HONOLULU by Alan Brennert
This second novel of Mr. Brennert’s Hawai‘i stories begins in Korea, where a young girl, the story’s protagonist, is raised. Her rural village is Pojogae. As girls are not so important, the names they are saddled with are often less than flattering. This girl is named “Regret” which tells its own story.
A staple of the family diet, served at all meals, is kimchi. This is a spicy side dish made from fermented cabbage, garlic, and red peppers. New brides kowtow to every whim of their mother-in-law. A chogak po is a patchwork cloth (quilt), which I found to be a metaphor for life within the story. These are a few of the interesting facts about Korean history and tradition that I learned from reading HONOLULU. I also enjoyed learning how these traditions translated to life in Hawai‘i.
When Regret’s father discovers she has learned to read, he becomes furious and spouts a Korean saying: “A woman without ability is virtuous!” (You know a woman who can reach, and is challenged by such a statement, will not go quietly into the night! In this case, she sails to Hawai‘i.)
Within the novel, the author seamlessly weaves fact with fiction for an entertaining read. As with his novel, Moloka‘i, he maintains a high level of tension which held me captive throughout.
Hawaii’s Story by Hawaii’s Queen
written by Queen Liliuokalani
This book was first published in 1898, written in the first person narrative of Queen Liliuokalani: “In my school days . . .” “I especially recall a trip . . .” “my brother,” (King David Kalakaua). She, as the last reigning queen of the Hawaiian Islands, was looking for justice after the overthrow of the Hawaiian Monarchy. During her school days, she already experienced the differences between Polynesian and Western values. After her marriage in Honolulu to a prominent Caucasian male, she (a descendant of royalty) suffered the hostility of her Caucasian mother-in-law’s disapproval of interracial marriage.
Still, Liliuokalani did have many good times in her life, music being a top enjoyment for her. She played many musical instruments, including the organ, zither, and ukulele. She composed Hawai‘i’s national anthem and the noted love song, “Aloha ‘Oe.”
Of especial interest to me are the several genealogical charts included at the back of the book that begin generations before the birth of King Kamehameha I.
Mr. Brennert’s novel covers the hardships and losses of a Korean woman raised in the foreign land of Honolulu, Hawai‘i. This true story of Liliuokalani tells of a woman raised in the land of her ancestors, who suffered the greatest of losses, the ultimate loss by herself and her people of their land; and the loss of her freedom. Hawaii’s Story is also the story of Hawaii’s Queen Liliuokalani.
Next up for review:
A Visible Darkness