Hawaii literature

Need something to lớn read—or h& lớn someone who does? Here’s HONOLULU’s first-ever danh mục of the most iconic, trenchant and irresistible Island books, as voted by a panel of literary community luminaries.

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Illustration by Michael Byers, Photographs by Aaron K. Yoshino

We’ve sầu all got them—the books we pull off the shelf & hand lớn a curious child, a first-time visitor & that frikết thúc who couldn’t be bothered, but suddenly is. They’re Hawai‘i nei’s early texts, histories, novels, pidgin classics, poems & plantation stories.

Repositories of basic & arcane knowledge, books are where bodies và cultures and adventures are buried, only to be exhumed each generation—if lucky readers know where to look. That’s why HONOLULU decided khổng lồ create this các mục. It occurred to us that if we could pool our favorite & most influential titles, we’d be doing a favor khổng lồ readers of the future.

Having such a danh mục will also, we hope, keep these great books in print & bring back a few that lack a current publisher. That’s important because books make the best cultural storehouses; they’re built khổng lồ last, & to outlast fads và technological “advances.” Ever try to boot up a floppy disk lately?

We know lists can rub people the wrong way, so instead of a canon, with all its associations of assigned reading & exclusion of minority voices và end-of-semester-quizzes, we propose this as a commons. It’s a shared resource lượt thích our ocean and ‘āina. It’s a place to lớn help yourself lớn wisdom, perspective, hilarity, joy và, most of all, a sense of who we are & how we got here.

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The Criteria

We felt the 50 should include seminal books that ground readers in Hawai‘i’s past & key turning points; reflect the varying contributions of cultures & classes, as well as their clashes; make us laugh in recognition; & allow us khổng lồ connect with our Isl& communities.

While it was important và natural that books be selected for their impact and influence, we strongly felt that they must be readable. It’s a subject we know something about, as a magazine with 130 years of attracting và keeping readers from all walks of life. We know from taking the pulse of Honolulu and the Islands that it does no service to the comtháng reader (Virginia Woolf’s favorite term for her imagined audience) to recommkết thúc dense or archaic volumes, or works of punishing difficulty. While we were bound & committed lớn the outcome of the voting, we did ask that our judges keep readability on the front burner. And they did.

SEE ALSO: The Hawai‘i Writer’s Life

The Categories

To organize things, và make the các mục readable, we came up with a few simple categories: Foundational Texts, lớn cover the time before & after the arrival of James Cook và European liên hệ. (Cook’s own Journals, by the way, did not make the cut.) History & Social Criticism covers works that changed hearts và minds, often by upending assumptions & pointing out abuses by the powerful. Lucky We Live Hawai‘i reflects our shared life through biographies, talk-story classics & memoirs, ranging from the first comprehensive sầu life of Duke Kahanamoku khổng lồ Pidgin khổng lồ Da Max khổng lồ Barack Obama’s Dreams From My Father. Novels & Short Fiction needs no introduction. Poetry is there too.

We were tempted to include children’s & young adult books, but, as important as these are for growing future readers, our judges suggested too many. Instead, you’ll find a list of voter favorites in the May issue of our sister publication, HONOLULU Family, & online.

What Stood Out

Besides James Michener’s Hawai‘i barely making the cut—while Mark Panek’s gritty exposé Hawai‘i outscored it—what stood out was the consciously local, provocative sầu writing that revved up in the aftermath of the 1978 & 1979 Talk Story Conferences. Like a relay race, we see a chain of books coming out, building on each other’s momentum, many by members of or affiliated with Bamboo Ridge, the journal edited by Eric Chock and Darrell Lum; others brought out by Bennett Hymer’s Mutual Publishing, particularly fiction; work by students of University of Hawai‘i professor Ian MacMillan, himself represented by two books; titles published và kept in print by the Bisiêu thị Museum Press, University of Hawai‘i Press và Kamehameha Publishing; and grass-roots best-sellers from Buddy Bess at Bess Press & Robert Barclay’s upstart Lō‘ihi Press.

