6 New(ish) Books About Hawaii
Are you traveling to Hawaii soon and looking for some fabulous Hawaii reads? Or maybe you just love books about faraway and exotic places. Or possibly you live here and enjoy stories of our islands. However you slice it, these are a few of my recent Hawaii favorites as well as two that release this year (one of them is mine, but I couldn't resist). Three are fiction and three are narrative nonfiction. Enjoy!
RED SKY OVER HAWAII
"With effortless prose, Ackerman skillfully navigates the early days of WWII with captivating characters bonded by circumstance. Mystery and magic are woven around Lana and the pages of this book, delivering a beautiful and thoughtful novel that pays tribute to the lore of the islands, their people, and those who stand up for the ones who cannot." –Noelle Salazar, bestselling author of The Flight Girls
Inspired by real places and events, Red Sky Over Hawaii immerses the reader in a time of American history full of suspicion and peril in this lush and poignant tale.
The attack on Pearl Harbor changes everything for Lana Hitchcock. Arriving home on the Big Island too late to reconcile with her estranged father, she is left alone to untangle the clues of his legacy, which lead to a secret property tucked away in the remote rain forest of Kilauea volcano. When the government starts taking away her neighbors as suspected sympathizers, Lana shelters two young German girls, a Japanese fisherman, and his son. As tensions escalate, they are forced into hiding—only to discover the hideaway house is not what they expected.
When a detainment camp is established nearby, Lana struggles to keep the secrets of those in her care. Trust could have dangerous consequences. As their lives weave together, Lana begins to understand the true meaning of family and how the bonds of love carry us through the worst times.
SHARKS IN THE TIME OF SAVIORS by Kawai Strong Washburn
I have not read this yet, but I have heard great things and can't wait to get ahold of it when it releases on March 3d.
Sharks in the Time of Saviors is a groundbreaking debut novel that folds the legends of Hawai’ian gods into an engrossing family saga; a story of exile and the pursuit of salvation from Kawai Strong Washburn.
In 1995 Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, on a rare family vacation, seven-year-old Nainoa Flores falls overboard a cruise ship into the Pacific Ocean. When a shiver of sharks appears in the water, everyone fears for the worst. But instead, Noa is gingerly delivered to his mother in the jaws of a shark, marking his story as the stuff of legends.
Nainoa’s family, struggling amidst the collapse of the sugarcane industry, hails his rescue as a sign of favor from ancient Hawaiian gods—a belief that appears validated after he exhibits puzzling new abilities. But as time passes, this supposed divine favor begins to drive the family apart: Nainoa, working now as a paramedic on the streets of Portland, struggles to fathom the full measure of his expanding abilities; further north in Washington, his older brother Dean hurtles into the world of elite college athletics, obsessed with wealth and fame; while in California, risk-obsessed younger sister Kaui navigates an unforgiving academic workload in an attempt to forge her independence from the family’s legacy.
When supernatural events revisit the Flores family in Hawai’i—with tragic consequences—they are all forced to reckon with the bonds of family, the meaning of heritage, and the cost of survival.
DRAGONFRUIT by Malia Mattoch McManus
This book packs a ton of history into every page. Heartbreaking and eye opening, it is a thoroughly enjoyable read.
HAWAI'I, 1891. As the heiress to a plantation fortune, Eliza Dawson occupies a privileged place in the opulent court of Hawaii's King Kalakaua. But her secret plan to marry the son of an opium tycoon collapses when political crisis forces him to China. Pregnant and desperate to keep her child, Eliza must wed an opportunistic rancher on the remote island of Moloka'i.
After a devastating fire, Eliza makes a daring escape to Honolulu on the eve of the American overthrow and joins the clandestine fight to restore the Hawaiian monarchy.
When a mysterious figure from Moloka'i reveals powerful secrets, only one man can help Eliza find the truth-her first love. But soon, their search for answers threatens to unravel the life she's rebuilt in a dramatically changed Hawai'i.
Dragonfruit is both a vivid portrait of Hawai'i in a time of historic upheaval and the story of a woman shaped by love, betrayal, and the intoxicating power of the past.
THE THREE YEAR SWIM CLUB by Julie Checkoway
A fascinating story that shines a light on a very little known piece of history. My favorite part was reading about the kids. Such heart and determination!
The New York Times bestselling inspirational story of impoverished children who transformed themselves into world-class swimmers.
In 1937, a schoolteacher on the island of Maui challenged a group of poverty-stricken sugar plantation kids to swim upstream against the current of their circumstance. The goal? To become Olympians.
They faced seemingly insurmountable obstacles. The children were Japanese-American and were malnourished and barefoot. They had no pool; they trained in the filthy irrigation ditches that snaked down from the mountains into the sugarcane fields. Their future was in those same fields, working alongside their parents in virtual slavery, known not by their names but by numbered tags that hung around their necks. Their teacher, Soichi Sakamoto, was an ordinary man whose swimming ability didn't extend much beyond treading water.
