Fiction dominates list of 2002's best Hawai'i books
|||Local books hot in 2002|
By Wanda A. Adams
Advertiser Books Editor
As books editor, I figure I have read more than 200 books in the past 52 week local releases, book club selections, works of visiting writers and my own choices for pleasure and escape. I had little trouble selecting a top 10 for the year among the local releases, though few nonfiction books made the list the subjects were often bookworthy, but the writing rarely rose above straightforward narrative.
Here, in the order in which the books appeared in the past year, is my list of recommended reads of 2002 among local books, or books with local connections:
"In Good Company," by Cedric Yamanaka (UH Press, paperback, $14.95). Fiction/short stories. This collection of stories reflecting local-style life past and present makes clear why writer and teacher Ian MacMillan calls Yamanaka one of the best pure short story writer he's ever taught. Yamanaka, a Kalihi-born University of Hawai'i graduate and a TV reporter, won the Cades Award for Literature in 2002.
"Fox Girl," by Nora Okja Keller (Viking, hardback, $23.95). Fiction. Hyung Jin, a young Korean woman, finds her way through and out of the "hostess bar" culture of South Korea and Hawai'i. A message book, but one that honors its story and creates a memorable character. Keller, who lives in Waikele, is the author of the acclaimed 1997 novel, "Comfort Woman."
"School for Hawaiian Girls," by Georgia Ka'apuni McMillen (1stBooks Library, paper, $22.95). Historical fiction. A student at a girls' school near Kea'au on the Big Island is murdered, and the unsolved crime echoes through generations. A readable, thoughtful novel with an edge. Maui lawyer McMillen self-published this debut novel; it's a print-on-demand work that is available through all major online booksellers, or check her Web site, www.gkmcmillen.com.
"The Territory of Men: A Memoir," by Joelle Fraser (Villard, hardback, $22.95). Non-fiction. An extraordinary example of a school of books being penned by children of hippie-generation parents. A beautifully written and highly descriptive book in which a troubled childhood is salvaged by love and intelligence. Fraser lives in Portland but considers the Islands her heart's home.
"Melal," by Robert Barclay (UH Press, paper, $14.95). Contemporary fiction. A young Marshallese seeks to integrate ancient and modern ways in the former U.S. territory. Skilfully crafted; harsh and yet encouraging at the same time. A selection of the Barnes & Nobles Discover Great New Writers program. Barclay, a doctoral candidate and lecturer at University of Hawai'i-Manoa, spent an idyllic outdoor boyhood in the Marshall Islands.
"The Shimmering: Ka 'Olili, Island Stories,/" by Keola Beamer ('Ohe Books, paper, 14.95). Fiction/short stories. Musician Keola Beamer's first collection of stories ranges from shivery thrillers (Pele lures a lover via computer) to thigh-slapping laughers (a modern-day pidgin love story that begins with a glimpse through a high-rise window). The common theme: the peculiar mixed plate of forces that tug at the souls of modern-day Hawai'i people. Well-written and full of intriguing cross-cultural ideas.
"When the Shark Bites," by Rodney Morales (UH Press, paper, $19). Contemporary fiction. The story of a family of Hawaiian activists dealing with the disillusionment that follows idealism, and with contemporary realities of living local in Hawai'i. Lyrical, evocative, yet gritty and thought-provoking. Morales, best known previously for a short-story collection, heads the University of Hawai'i's creative writing program.