What didn’t we see? Titles by more recent generations—a natural outcome of the time it takes for even good books to become well-known. We did invite two Gen X writers, Christy Passion và Kristiana Kahakauwila, whose acclaimed books barely missed the 50, to short-các mục their inspirations.

One rising reputation from out of the past is that of O.A. Bushnell, who died at 89 in 2002 but whose books received the fourth-most votes overall. Combining his career as a bacteriologist và microbiologist at the University of Hawai‘i School of Medicine with his literary acuity, ear for pidgin and affection for the hapa-haole world he grew up in, Bushnell wrote gripping và evocative sầu novels and The Gifts of Civilization: Germs và Genocide in Hawai‘i. He was also fondly recalled & praised for a stirring address at the 1978 Talk Story Conference in which he urged local writers khổng lồ seize the day & write their own stories—as the only way to lớn reject the Mainlvà & colonial narratives.

Finally, while we said we won’t rank titles, we will recognize the top aggregate vote-getter, who, by a wide margin, was Lois-Ann Yamanaka. Yamanaka and her blazing streak of books, especially the four written one after the other in the 1990s, struông chồng trang chủ as instantly recognizable portrayals of a rough-edged, mouthy, diverse and hilarious collective sầu Hawai‘i consciousness. Following Yamanaka in aggregate scoring were Mary Kawena Pukui, Chris McKinney, Bushnell, MacMillan and Gavan Daws.

To cthất bại, we would like khổng lồ áp lực again that while we hotline this danh sách essential, we know it’s not the last word. Another 50 in 10 years will undoubtedly reflect another order of priorities và books. Until then, we have two suggestions to lớn make: Millennials, won’t you take up the pen? And, for all of us: Act now and order as many of these as you can, to support local authors và publishing. Fill out your home library—before the next incoming ballistic missile alert strands you in a closet with a dead Kindle.

The Fine Print: How We Chose the 50 Essential Hawai’i Books.

Foundational Texts

1. The Kumulipo

various translations


The Hawaiian creation chant makes everyone’s danh sách. Its epic sweep yet intimate focus on the origins of many familiar local species—including, eventually, humans—gives it a surprisingly modern feeling of unity & relevance. As poetry, it’s sublime; check out these opening lines (translated by Lili‘uokalani): “At the time that turned the heat of the earth, / At the time when the heavens turned và changed, / At the time when the light of the sun was subdued / To cause light to break forth …” Owing its survival lớn a combination of fortuitous events, starting with it being written down by an 18th-century ancestor of future King David Kalākaua, The Kumulipo is most of all a spiritual live sầu wire connecting pre-Liên hệ Hawai‘i lớn her people in our own time & place. (Also translations by Martha Beckwith và Rubellite Kawemãng cầu Johnson.)

2. Hawaiian Mythology

by Martha Beckwith​


A childhood growing up in the Islands fed Beckwith’s fascination with its legends, which she collected over decades while also researching và publishing books on Jamaican and Native American mythologies. A student of anthropology pioneer Franz Boas, Beckwith was the first person to hold a chair in Folklore at any American college or university (Vassar). She finally published this monumental và comprehensive sầu work in 1940, at the age of 69.

3. MARK TWAIN’S Letters From Hawai‘i

by Mark Twain


After tasting his first national attention for a short story, 31-year-old Samuel Clemens sailed khổng lồ Hawai‘i & sent baông xã 25 letters khổng lồ the Sacramenkhổng lồ Union about his experiences. Reading them in sequence is khổng lồ see Twain shed many of his cultural and racial biases while claiming his arch voice & irreverent outlook—the cornerstones of his future success. In a way, Hawai‘i made Twain; and as a result, the Hawai‘i of 1866 that he describes feels fresh and alive sầu.

4. Six Months in the Sandwich Islands

by Isabella L. Bird


In the guise of writing khổng lồ her sister bachồng in Edinburgh, Scotlvà, Bird recreated her experiences in 1873 Hawai‘i with sound reporting but also a canny understanding of what readers wanted from a most unusual creature: a woman traveling alone in foreign lands. Refreshingly không lấy phí of the usual heroic male tropes, she lends her sympathetic eye và ear to all she encounters, from volcanoes to lớn kings và common people living in rural isolation.

