Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Ho'okupu: An Offering of Literature by Native Hawaiian Women

Story photo

Before I do the review, just wanted to share a picture (taken by my dad) of the first public reading of this book at the University of Hawai'i at Hilo, August 2009. Twelve of the eighteen women were on stage for the reading. In this picture is (left-right) Jerelyn Makanui-Yoshida, me (at the mic), Tamara Laulani Wong Morrison, and my mom, Mililani Hughes.

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.


susan said...

Must have this. Anyway we can do a giveaway at Color Online? Let's talk about doing a feature on you. Please write me at cora_litgroup@yahoo.com

Thanks for posting this.

Aarti said...

This sounds great! I LOVE that it is written in two languages and melds the cultures so well.

Bonnie Jacobs said...

What was the subject of your part of the anthology, Cathy? Was it poetry or prose, fiction or nonfiction? Did your mother also write something that's in the book?

Cathy Ikeda said...

Yes, I think as Hawaiian women, we need to embrace the Hawaiian language, especially since my grandmother's generation was beaten in school for speaking Hawaiian.

I have a few poems in the anthology, mostly about being a Hawaiian in this modern world. My mom has a vignette about her father.

Thanks for your comments!



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