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Living the shadow of a volcano, there were many nights when I imagined lava pouring down Haleakala’s mountain sides and pooling in the hall outside my bedroom door. My sister and I even had a game where the floor was white-hot lava and you had to leap to safety chair by coffee table by couch.
Our mother was not amused.
Like Californians and earthquakes, mid-westerners and tornadoes, Big Island residents know that someday Pele’s fires will dance again, a ticking time bomb on a geological time scale of a minute or millennia.
Developers and bankers want to think a hundred years or more. My grandfather was in the insurance biz when developers in the 1970s and ’80s wanted to build on lava flows. He refused.
“There’s a reason it’s a lava flow, Lehua. Never build on a lava flow or a dry river bed.”
Probably come of the best advice he ever gave me.
If you scratched Kiana Davenport, beneath her sophisticated, erudite veneer I think you’d find the heartbeat of a no-nonsense Waimanalo titah, a contradiction makes her work a delight to read.
I just finished Opium Dreams, volume three in her Pacific Stories collection, and like in her previous volumes Cannibal Nights and House of Skin, I found myself slipping into the skins of the narrators. You don’t read her stories so much as breathe them along with her characters. Her eye for the small telling detail that reveals epic amounts of information is exquisite and her deft handling of imagery often makes the prose sing like poetry.
Da titah can write. Period.
I’ve admired Kiana’s work for a long time. Her main characters are often mixed-raced Polynesian women trying to make a life for themselves on the margins of western culture. The women in her stories survive abuse, make poor choices, bow under the burdens of history and culture, and fall to the whims of turn-on-a-dime fate. They also seize life and triumph in ways large and small. They are spectacularly flawed, raw, and real. Kiana has the knack of taking something alien to most western experiences and making it universal.
In Opium Dreams, her stories are about anger and revenge, self-destruction, the inevitable consequences of action vs. inaction, and the grace of forgiveness. In Kiana’s worlds, family is who you chose, and that choice is everything.
Opium Dreams by Kiana Davenport is available as an eBook through Amazon and is her first foray into self-publishing. It’s a steal at 99 cents. Be sure to check out her other titles: House of Skin, Cannibal Nights, Shark Dialogues, House of Many Gods, Song of the Exile, and The Spy Lover. I guarantee you’ll be haunted by these characters’ lives for years.
(sah-SHEE-mee) (n) Japanese for thinly sliced raw fish. Often confused with sushi on the mainland.
‘When Kalei’s head broke the surface of the large saltwater pool at Piko Point, all he was thinking about was thinly sliced sashimi fanned on a bed of green cabbage and the hot wasabi paste he would mix with shoyu to make a dipping sauce.’ ~ One Shark, No Swim
Note: ‘Ōlelo is a Hawaiian word meaning language, speech, word, etc. To see the current list of words, definitions, and usage please click on ‘Ōlelo Archive.
Pono is a complex Hawaiian word with connotations of righteousness, balance, and propriety. It’s one of the themes I try to develop in the Niuhi Shark Saga as characters make choices that place them in or out of being pono.
Ho‘o means to do or make; so ho‘o pono describes a way of being, of living one’s life in harmony with correct principles. As a student at The Kamehameha Schools, our Hawaiian culture teacher once told us that if there was only one thing we could remember from our time with her, she wanted it to be the concept of ho‘o pono. While I can’t remember all the place names we memorized, which fish were kapu during which seasons, or the number of voyages to Tahiti and back, I do remember her words about ho‘o pono.
So it was with great interest that I picked up Pali Jae Lee’s book Ho‘o pono: The Hawaiian Way to Put Things Back into Balance. Part oral history, part memoir, the book shares some of the family traditions and stories handed down from Ka‘ili‘ohe and Makaweliweli descendants from Molokai.
One of the central stories is really a parable about ho‘o pono. All children are born with an upright bowl of Light that grows with them and allows them to know and understand all things. But when a child is resentful or envious, he drops a stone into his bowl and a little of the Light goes out. If enough stones fill his bowl, the child becomes like stone, unable to move or grow. By turning his bowl over, the stones fall away and Light comes back.
It’s a simple, beautiful, and elegant metaphor for all the baggage we carry—no matter the era. These and other parables help give a voice to the past in ways that resonate with the future.
There was a time in Hawaiian families when nothing sacred or significant was shared with outsiders because only family would understand and respect the deeper truths. Looking at Hollywood’s version of Hawaiian culture, it’s not a big stretch to say what is often portrayed as Hawaiian has been misinterpreted, twisted, or fabricated out of whole cloth. But times are changing, and as more families are coming forward with their histories that challenge common perceptions, a clearer, truer picture of Hawaiian culture is emerging.
May all your bowls be filled with Light.