5. Ancient History of the Hawaiian People

by Abrasi mê Fornander​


When Swedish whaler Fornander deserted his ship in 1844 & took an oath to Kamehameha III, he made his name as a sage counsel in fields as varied as agriculture và public education. His early Pacific voyages và gathering of legends và genealogies in Hawai‘i led to hyên writing & publishing serial volumes (beginning in 1877) of this influential history that traces the origins and migrations of Polynesians.

6. Hawaiian Dictionary 

by Mary Kawemãng cầu Pukui and Samuel H. Elbert

Starting in 1923, Pukui published book after distinguished book that translated, preserved and/or described aspects of Hawaiian culture, but the 1971 dictionary has probably seen the most use & done the most in furthering the resurrection of the Hawaiian language.

7. The Legends and Myths of Hawai‘i

by David Kalākaua

It’s acclaimed for its readability as well as its combination of oral history và myth with the dramatic events that changed Hawai‘i, including the death of James Cook & the abandonment of kapu và religious rites. But this 1888 book also reveals Kalākaua as a captivating và sophisticated storyteller. He vivdly evokes spiritual beliefs and practices, the probable genealogical origins of his people, and modern political turmoil, while striking an easy và informed personal tone.

8. Hawaiian Antiquities

by David Malo 


“No single Hawaiian-language work has been more influential than David Malo’s Ka Mo‘olelo Hawai‘i,” is a typical appreciation of Hawaiian Antiquities, this one by University of Hawai‘i religion professor và critic John Charlot in 1992. Born in 1795, Malo was trained & educated in a chiefly court, & his observations và recollections (first published in 1838 and then in a fuller 1858 edition) are some of the best available of early Isl& life & ritual, if filtered through the lens of his later conversion khổng lồ Christianity. It is source material for many past writers and, undoubtedly, for future generations.

9. Kalaupapa: A Collective Memory 

by Anwei Skinsnes Law 


Hawai‘i’s experience of the encounter period seemingly reached a place of pure distilled tragedy in the arrival of Hansen’s disease và the creation of the quarantine colony of Kalaupapa. But how it rose lớn become a refuge of self-reliance—thanks lớn activist sufferers và their families, aided by the selfless ministry of two future saints—is detailed in these 200-plus hours of interviews with actual residents và the supporting archival documents of the early petitioners who asked for help & khổng lồ be treated with basic humanity.

10. Ruling Chiefs of Hawai‘i 

by Samuel Kamakau


Going baông xã eight generations before Kamehameha I, here is Hawai‘i’s story from an indigenous point of view, gathered between 1866 & 1871 from oral histories, chants & knowledge. “No historian, anthropologist, or other scholar of ancient & early modern Hawai‘i can afford khổng lồ be without this key source cchiến bại at hvà,” wrote noted anthropologist Patriông chồng Kirch as a foreward to lớn a revised edition. Many writers of fiction và poetry cited it as well.

11. ‘Ōlelo No‘eau: Hawaiian Proverbs & Poetical Sayings

by Mary Kawena Pukui and co-authors


The indispensable Pukui touches on so many aspects of Native Hawaiian culture, from luminous translations lớn careful collections of songs, poems, rituals và records of how previous generations lived. This 1983 volume, the last lớn be published in Pukui’s life, reads as a valedictory culmination of her ethnographic và linguistic career, describing và making available the poetic genius of the Hawaiian people. (It was her most popular book in the voting.)

History & Social Criticism

12. Hawai‘i’s Story by Hawai‘i’s Queen 

by Lili‘uokalani


The queen’s own story follows a carekhông tính tiền coming-of-age template that darkens as the aggressive sầu designs of a newly colony-hungry United States and a scheming class of immigrant sugar plantation owners gradually converge. Her increasingly desperate endgame khổng lồ avoid the overthrow—the first American-sponsored coup d’etat—still has the power to infuriate & inspire demands for redress.

