash because it's extreme in the position that takes on how she classifies locals and locals versus indigenous Hawaiian people.
Trask also has books of poetry, collections of poetry, but she's mostly known for her essays and her critical writing. She writes about a lot of different things but this is a really important book in my opinion. I think that everybody everywhere, whether you've been to Hawaii, whether you've never been, should read this book because the way that Trask talks about indigeneity and colonization helps you understand the way that those forces work in the rest of the United States and the rest of the world. It's just a good kind of baseline. From a native daughter gives a decent grasp on Hawaiian history,
Another book that I read for my Modern Hawaiian Culture after 1890 class is available online or at the Bishop Museum or the Bishop Museum's website. It's called Native Lands and Foreign Desires and the author's last name is Lilikala Kame'Eleihiwa. It outlines everything from when Kamehameha ascended to the paramount chief, a position that he kind of created, as he united all of the islands. It starts with that and ends up at a little bit after the Great Māhele or the privatization of land ownership in Hawaii. After a constitutional government was created, a lot of the missionaries who had put themselves in this new government, were like, 'You need to own land. You can't just share it. And you can't like have this land tenure system that you already have in place. You have to adopt land ownership if you want to even be close to successful like the United States.' There was this whole process and a lot of people didn't get to claim land because of the way the process was set up. It was designed to fail. A lot of native people were cheated out of land and booted off land they had been living on for generations and generations. That was a really big impact for Hawaiian people and affects a lot of what goes on today with land rights. I have learned a lot and I wish that everyone else on the exchange program here with me got to read this book because it's very detailed. It comes from like a Hawaiian, it brings Hawaiian cultural ideas into historical explanation, um, and historical interpretation, which I think is really good.
Another reading that I recommend, if you want to look at Hawaiian history or Hawaiian culture is anything by Mary Kawena Pukui or Martha Beckwith, they both did a lot of work compiling, Hawaiian mythology, the Hawaiian language, Hawaiian traditions and working with people to put those into print so that the culture wouldn't die during like the mid-twentieth century. This was when there was a lot of assimilationism going on for a tourism industry that was on the rise along with a culture that was sliding away. The book that we use in my Ohana class is called the Polynesian Family System and it's by Mary Kawena Pakui. It has a lot of information, not only about family structures but also about like the way houses were set up and what each houses' function was and seasons and why they were named what they were. There is also basic information about gods and goddesses in Hawaiian mythology.
I don't have a copy of it because we just read a little bit of it in my Literature Hawaii class, but I'm sure this is what everybody was waiting to hear. I think people should read James Michener’s, Hawaii. And notice I didn't say Hawai'i I said Hawaii because his title, he didn't put an 'okina between the two i's. So it literally is just Hawaii. In today's social and political climates, it's pretty easy to see what's wrong with Michener's work and to read it with a critical eye. I still think it's an important baseline for understanding literature that was written after that book came out. It was published a couple of months after Hawaii became a state and it has that vibe, you know? It posits that all the different types of people that live in Hawaii are at, at their core, also American. Um, and that's the kind of work it sets out to do from the beginning. So I think that it is important to read to understand the later books.
Another read is All I Asking For Is My Body by Milton Murayama. It was also published in 1959 after Michener's Hawaii came out, or actually it wasn't published in 1959, it was written in 1959 and Murayama couldn't get anyone to publish it, so it wasn't published until 1975. Because it was written in 1959, it's clearly a response to Michener. You can see that in the way it's written and the way that Murayama uses pigeon in this book. It's a quick read and you learn a lot about Japanese immigration. Um, I found it really relevant for my Japanese Immigrants class, too.
Some more books that are really incredible. I'm not going to suggest that you read both, maybe one or the other because they're both hard to read. Blu's Hanging by Lois-Ann Yamanaka has some disturbing stuff in it. I also recommend The Tattoo by Chris McKinney. They're both stories about Japanese Immigrant descendants. The Tattoo takes place on Oahu and it's like a frame narrative of two guys in prison and one is telling the other his story about how he got to prison, but it ends up being like his life story. Blu's Hanging is a story about three children on Molokai whose mother has died. They live in poverty and the oldest sister has to step up and be a parent at a very young age while their father still works on the plantation. The book talks so much about like racial tension of the time. It brings up the same themes that Chris McKinney does, but in a more like violent and graphic way. It's beautifully written. Yamanaka is also a poet and it shows. It's like borderline tear jerking, also disturbing. I really recommend all of these texts for anybody who's trying to understand colonization, for anybody who's on trying to understand the relationship between indigenous people and local people in Hawaii, all of these books are helpful.
Last but not least is In the Time Before Light by Ian MacMillan. We read this for my English class and it was like the first thing that we read. I read it all before the first day of class and it's long, like 450 pages long. But it is beautiful. It gives you a look into Hawaiian culture in a good basic outline. I learned what Kapu was from his book. It has some gore and some violence in it. So if you are squeamish, maybe not, but it teaches you a lot about Hawaiian history and how things came to be the way that they are. Everything we read in the semester from Trask to Murayama, culminates in this book.
If you want to get a good idea of Hawaiian history and Hawaiian culture in a very candid way, you can read any one of these books. You can read all of them. I don't recommend just reading one. I recommend reading several.