Talking Story

Hawaiian Stories

There’s nothing quite like seeing a body of your published work collected for the first time.

Like a plate lunch special, Sharks in an Inland Sea is a smorgasbord of short stories, essays, memoir, a novella, and even a poem and a play. Most of the works have appeared in various anthologies and magazines over the last ten years, but there are a few new surprises.

It’s Hawai’i and Utah colliding in my head and coming out in speculative fiction stories about sharks that walk, unscrupulous funeral directors, friendship sandwiches, monsters masquerading as young girls, and witches with apple peels. There’s some Pidgin and Hawaiian, a lot of chicken skin stories about things not being quite what they appear, memoirs like the time I was almost permanently swallowed by a national monument, and a few musings on what it means to be a modern Hawaiian in the diaspora. You’ll see well-loved characters from the Niuhi Shark Saga trilogy like Uncle Kahana, ‘Ilima, and even Kalei, but be warned, most of these stories are intended for the fifteen and over crowd.

Some of these stories bite.

Mahalo nui loa to Joe Monson at Hemelein Publications for shepherding this collection to publication and including my work as Book 4 in his Legacy of the Corridor series.

Sharks in an Inland Sea is published by Hemelein Publications and is available in hardback, paperback, and eBook here.

For bulk, discount, or wholesale orders, please contact info@hemelein.com.

You ever miss the forests for the trees? I’ve been so busy writing and doing all the the things that I haven’t mentioned where my newest short stories are being published! Here’s what’s recent and upcoming

Short Story Collection

Sharks in an Inland Sea: Collected Speculative Fiction by Lehua Parker, published by Hemelein Publications, available June 2022

Short Stories

“This Once was a Sea” in Dead Stars and Stone Arches, published by Timber Ghost Press, Fall 2022

“Nightwalker” in Out of Time, published by Timber Ghost Press, Fall 2022

“Tourists” in An Ocean of Wonder: the Fantastic in the Pacific, published by University of Hawaii Press, Summer 2022

“Infestation” in Snaring the Sun, Bamboo Ridge, Journal of Hawai’i Literature and Arts #122, Summer 2022

“Brothers” in Va: Stories by Women of the Moana, published by Tatou Publishing, New Zealand, January 2022

“Nana’ue” in Va: Stories by Women of the Moana, Published by Tatou Publishing, New Zealand, January 2022

“Close Encounters” in Va: Stories by Women of the Moana, Published by Tatou Publishing, New Zealand, January 2022

“Tatau” in Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, Winter 2021 (link)

“Persona Non Grata” in Wasatch Witches, published by Fear Knocks Press, March 2021

“Gamble” in Grifty Shades of Fey, published by Fiction Vortex Press, 2020

Essays/Articles

Author Roundtable, The Routledge Companion to Gender and Science Fiction, Summer 2022

“Scrubbing Jesus’ Toilets” in Mormon Lit Blitz Vol. 2, Summer 2022

“9 Pacific Islander Authors Share Their Favorite Books for Children and Adults,” Apartment Therapy, May 2021 (link)

Plays

“Akela in the Park” performed by The Honolulu Theatre for Youth, Honolulu and web-streamed, June 2021

Works in Progress

Under the Bed, Book 1 of Lauele Chicken Skin Stories for MG/YA readers

Husk, a futuristic Hawaiians in Space Novel for adults

Plus two top secret projects, lots of book editing projects, and new writing workshops for kids and adults. And laundry. It never ends.

YA Hawaiian Cosmic Horror! At last!

Austin Aslan’s The Islands at the End of the World and The Girl at the Center of the World are rip roaring, seat-of-your-pants thrilling Hawaiian YA cosmic horror / apocalypse novels. Set in modern day Hawai‘i, this duology explores what might happen if all of the communication, electricity, and other modern conveniences were suddenly cataclysmically disrupted worldwide.

Cut off from the rest of the world, 16 year old Leilani and her father must figure out how to get from Waikiki back to their ‘ohana in Hilo, a journey that takes them island hopping from O’ahu to Molokai to Maui and beyond. Islanders must figure out how to survive in an environment when 95% of everything is shipped in, including tourists with nowhere to go. The US Military, of course, has their own ways of handling things, and it’s not focused on helping islanders. Factions and gangs form as violence breaks out under too real pressures.

These books check a lot of boxes: YA, strong female protagonist, epilepsy as both a challenge and a savior, multi-cultural, ecology-minded, light romance, set in Hawai‘i with authentic cultural resonances, apocalyptic horror, aliens, local and external big bads, and strong family relationships to name a few. It’s a duology perfect for educators and YA readers looking for a survivalist adventure story with an authentically Hawaiian spin.

Most of the islander-isms rang true, although there were a few times things were a little off. For example, the stink eye was used consistently—that edit has to be from an outside editor’s pen. The story itself is wildly imaginative and grounded in Leilani coming to understand that her epilepsy may be the one thing that saves us all. In the end, family is who you say it is—few things are more Hawaiian than that.

These books do describe the end of the way things are now, so there is some violence and swearing which puts these stories in the 9th grade and up category, but nothing is overtly gratuitous. If anything, its understatement makes these events all the more impactful when they occur.

I highly recommend The Islands at the End of the World and The Girl at the Center of the World. We need more speculative fiction stories with Hawaiians and islanders firmly in the center, where their islandness isn’t exotic, but normal, and their adventures unreal.