13. And the View from the Shore: Literary Traditions of Hawai‘i 

by Stephen H. Sumida 


This pioneering 1991 work made a major impact by validating local writing through local perspectives, while using traditional literary criticism lớn overthrow the establishment’s tired và patronizing assumptions. It’s still an illuminating read for this và also for its clear annotation of debates sparked by the novels, stories, essays, poems and plays that came out after the 1978 Talk Story Conference.

14. Honor Killing: Race, Rape, and Clarence Darrow’s Spectacular Last Case

by David E. Stannard


The Massie Case of 1931 has not lacked exposure in print & film and even poetry (2016’s What We Must Remember), but the standard, voters agree, is Stannard’s 2005 book. It was published lớn praise by reviewers for its scholarly rigor and eloquence as well as crucial access, according khổng lồ The American Historical Review, khổng lồ “previously suppressed material like the 331-page Pinkerton Detective Agency report (1932) that found the accused Hawaiians innocent.”

15. L& and Power in Hawai‘i: The Democratic Years 

by George Cooper and Gavan Daws


It took the combination of a writer-professor (Daws) và a lawyer-turned-journalist (Cooper) khổng lồ penetrate the tangled website of real estate dealings among mỏi the political & powerful in Hawai‘i. Originally published privately in 1985, the book can be slow going. But follow the money & you’ll see how it shook up the state, by calling out the practices and payouts from the days of the Bisiêu thị Estate and the old-school Big Five landowners, lớn the new era ushered in by the Democratic sweep of 1954.

16. From a Native sầu Daughter: Colonialism và Sovereignty in Hawai‘i 

by Haunani-Kay Trask

Coming together from essays written in the centennial years of the Kingdom of Hawai‘i’s overthrow, this ambitious targeted attachồng on the systematic abuse of Native sầu Hawaiian rights, culture and political agency made an impact both visceral & immediate. And it’s still being felt, inspiring successive generations of activists và writers with its clear-eyed denunciation of the many ways racism, sexism và imperialism are perpetuated on the l& and people of Hawai‘i.

17. Ho‘i ho‘i Hou: a tribute lớn George Helm và Kimo Mitchell 

edited by Rodney Morales

A spontaneous upwelling, the 100-plus entries in this memorial to the two Hawaiian activists—who disappeared while crossing the ‘Alalākeiki Channel off Kaho‘olawe—became an instant sensation for capturing the moment through the men. Reading its songs, poems, testimonies, telegrams, biographies & letters today, it’s possible lớn feel anew why and how, after the deaths of Helm & Mitchell, decades of prochạy thử broke through federal & state indifference and stopped the bombing of Kaho‘olawe. We also see how the loss of Helm, và all his talents and political energy, fed rather than diminished the movement.

18. Broken Trust: Greed, Mismanagement và Political Manipulation at America’s Largest Charitable Trust 

by Samuel Phường. King and Randall Roth

“A nuanced story of greed countered by integrity, intimidation met by resolve sầu, and imperiousness vanquished by activism,” as one reviewer wrote, this 2006 expansion of the explosive newspaper exposé goes deeper & provides cultural context of the corrupt collusion of Bicửa hàng Estate trustees, the Hawai‘i judiciary và the state executive sầu branch.

19. Fragments of Hawaiian History 

by John Papa ‘Ī‘ī 


Another touchstone of Hawaiian culture written by one who grew up educated in the old world & was forced to lớn make his way in the new, Fragments is just that—selected articles written by ‘Ī‘ī between 1866 & 1870 for Native Hawaiian newspaper Ka Nūpepa Kū‘oko‘a. By this time, ‘Ī‘ī had a fabled và illustrious career behind hlặng và was compelled lớn record what he’d seen và experienced before it vanished forever.

