Someone recently asked me which books I would recommend about Hawaii. Of course, the very best historical novel to start with on this particular reading list would be the classic:
HAWAII (by James A. Michener )
This book is an EPIC. In my opinion, this should be a mandatory read for anyone living in Hawaii, or planning to visit this place. It’ll fill you up with so much new insight into this cultural melting pot that is this 8-island archipelago; the most isolated island group on the planet. Dive into this multi-layered history.
It is impossible to nutshell this novel; it is entirely to expansive for that.
Michener leads us through a pre-Hawaiian history, volcanic eruption, creation; Polynesian exploration; to the arrival of wayfarers from the south; to the missionaries rooting their strict believes here; to the beginnings of the sugar cane industries and flocks of immigrant field workers arriving from China, Japan, the Philippines, as far as Portugal; to the fall of the last Hawaiian monarchy; to the entry into statehood; and so on.
I only recently set my sights on this book. For whatever reason; growing up here, thinking I know it all already, or what have you, I knew about the book and hadn’t given my attention to it. My uncle David, from the Gemini, would always be recommending it to no end, and as a classically careless teenager, I hadn’t listened.
It wasn’t until I was staying with my uncle Fuji on his property on Moloka’i that I discovered the novel on his book shelves, waiting for me. I dove in; got lost in the rich layers of this places history. I recommend that experience to everyone. Don’t wait.
To understand where we are going, we must first understand where we have been.
Another truly epic historical novel written about the islands is:
MOLOKA’I (by Alan Brennert)
This book is based around the leprosy epidemic that swept the port island of Oahu.
All infected were forced to be quarantined with no shelter and little supplies on the isolated coast of Moloka’i. This is a powerful telling of those times.
“An exquisitely textured tale of darkness and light, tragedy and the triumph of the human spirit” – Jim Fergus, author of One Thousand White Women.
Kaʻao – Story
Moʻolelo – History
Pre ʻāina – Islands