Literary Lineup of New Local Books Exploring Hawai‘i Culture
Three new books celebrate eclectic aspects of local culture, from women’s surfing to Okinawan heritage to Hawaiian wisdom.
Surfing Sisterhood Hawai‘i: Wāhine Reclaiming the Waves
There are elements essential both to catching a wave and publishing a book—including judgment, accuracy and, above all, timing. Author and surf reporter Mindy Eun Soo Pennybacker has mastered these, in the water and with her new book. Surfing Sisterhood Hawai‘i shares stories from more than 30 female surfers in the Islands. Pennybacker says she’s the first woman to pen a collection of surfing wāhine, who are outnumbered four to one by men. But despite their smaller numbers, things are looking up: In 2019, the World Surf League started paying equal prize money to men and women. And two years later, Carissa Moore brought home the first Olympic gold medal in women’s surfing. “The book is called Reclaiming the Waves because I learned that women did originally surf with equal rights to men in Hawai‘i,” Pennybacker says. “I’m hoping that more women will recognize that we have each other to rely on and that we can develop this feeling of solidarity to benefit the whole community, in the water and out.” —AL
Mutual Publishing, mutualpublishing.com, $21.95, 190 pages.
Chiburu: Anthology of Hawai‘i Okinawan Literature
Spurred by the lack of literary works by Hawai‘i-based Okinawans, local author and playwright Lee A. Tonouchi set about compiling a modern collection. The result is Chiburu, whose more than 30 contributors explore local Okinawan identity through a wide array of artistic genres. The book opens with Tonouchi, a longtime Frolic Hawai‘i contributor who calls himself “da Pidgin Guerilla,” examining his own experiences growing up as a yonsei or fourth-generation Chiburu (a plantation-era Pidgin term for local Okinawans). Other pieces explore what makes “Okinawan and Naichi (Japanese) diff’rent” beyond stereotypes of country versus high-class attitudes. Then, mixed in with poetry and prose about cosmic andagi and the U.S. occupation of Okinawa, you’ll find a blended Hawaiian-Okinawan chant, an illustration of a treasured “no recipe” ashitibichi pig’s feet soup recipe, a hanabata days-inspired comic strip and song lyrics calling Okinawans back home. —BT
Bess Press, besspress.com, $24.95, 289 pages.
Island Wisdom: Hawaiian Traditions and Practices for a Meaningful Life
Island Wisdom mixes gentle tips for navigating modern life with inspiring stories of Native Hawaiian history and culture. The tiny hardback invites us in with embossed lettering and artwork depicting Hawaiian plants and scenery—and keeps us turning the pages as it explores the layers of meaning in Hawaiian traditions, words and practices. The tone is at once that of a wise auntie and a hip young cousin. From hula and healing plants to patience and humility, the book manages to teach without preaching. Tucked into its essays are tips on how to make lei, ‘ulu poke and ‘ōlena (turmeric) water. The collaboration between authors Kainoa Daines, who’s strongly rooted in his Native Hawaiian heritage, and Annie Daly, a New York City-based wellness journalist who grew up visiting Hawai‘i, would make a great gift for kama‘āina and visitor alike. —RD
Chronicle Prism Books, chroniclebooks.com, $19.95, 232 pages.