Tag Archives: Ii

The Greatest Hawaiian Books of All Time (in English or translation)

I donʻt include many recent books – only two from the 21st century – because their legacy has yet to be determined.

  1. Samuel Kamakau, Ruling Chiefs of Hawai’i – The Sheer volume of history in this tome makes most other work pale in comparison. Kamakau also issues stern warnings, even to the King, of excessive Western influence.
  2. S.N. Haleole, Laieikawai – Translator Martha Beckwith (author of the definitive book The Kumulipo) had this to say of Haleʻoleʻs book:

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    La‘ieikawai is a Hawaiian romance which recounts the wooing of a native chiefess of high rank and her final deification among the gods. The story was handed down orally from ancient times in the form of a ka‘ao, a narrative rehearsed in prose interspersed with song, in which form old tales are still recited by Hawaiian storytellers. It was put into writing by a native Hawaiian, S.N. Hale‘ole, who hoped thus to awaken in his countrymen an interest in genuine native storytelling based upon the folklore of their race and preserving its ancient customs – already fast disappearing since Cook’s rediscovery of the group in 1778 opened the way to foreign influence – and by this means to inspire in them old ideals of racial glory.Hale‘ole was born about the time of the death of Kamehameha I, a year or two before the arrival of the first American missionaries and the establishment of the Protestant mission in Hawai‘i. In 1834 he entered the mission school at Lahainaluna, Maui, where his interest in the ancient history of his people was stimulated and trained under the teaching of Lorrin Andrews, compiler of the Hawaiian dictionary, published in 1865, and Sheldon Dibble, under whose direction David Malo prepared his collection of “Hawaiian Antiquities,” and whose “History of the Sandwich Islands” (1843) is an authentic source for the early history of the mission. Such early Hawaiian writers as Malo, Kamakau, and John Ii were among Hale‘ole’s fellow students. After leaving school he became first a teacher, then an editor. In the early sixties he brought out La‘ieikawai, first as a serial in the Hawaiian newspaper, the “Kuokoa,” then, in 1863, in book form.

  3. Moses Nakuina, Wind Gourd of La’amamao – UH Mānoa Professor Niklaus Schweitzer says:

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    The Wind Gourd of La ‘amaomao enables the reader to understand important values of pre-contact Hawai’i, such as the role played by the ideal attendant of an ali’i, which was characterized by a caring attitude both towards the lord as well as towards the maka’ainana, the common. ers, and which included expertise in a variety of useful skills, such as canoe carving, canoe sailing, fishing, bird catching, and a host of others. Generosity, kindness, loyalty, honesty, justice, filial piety, patience, are values of old Hawai’i emphasized in this saga which was considered sig.nificant enough to be published in several versions in Hawaiian and English, beginning with Samuel M. Kamakau’s serial, Moolelo no Pakaa (1869-1871), in the newspapers Ke Au Okoa and Ka Nupepa Kuokoa. The present version by Moses K. Nakuina is based on Kamakau but draws from a number of other sources as well.

     

  4. Davida Malo, Hawaiian Antiquities/Mooolelo Hawaii – While some might put this first, as its importance is unquestionable, itʻs more of an anthropology than a history, as Malo seems to dissect and critique Hawaiian culture. He had the “zeal of the newly converted” as Emerson put it, and it shows. Itʻs still crucial for all scholars of Hawaiian studies.

  5. Lili’uokalani, Hawai’i’s Story – A first-hand account of the most important event in Hawaiian history, from its most aggrieved victim – the Queen shows tact and grace beyond what can be expected.

  6. Noenoe Silva, Aloha Betrayed – the first very theoretical book on Hawaiian history and politics, Silva invokes Spivakʻs question “Can the subaltern [the oppressed underclasses] speak?” and goes beyond it to articulate the ways in which they do.

  7. John Papa I’i, Fragments of Hawaiian History – 

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    Iʻi was the patrician who chided the upstart Kamakau, and told us in incredible detail how it really was in the time of Kamehameha II.

     

  8. Mary Kawena Pukui, Olelo Noeau – Of all Pukui’s work, this is perhaps the most valuable, because the meanings  – the kaona – of Hawaiian proverbs may have been lost without it.

  9. Joseph Poepoe/Steven Desha, Mooolelo no Kamehameha/Kekuhaupio – So apparently Desha plagiarized (if such a concept exists in Hawaiian thought) from Poepoe, whose work is yet to appear in published form. It is still a valuable supplement to Kamakauʻs account of Kamehamehaʻs conquests. The Kamehameha Schools Press English translation is called Kamehameha and His Warrior Kekūhaupiʻo.

  10. Haunani-Kay Trask, From a Native Daughter – 

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    A masterpiece according to Alice Walker, author of The Color Purple, a mere collection of speeches according to others; its impact cannot be denied. It galvanized the Hawaiian movement in a way no other book has.

  11. Lilikala Kame’eleihiwa, Native Land and Foreign Desires – While my own research opposes some of her conclusions on the Māhele, her work on Hawaiian metaphors will stand as a lasting contribution to Hawaiian perspective.

  12. Keanu Sai, Ua Mau ke Ea: Sovereignty Endures – 

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    It’s a bit hard to find, but Sai’s contribution to revising Hawaiian history cannot be denied. This is also a useful primer on occupation and the legal aspects of Hawaiʻi’s history and status today.

  13. Pi’ilani, Kaluaikoolau – The heartrending story of Piʻilani and Koʻolau has been recognized by W.S. Merwin and many others. Gary Kubota’s play is only the most recent tribute to this moving account of a familyʻs resistance to the “Pu Ki” [PG: Provisional Government].

  14. John Dominis Holt, Waimea Summer – Holt seemed often to feel uncomfortable in his own skin, with frequent references (including in The Sharks of Kawela Bay) to his fair skin and blond hair, despite being nearly half Hawaiian. But this may have been what allowed him to write about the hapa-haole and Hawaiian experience with such skill; probably the only book to include pidgin, Hawaiian language and Faust.

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