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đôi mươi. On Being Hawaiian 

by John Dominis Holt


The 1964 publication of this 64-page essay marks one of the breakaway moments in the Hawaiian Renaissance. “I am Hawaiian … somewhat by blood, mostly by sentiment,” wrote Holt. “It all comes baông xã lớn our choice: to lớn live as Hawaiians or not. I believe we still are warriors …”

21. The Value of Hawai‘i: Knowing the Past, Shaping the Future 

edited by Craig Howes and Jon Osorio​


Imaginative and on target, the 31 contributors lớn this 2010 collection include some of the most incisive activist minds in the Islands, taking on the biggest issues facing Hawai‘i, from economic và social ineunique to energy lớn transportation khổng lồ Native Hawaiian issues.

22. Shoal of Time: A History of the Hawaiian Islands 

by Gavan Daws


“Why aren’t all his books here? They’re all brilliant!” was one voter’s phản hồi about author Daws. But if we had to lớn piông xã one, Shoal rose up out of the sea of writing about Hawai‘i at the right time, 1974, when the need for a fresh, comprehensive sầu & lively post-Cook history was most acute. Daws’ style, deft sarcasm và energetic storytelling still hold readers today.

Lucky We Live sầu Hawai‘i

23. Hawai‘i One Summer 

by Maxine Hong Kingston


Kingston wrote many of these quicksilver essays for The Thủ đô New York Times while living in Honolulu & finishing what would become her genre-bending best-seller, The Woman Warrior. That book woke the U.S. to lớn an Asian-American experience that would no longer take a polite baông chồng seat to lớn anytoàn thân on the literary bus. The stories here feel lượt thích a distillation of the spirit of the 1978 Talk Story Conference, where her appearance was a highlight. “She has affected more Hawai‘i people in understanding Asian-American identity,” wrote one judge. 

24. Pidgin khổng lồ Da Max

by Douglas Simonson


It feels lượt thích a time capsule now, the original bright yellow book with the wildly gesturing locals talking pidgin while making side-eye và stink-eye và even aku-eye at each other. But it delivered the shoông xã of recognition & still feels spot-on and funny, a chronicle of a cultural moment that should not be lost.

25. Pass On, No Pass Back! 

by Darrell H.Y. Lum


“Only in Hawai‘i” probably best describes these stories, whose unassuming titles—“Victor,” “Horses,” “Toad”—launch readers into lớn their young characters’ stream-of-pidgin consciousness. Cartoons by Lum’s intermediate school classmate, Art Kodani, add deadpan absurdity. A local treasure, where pidgin meets modernism.

26. Folks You Meet in Longs and other stories 

by Lee Cataluna


“No other work celebrates và confronts who we are & how we live in these Islands as well as this collection of monologues,” writes a judge; another notes how the final story subtly reflects the sale of Longs Drugs to the CVS chain, bringing an end lớn an Isl& institution—not the store, per se, but the ritual it represented.

27. Waterman: The Life & Times of Duke Kahanamoku 

by David Davis 


The first comprehensive sầu biography of Kahanamoku traces his well-known influence in spreading surfing and professional lifesaving, & his still-astonishing feats as an Olympian, but also as a conscious trailblazer of integration around the globe during a virulently racist era. Sports archivist & author Davis exposes Kahanamoku’s mistreatment by the local power brokers in Honolulu, who led a vicious campaign against the 1912 Olympic gold medal winner that forced hlặng khổng lồ leave the Islands. (He would sue The Pacific Commercial Advertiser for libel & win.) A must-read for this little-remembered episode and many others, all meticulously documented.

28. Growing Up Local: An Anthology of Poetryvà Prose from Hawai‘i

edited by Eric Chock, James R. Harstad, Darrell H.Y. Lum and Bill Teter 


A compilation of stories and poems belonging khổng lồ the genre known as “What school you went?” this banquet of a book evokes cultural epiphanies from everyday rituals (“How lớn Cook Rice” by Kathleen Tyau), a mother’s folk remedy (“Tongue” by Juliet S. Kono), the self-inflicted wounds of girls who’ve assimilated the pecking order of body toàn thân types & skin tones (“Carnival Queen” by Mavis Hara) and much more.

