Real Stories About Waves, Rice and Big Happiness

The Real Stories: Three new books take a deeper look at familiar subjects.

Photos: David Croxford

Waves of Resistance

Surfing usually gets portrayed as a happy, relaxing pastime—and, of course, it is that. As a new book by BYU assistant professor of history Isaiah Walker demonstrates, though, it’s got a serious side, too. Walker details surfing’s political and cultural history in Hawaii, and its significance to Native Hawaiians struggling for autonomy, ranging from surf celebs such as Duke Kahanamoku to radical antidevelopment organizations such as Save Our Surf. There’s an academic tone to much of the book (expect to learn about colonial hierarchies and the impacts of hegemony), but it’s mixed in with great interviews and little-known historical nuggets. Particularly fascinating is Walker’s in-depth examination of Hui o Hee Nalu, the often-controversial, often-adversarial Native Hawaiian surfing club that has been a fixture on the North Shore for 35 years.  University of Hawaii Press.



The Hawaii Book of Rice

Think you know rice? You might be surprised. Cheryl Chee Tsutsumi has assembled an exhaustive treatise on the familiar staple, including legends and anecdotes from around the world, as well as a history of rice in Hawaii. Did you know that, in 1909, Hawaii farmers produced almost 42 million pounds of rice? Tsutsumi also features  recipes from friends and local celebrity chefs, ranging from fresh takes on old favorites (we’re both scared and intrigued by the thought of a musubi with kim chee and cream cheese) to exotic dishes you may never have heard of (Sabzi polo, anyone? It’s an Iranian crusted-rice entrée). The basics are covered, too: you’ll find, count ’em, 16 different kinds of fried rice, ranging from Big City Diner’s famous kim chee fried rice to Roy Yamaguchi’s pineapple fried rice. Watermark Publishing.





Big Happiness

You might have seen the story in the paper when it happened in 2005—Percy Kipapa, a former sumo wrestler from Waikane, had been stabbed to death in a pickup truck in Kaneohe. At the time, it sounded like just one more meth-related crime statistic. But UH associate professor and author Mark Panek has used the murder as an opportunity to create an eloquent biography, not only of his friend Kipapa—known to many as Big Happiness—but of the local Waiahole-Waikane community in which he lived. It’s a deeply researched, insightful look at the many problems facing Hawaii’s poor and rural neighborhoods, and a fitting tribute to a man who passed too soon. University of Hawaii Press.



The game was fierce, but Christopher Kim triumphed over other competitors. In fact, his next match will be broadcast live on ESPN. Is he a football player? Volleyball? No, Kim is a champion speller, and, having won at the state level, he’ll compete June 1 and 2 in Washington, D.C., at the Scripps National Spelling Bee.

In March, Kim correctly spelled “obfuscatory” in round 43 to become Hawaii’s spelling champ. We wondered: What does it take to master hard spelling words like euonym and succedaneum?

“I studied one to two hours a day,” says Kim, a 13-year-old who is in the eighth grade at Maui Waena Intermediate School. He camps out in his room with a dictionary and a computer, and has now upped his daily study to two to four hours. During a bee, he usually will “visualize the word in my head spelled out, or will write the word on my hand with my finger.”

In the future, Kim plans to use his language skills to study journalism or law.

—Kathryn Drury Wagner