Ho‘o pono: The Hawaiian Way to Put Things Back into Balance by Pali Jae Lee is published by I.M. Publishing, Ltd. and is available as an eBook, hardcover, and trade paperback from Amazon.
As a mail carrier in Kaneohe, Hawaii, Louise Golden brings a little aloha to the people along her route. When elderly Conchita Santos doesn’t meet her at the mailbox for the first time in two years, Louise goes looking. The house is unlocked, Pipsqueak the dog is unfed, and Mrs. Santo’s purse is still inside. Fearing the worst, Louise files a missing persons report and begins her own investigation, an investigation that leads to murder, a movie set, new shoes, a French manicure, and a hand-carved tiki with a secret.
Not your everyday week in paradise no matter how stellar the weather.
Almost Paradise, a Louise Golden Mystery by Laurie Hanan is a breezy afternoon beach read, an entertaining escape to sunny Hawaii. The protagonist, Louise Golden, is unmoored, drifting through life after a devastating loss. Nothing seems very permanent in Louise’s life. Through routines that include folk dance groups, piano sing along dates, Scrabble games, and peanut butter sandwiches Louise connects to the world through the family she creates. It’s busy, but not really fulfilling until she reaches out of her comfort zone and begins to grow. I’ve got the feeling that learning to make plumeria leis is just the start.
Almost Paradise, a Louise Golden Mystery by Laurie Hanan is published by Savant Books and Publications, LLC and is available in paperback and eBook from Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Be sure to look for book two, How Far is Heaven.
With busy people it’s all about the when. When you’ll finally read that book gathering dust on the nightstand, when you’ll finally make time to have that conversation, exercise, clean the closet.
I think we all feel the pressure of time’s cold, clammy hand pressed against our necks.
Until we don’t.
We don’t talk about having too much time on our hands. It sounds ungrateful, wasteful, just think of all the starving kids in Africa bad.
The truth is time is like chocolate—too much and you fall into a diabetic coma. Too little and you’d give an arm and a leg for the rest a coma would bring.
Surrounded on all sides by wind, cold weather, and the geriatric crowd, time becomes glue, trapping my mind and spirit as I nurse a $2.50 can of warm Diet Coke and try to ignore the carafe of goldfish crackers the waiter placed next to me.
Baseball hat and sunscreen on, I sit in the cruise ship’s piano bar waiting for the sun to return, wondering if I can talk anyone into a card game. I surreptitiously fiddle with my watch, counting the hours until the next meal and hoping my too comfy tee-shirt and capris will pass in the smart-casual roulette wheel of the cruise ship’s dinner dress code.
Probably not, but attitude is everything, particularly with maître d’s.
I wish I could take these hours and save them for days when I need more than 24, spreading the time wealth glut, storing them like the fine dark chocolate bar I have hidden in the back of the pantry. On rough days I break a tiny piece off and savor it. Think of it: the ability to sneak a fifteen minute reading break in between laundry, cooking dinner, or running an errand or even an hour’s nap in the sun after a too-late night spent holding a hand in the dark.
But time waits for no one and all I can do is try to store the memory of idleness, of sitting at a table with nothing to do but sip and scribble and wait for the sun.
It’s not surprising that the latest census figures show that there are far more Hawaiians living outside of Hawai‘i than in it. Pepper Bibeau, the central figure in For Every Action There are Consequences by Gail M. Baugniet, fits into the pattern of islanders leaving for economically greener pastures, but trying to keep a bit of aloha in their lives.
After serving as a nurse in Vietnam, Pepper finds herself investigating insurance claims in 1968 Chicago, a time of racial unrest and social change. Along with unraveling the truth about medical claims and insurance fraud Pepper has to solve the murder of a friend killed while wearing Pepper’s coat. Wondering if the murder was mistaken identity, Pepper’s investigation leads her to explore things as diverse as sickle-cell anemia and drug trafficking.
Readers of crime fiction and mystery will feel at home here. It’s fast paced and easy to read, full of small details that pin it to the late 1960s. Descriptions of social norms and Pepper’s feelings about her Hawaiian identity being lumped into other ethnic groups was spot on. As late as the 1980s my sister’s modeling agency in Utah had her listed as ‘light black’ because ‘Hawaiian’ wasn’t on their radar no matter how often she corrected them. Pepper’s experiences in Chicago remind us of how far we’ve come.
What intrigued me most were the interactions Pepper had with her Hawai‘i ‘ohana. The Pidgin dialogue is used sparingly and to good effect. I really want to know more about Pepper’s son and the family raising him in Hawai’i!
Good thing book two in the series, Deadly as Nature, Envy Spawns Grief, is now available. I won’t have long to wait.
For Every Action There are Consequences and Deadly as Nature, Envy Spawns Grief, the first two books in the Pepper Bibeau Mystery series by Gail M. Baugniet, are self-published and available as paperbacks and eBooks on Amazon.
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