29. Hawaiian Son: The Musical Journey of Eddie Kamae 

by James D. Houston with Eddie Kamae


This beautifully detailed, revealing collaboration spans the last century as it follows Kamae from newsboy playing ‘ukulele on a loading doông xã for nickels, to 1940s jazz innovator, lớn prison inmate, to co-founder of the Sons of Hawai‘i. Then the self-taught filmmaker became Mary Kawena Pukui’s ethnographic scout—roaming the Islands in 10 documentaries that captured songs, backroad musicians, spiritual seers & other vanishing gems of Hawaiian culture.

30. Dreams From My Father: A Story of Race và Inheritance

by Barack Obama 


Published in 1995 in a modest edition, this memoir has had almost as improbable a career as the future president from Punahou. Only becoming a best-seller in 2004 after Obama’s speech at the Democratic National Convention, it helped propel hyên khổng lồ the Oval Office. By 2011, Time would anoint it as one of its top 100 nonfiction books written in English since the magazine’s founding in 1923. The descriptions of the young African-American wrestling with issues of racial identity và an absent father struck a global nerve; but for Islanders the book is especially loved for its portrait of a local kid from a fractured family thriving thanks to Hawai‘i’s inclusive sầu values và community consciousness—the same aloha Obama would later bring lớn leading a fractious, divided nation and world.

31. Big Happiness: The Life and Death of a Modern Hawaiian Warrior 

by Mark Panek


The author spent five years in nhật bản following Waikāne’s Percy Kipapage authority and his rise khổng lồ become the sumo wrestler known as Daiki—then broadened his book’s canvas as the life of “Big Happiness” darkened & he returned home page. In doing so, Panek created a deeply felt portrait of the struggles endemic to lớn dispossessed Native sầu Hawaiians and, after Kipapa’s death, a mesmerizing murder mystery.

Novels and Short Fiction

32. Hawai‘i 

by James Michener


“I realize you’ll probably have to include hyên ổn,” wrote one judge, echoing many. The big blockbuster of 1959 was manufactured to boost the jet-age tourist boom and has not aged well, given its by-the-numbers stereotyping and soft racism. But the legacy of his churning prose and cringe-worthy plot twists—interracial love punished by a tsunami!—must be dealt with by local writers, particularly as many Mainlvà readers and East Coast publishers still think it’s the best example of a book about Hawai‘i.

33. Moloka‘i 

by O.A. Bushnell


Historically informed, thoroughly modern in style và literary ambition, this 1963 novel starts with a first-chapter shocker—a German doctor suggests human experimentation lớn King Kalākaua as a path lớn curing leprosy—then rides the voices of its three narrators into the agony of the Kalaupapage authority colony, where the heart’s motivations also come in for Bushnell’s intense and unflinching scrutiny.

34. All I Asking For Is My Body 

by Milton Murayama


“A declaration of independence … from unjust obligations và servitude,” as critic (và author, see page 48) Stephen Sumida wrote after it came out in 1975, Murayama’s novel confronts the classic double-bind facing Japanese-Americans born and raised in Hawai‘i—how loyalty to lớn community and a patriarchal family system runs counter lớn individual destiny and self-determination. Like many contemporary residents of the Islands, the characters in this 1930s-era story labor unceasingly for pitifully small wages while carrying the extra burden of inherited debt. To break the cycle, even in modern times, seems khổng lồ require a miracle—which this story does, in a way, still provide lớn local writers.

35. Blu’s Hanging

by Lois-Ann Yamanaka 


Three poor, suddenly motherless children struggle to lớn get by in a chaotic world, which unsurprisingly for Hawai‘i & its youth, is inflamed by highly colorful, mordantly comic swaths of ethnic & cultural stereotyping & innuenvày. Some people found this shocking, shocking. “Regardless of the controversy, my favorite of her books,” wrote one voter; many concurred.

