Ho'okupu: An Offering of Literature by Native Hawaiian Women edited by Miyoko Sugano and Jackie Pualani Johnson is the first anthology to highlight native Hawaiian women. This book has been a long-time dream of Sugano, a UH-Hilo professor emeritus of English. In fact Sugano asked me for pieces over twelve years ago, so when the book came out this year, it was like being reunited with a lost child.
This anthology of poems, plays, journal entries and short stories serves as an opening for conversations on Hawaiian literature. There are pieces written in the Hawaiian language, pieces written in English, pieces written in English using Hawaiian poetry elements, and pieces written in Hawaiian creole, a product of the plantation and immigrant past of Hawaii.
Anytime there is an anthology of women writers, I find that the passion for telling their stories, for recording their lives is rich, regardless of the ethnic background. The difference here is in the undercurrent of immediacy to get the native Hawaiian voice out. These women, no matter what language they chose to write in, came from a people whose native language has been beaten out of them, whose culture has been ripped away from them. Are they angry? Some of them are apoplectic, while others show more patience and aloha, traits of a culture that survives and thrives.
Tamara Wong Morrison, poet, teacher and activitst says, "I believe we bring to writing a genetic awareness of the grief of being Hawaiian and (coping with) the cultural loss, but the writing then becomes a purging … a cleansing and a way of finding some joy to over-ride the pain." Her poems reflect that in their rant against the desecration of the rituals to the fire goddess Pele as well as the commercialization of the Hawaiian culture into ticky tacky kitsch scented in coconut oil and bottled gardenia.