Missionary Position



Published:

Lei ChicWhen you have to do more than retail math (what is 15 percent off a shirt already marked down 25 percent?) you have no problems phoning a friend. With grammar, history, or science stumpers, you ask Google to come on down. But one night while zoning out in front of Jeff Foxworthy with a glass of pinot, you’re hit with a double whammy. Turns out you are not smarter than a fifth grader.

You need a refresher course that won’t leave you in a school daze.

Now it’s as simple as buying a Vowell.

New York Times best-selling author and public radio producer (not to mention the voice of Violet in the animated film The Incredibles) Sarah Vowell has turned her sardonic pen on the history of missionaries in Hawaii in her new tome, Unfamiliar Fishes. Thoroughly researched and almost shamefully entertaining, Vowell’s book outlines the events from the missionaries’ voyage to the islands to the overthrow of the monarchy.

It’s like a history lesson from your witty and sarcastic friend. The missionaries’ first encounter with the hula is called a clunky prequel to Footloose. On the wives concerns about the kapu on eating pork: “it’s hard enough to leave behind one’s friends, family and country; a woman is supposed to give up bacon too?”

Following the storyline can be challenging – Vowell often veers off into clever but sometimes controversial comparisons, or personal island stories (not to mention the four-and-half page ode to the 1987 movie North Shore). But overall, Vowell covers 100 years of history in 256-easy-to-read pages.

So you won’t need to poll the audience next time someone in the office wonders when the missionaries first landed on the Big Island.

And that’s your final answer.

Unfamiliar Fishes is for sale in bookstores and for Kindle now. Vowell will be in Honolulu for the 6th Annual Hawaii Book & Music Festival, May 14-15. Click here to link to the festival's website.
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