36. Waimea Summer 

by John Dominis Holt


In one slim 1976 book, the outspoken Native Hawaiian Holt masterfully swings from the supernatural khổng lồ the harshly unsentimental. It’s a coming-of-age story, a coming-to-racial-identity story, a paniolo portrait and a Turn of the Screw-like ghost story that pits good and bad kāhuna against each other. There’s even a gay subtext in this striking and unique work; but soaring above it all is the question of whether Western and Native Hawaiian identities can ever mingle comfortably in one body.

37. The Return of Lono: A Novel of Captain Cook’s Last Voyage 

by O.A. Bushnell


“First off, please consider O.A. Bushnell, a preposterously neglected talent,” wrote a judge. Winner of the Atlantic Monthly fiction award in 1956, Bushnell’s novel of the fateful encounter between Native Hawaiians và Capt. James Cook marked a breakthrough for local literature written by its people, then recognized and published by a major East Coast press. A kid from a “slum area of town”—Kaka‘ako—Bushnell became a microbiologist & medical historian, while embracing Hawai‘i’s stories with empathy và precision. The Return of Lono was a promising step forward for Hawai‘i lit. But Michener’s book followed it three years later.

38. The Red Wind: Makani ‘Ula 

by Ian MacMillan


A haole who marries into lớn a Hawaiian family, adopts Hawaiian values and spends the generations after World War II building canoes, Kenika finds his spirit & world tested & undermined by Mainland America’s consumer-culture values—including drugs—as they swamp the Islands, seduce his children and threaten his beloved Windward O‘ahu.

39. Moloka‘i

by Alan Brennert


The local writing scene has a reputation for being closed lớn Mainlanders, for good reason (see the movie Aloha). But voters embraced Brennert’s 2003 telling of the story of Father Damien, Sister Marianne and Kalaupapa. That’s probably because the Southern California-based writer—whose television credits include Star Trek: Enterprise, L.A. Law, The New Twilight Zone & Wonder Woman, as well as a handful of Batman và Wonder Woman comic books—researched the novel for a four-hour mini-series that ended up never reaching the screen. Having been written to be visualized, và laced with well-placed plot points, the story’s power lớn haunt us is fully realized.

40. Hawai‘i 

by Mark Panek


In a contemporary Honolulu that feels as soiled và cynical as today’s headlines, a big real estate deal is going down—and in a tsunami of powerful, noisy scenes we watch everyone sell out. Panek’s funny, at times excruciatingly intimate trương mục is informed, he’s said, by hours of interviews with insiders. Certainly there’s plenty that feels familiar in his snap-portraits of politicians on the make, arrogant Chinese investors, rich prep school kids slumming around town, on-the-take Native Hawaiian cultural practitioners, cowardly university liberals, white-collar state-job sports-betting strip-bar habitués—not khổng lồ mention gangsters, bent cops và sex-and-shopping-addicted Daddy’s Girls from Kāhala. When it’s over you’ll feel lượt thích you know why things always turn out the way they vày.

41. Shark Dialogues 

by Kiamãng cầu Davenport


A modern epic of the Hawaiian diaspora—the plot follows four granddaughters hailed home page by their mesmerizing, indomitable Pono—Shark Dialogues (1994) is as often hailed for its female-driven storyline và insights as for its lyrically adventurous language and tako-tentacled plot. Though Pono’s hard, magic-realism life has raised her và her coffee plantation to lớn success, she’s now old và ready, lượt thích King Lear, lớn dispense wisdom và, perhaps, more. By granting each granddaughter her own life story—one has lupus, another’s a veterinarian in Thành Phố New York City, a third is a lawyer in Australia and a fourth an abused wife of a yakuza—Davenport rejects the tidying impulse of conventional novels. In the process she comes up with something new, a little over the top, & unforgettable. Part of a trilogy.

42. The Tattoo

by Chris McKinney


Narrated by a new Halāwa prison inmate, Ken Hideyoshi, khổng lồ a mute Trắng supremacist who’s giving hyên ổn a samurai tattoo, this 1999 story of fallen lives and twisted, ill-fated loves in the underworld of Honolulu is rediscovered for good reason by new readers every year.