In spite of everything, including the virulent anti-Japanese sentiment of the late 1930s, in their first year the children outraced Olympic athletes twice their size; in their second year, they were national and international champs, shattering American and world records and making headlines from L.A. to Nazi Germany. In their third year, they'd be declared the greatest swimmers in the world. But they'd also face their greatest obstacle: the dawning of a world war and the cancellation of the Games. Still, on the battlefield, they'd become the 20th century's most celebrated heroes, and in 1948, they'd have one last chance for Olympic glory.
THE LAST VOLCANO by John Dvorak
I loved this book! Though it's non-fiction, it reads like a page turner and has some fascinating Hawaiian history to boot. Highly recommend.
Ranging from Yellowstone in Wyoming to Mount Pelee in the Caribbean, from Bogoslof and Pavlov in Alaska, to Sakurajima in Japan, and, finally, to the massive volcanoes of Kilauea and Mauna Loa in Hawaii―The Last Volcano reveals the incredible journey of a man on a mission to understand the awesome power of volcanic eruptions.
Volcanoes have fascinated―and terrified―people for ages. They have destroyed cities and ended civilizations. John Dvorak, the acclaimed author of Earthquake Storms, looks into the early scientific study of volcanoes and the life of the man who pioneered the field, Thomas Jaggar.
Educated at Harvard, Jaggar went to the Caribbean after Mount Pelee exploded in 1902, killing more than 26,000 people. Witnessing the destruction and learning about the horrible deaths these people had suffered, Jaggar vowed to dedicate himself to a study of volcanoes. What followed was fifty years of global travel to eruptions in Italy, Alaska, Central America, Japan and the Pacific.
In 1912, he built a small science station at the edge of a lake of molten lava at Kilauea volcano in the Hawaiian Islands, with the goal of solving the mystery of why volcanoes erupt and how they could be predicted. Jaggar found something else at Kilauea: true love.
She was Isabel Maydwell, a widowed school teacher who came to Kilauea to restart her life. For more than twenty ears, she and Jaggar ran the science station, living in a small house at the edge of a high cliff that overlooked the lava lake. Maydwell would quickly becoming one of the world’s most astute observers of volcanic activity.
Mixed with tales of myths and rituals, as well as the author’s own experiences and insight into volcanic activity, The Last Volcano reveals the lure and romance of confronting nature in its most magnificent form―the edge of a volcanic eruption.
ALOHA RODEO by David Wolman and Julian Smith
Another fabulous, well researched and well written book. A story that will have you cheering these boys on from your couch or chair or wherever you may be reading.
The triumphant true story of the native Hawaiian cowboys who shocked America at the 1908 world rodeo championships
In August 1908, three unknown riders arrived in Cheyenne, Wyoming, their hats adorned with wildflowers, to compete in the world’s greatest rodeo. Steer-roping virtuoso Ikua Purdy and his cousins Jack Low and Archie Ka’au’a had travelled 4,200 miles from Hawaii, of all places, to test themselves against the toughest riders in the West. Dismissed by whites, who considered themselves the only true cowboys, the native Hawaiians would astonish the country, returning home champions—and American legends.
An unforgettable human drama set against the rough-knuckled frontier, David Wolman and Julian Smith’s Aloha Rodeo unspools the fascinating and little-known true story of the Hawaiian cowboys, or paniolo, whose 1908 adventure upended the conventional history of the American West.
What few understood when the three paniolo rode into Cheyenne is that the Hawaiians were no underdogs. They were the product of a deeply engrained cattle culture that was twice as old as that of the Great Plains, for Hawaiians had been chasing cattle over the islands’ rugged volcanic slopes and through thick tropical forests since the late 1700s.
Tracing the life story of Purdy and his cousins, Wolman and Smith delve into the dual histories of ranching and cowboys in the islands, and the meteoric rise and sudden fall of Cheyenne, “Holy City of the Cow.” At the turn of the twentieth century, larger-than-life personalities like “Buffalo Bill” Cody and Theodore Roosevelt capitalized on a national obsession with the Wild West and helped transform Cheyenne’s annual Frontier Days celebration into an unparalleled rodeo spectacle, the “Daddy of ‘em All.”
The hopes of all Hawaii rode on the three riders’ shoulders during those dusty days in August 1908. The U.S. had forcibly annexed the islands just a decade earlier. The young Hawaiians brought the pride of a people struggling to preserve their cultural identity and anxious about their future under the rule of overlords an ocean away. In Cheyenne, they didn’t just astound the locals; they also overturned simplistic thinking about cattle country, the binary narrative of “cowboys versus Indians,” and the very concept of the Wild West. Blending sport and history, while exploring questions of identity, imperialism, and race, Aloha Rodeo spotlights an overlooked and riveting chapter in the saga of the American West.
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In the spirit of spreading aloha, Sara shares her favorite uplifting and inspiring finds. Maybe it's a book or podcast, or maybe it's a new adventure or film that is too good not to pass along.