The Islands at the End of the World and The Girl at the Center of the World by Austin Aslan are published by  Wendy Lamb Books and are available in all formats from most bookstores and distributors.

I’m working on an introduction to short story I wrote that’s going to be in an anthology of retold fairy and other traditional tales published by University of Hawaii. My into is waaaaaay overdue. I’m working on the fourth completely new version–I didn’t like my previous attempts. Hoping fourth time’s the charm.

But as I’ve been thinking about fairy tales and what makes a story Hawaiian vs Islander vs Malihini vs Outsider, I remembered the first time I heard a western fairy tale told through an islander lens. It was a record called Pidgin English Children’s Stories. I heard  it in the “listening center” at Kahului or maybe Kihei elementary school, a corner of a large classroom that had a record player and a couple of big can headphones that connected into the player with giant phone jacks. The headphones were so big–or our heads were so small–we had to hold  them onto our heads with both hands. When I close my eyes, I can still smell the dusty wood smell of the cabinet where the records were kept and even  feel the wobbly cardboard cover. We had two records in our listening center–this one and “Paint it Black” by the Rolling Stones. Not kidding. Life really is weirder than fiction.

It’s also true that everything is on the internet. Originally recorded in 1961, I found one of the stories from the album–Cinderella–on YouTube. Listening to it again, here’s a lot I didn’t understand as a kid. But maybe the best stories are that way–they grow with us. If you’re interested, here’s the link. And now to get back to that intro I’m writing! (Sorry! It’s coming today, promise!)

May is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month in the United States (AAPI Month). Through out May, I’m going to be posting about books written by Pacific Islanders that celebrate island culture front and center.  Up first:

MIDDLE GRADE

There’s a wide range of what’s considered middle grade, with the sweet spot as a story that’s on at least a 5th grade reading level with a complex story structure centered around themes and characters  that reflect the interests and lived experiences of 5th through about 9th graders. Crushes are perfect. Anger, loss, or awareness of a bigger world and the challenges it brings are also appropriate, as are wonder, joy, fear, and humor. Like kids developmentally this age, characters are often exploring away from adult safety nets, but there’s an underlying sense that while things may be different in the end, it’s going to be okay. Stories that deal with more mature themes–things that go beyond first kisses or delve into abuse–are generally considered Young Adult rather than Middle Grade.

And yes, those things happen to middle graders, too. However, most booksellers and librarians try to keep these imaginary boundaries drawn on their bookshelves, which is why Middle Grade is usually in the Children’s section and Young Adult is in the nomad-land of Teen Fiction, more commonly shelved by genre.

Without further ado, here are Pacific Islander Middle Grade titles you need to read. Click on the image to see it on Amazon.


In the story, 12 year old Kino and her mother move to Hawaii to live with her maternal grandparents in Kalihi, Oahu. With her grandfather ill and her family facing eviction from their home, Kino discovers that she has an ancient destiny to save both Hawaii and her grandfather by going back in time to 1825. There she meets the young Kamehameha III just prior to his ascension to the throne. After meeting with a kahuna at a heiau, it becomes clear that in order to return to her own time,  Kino must go on a quest for four objects gathered from various parts of Oahu—and of course the young prince is going to come along.

As the adventure quest plot unfolds, Jen deftly weaves in aspects of Hawaiian culture and history. Islanders will recognize kapu customs, protocol, and Hawaiian legends such as night marchers, Pele, Kamapua‘a, sacred waterfalls, ‘aumakua, choking ghosts, and magic gourds and calabashes.

Find it on Amazon.

 

 


‘Ewa Which Way by Tyler Miranda peels back the bandage of what adults think adolescence is like to expose the raw, oozing strawberry of reality. I loved this book for its ability to show all the complicated rules, expectations, and entanglements of being a 12-year-old boy trying to make sense out of adult behavior. Set in ‘Ewa Beach, Hawaii in 1982, Landon DeSilva and his brother Luke know that lickins can fall from the sky like lightning, that a certain side-eye from a parent means a storm’s coming, and that sometimes no matter how long you hold your breath you can’t escape, but have to endure the wave to the end.

For Landon, things are bad at home, but not bad enough. Not enough for child protective services to swoop in and spirit Landon and Luke to a new home, not enough for the cops to do more than show up when his parents’ fights wake the neighbors, and not enough for his mother to realize her marriage is over. Throughout the novel Landon tries to figure out what he’s supposed to do when there’s really nothing he can. His parents’ troubles are deep—there’s guilt, prejudices of class and race, loss, alcohol abuse and valium popping coping mechanisms, unfulfilled expectations, and sheer dysfunction. Landon sees it all with the clarity of a twelve-year-old and his reactions and understandings are heartbreaking and true. Adult readers will read not only the story, but all the words and character motivations between the lines. It’s powerful, immediate, and like a bloody scrapped knee, painfully evocative of the transition between childhood and adulthood.

Find it on Amazon.

 


Other books to consider:

The Calvin Coconut series by Graham Salisbury

The Niuhi Shark Saga trilogy by Lehua Parker
ONE BOY, NO WATER
ONE SHARK, NO SWIM
ONE TRUTH, NO LIE

and upcoming Lauele Chicken Skin Story
UNDER KONA’S BED

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When you’re allergic to water,
growing up in Hawaii
isn’t always paradise.

With Niuhi sharks,
even out of the water,
you’re not safe.

Everything you thought you knew
about Zader is a  lie.