43. Rolling the Rs

by R. Zamora Linmark

“Adventurous in form, courageous in content,” wrote a judge of one of the most-stolen books in local public libraries (to lớn judge from a recent catalog search). The various coming of age stories of adolescent gay Filipinos in Kalihi read “like a poetry slam,” said one mainstream reviewer when it came out in 1995; the fireworks go off as loudly today.

44. In the Time Before Light

by Ian MacMillan


Published posthumously in 2017, this story is the newest member of the Essential 50. Its protagonist is a commoner kanaka maoli at the time of Contact who survives an epic, bloody and sorrow-filled life only khổng lồ end up as an old man in Waikīkī, watching yet another epidemic wipe out more of his people. The prose is charged & precise, the battle scenes propulsive and gory, reminiscent of Cormac McCarthy. The cruel irony at the heart of the story is the massive sầu changes that force modernity on this lower-caste boy also allow hyên ổn to adapt &, inevitably, evolve sầu in knowledge & wisdom. This, however, only sharpens the pain he feels at what has been lost.

45. The Descendants

by Kaui Hart Hemmings


The novel that everyone thinks they know, thanks to lớn a certain movie, is a work of such concision and elegance that it solves the question that haunts, and bogs down, many novels of Hawai‘i: what to vì chưng with all our history. Hemmings’ solution is to bury it in the setup—the haole-fied part-Hawaiian husb& of a wife on life tư vấn discovers her infidelity as he’s about khổng lồ sell unspoiled family land—& let the story play out naturally and without long-winded digressions. The result is a master class of technique, if a little on the light side for those used to lớn a heavier touch.

46. Da Word

by Lee A. Tonouchi


When Lee Tonouđưa ra embraced the movement to lớn stake pidgin’s claim on Hawai‘i literature—as well as lớn reclayên it from abuse at the hands of non-Isl& writers—he didn’t go in for half-measures. This 2001 story collection is virtuoso Tonoubỏ ra, dealing out comedy and heartbreak in lines that show off how pidgin can be simultaneously spare, recondite và wildly inventive.


47. The Folding Cliffs 

by W.S. Merwin 


From the first swift lines, the story of Pi‘ilani, Ko‘ovệ sinh and their son, Kaleimanu—the 1890s family made fugitives by a sentence of leprosy, then pursued inkhổng lồ the Kalavệ sinh Valley by representatives of the new government that had deposed Queen Lili‘uokalani—unfolds & reforms, readable as a thriller yet built on the historical record và the deeper bedrochồng of myth & Hawaiian knowledge. Adding savor is the language of Maui-based Merwin, former poet laureate & two-time Pulitzer Prize winner, informed by his lifelong interest in the natural world.

48. Expounding the Doubtful Points 

by Wing Tek Lum


“Writing about the everyday world, without fanfare,” goes a line in the title poem, taken from 11th-century poet Mei Yao’chen và cited as a Mã Sản Phẩm. But we should all be so lucky as lớn experience Lum’s everyday: the wonder a son feels about his mother’s missing breast after surgery, his anger at hearing of a new Charlie Chan movie, a visit lớn a cousin who stayed behind in Đài Loan Trung Quốc and labors in the fields. From death to lớn babies lớn politics, the book is a complete experience of a Hawai‘i life và a quality mind.

49. Picture Bride

by Cathy Song


Any surprise at this preternaturally poised, confident work, which won the 1982 Yale Series of Younger Poets prize, has long given way lớn recognition of a classic. Whether she’s evoking intimate Wahiawā Korean family scenes or inhabiting the mind & eyes of Georgia O’Keeffe, Song paints with a fine-tipped brush—which makes the occasional quiet knife-thrust all the more effective sầu.


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 Saturday Night at the Pāhala Theatre

by Lois Ann Yamanaka


“This work is the patient zero of local literature,” wrote one judge of this 1993 book. “Everything before it can’t help but sound jejune và quaint & hegemonic. Everything after it can’t help but wrestle with its force.”

THE ROLL OF HONOR: For an additional menu of books that just missed the first 50.

Chuyên mục: literature